I've just returned from clear across the country, moving my daughter Lilia, my eldest child, into college on the east coast. It's an exciting and emotional time launching your child into the big wide world. As I stared at the huge mountain of stuff on the curb, besides wondering how it was all going to fit into the small dorm room (which it did), I realized there was so much more I was leaving her with than just those tangible physical items. I was also leaving her with a "mental suitcase" filled with memories, laughter, and all those lessons learned out on the road.
Seeing all the kids and their parents moving in, I thought about all the places we've visited all over the country, from big metropolises like Chicago and Miami to tiny towns like Livingston, Montana and Ponca City, Oklahoma. I thought about how having intimate knowledge of so many places across the USA will help her make connections to new friends and faculty who hail from all over the country. Sharing memories of having eaten at that awesome grilled cheese place or having visited that crazy water park in someone's hometown is an instant ice breaker that can spark an amazing friendship or make you memorable to a college professor. I took comfort in knowing the familiarity of so many places will help her in so many ways.
As we took our last walk around the campus together I thought about all the things we'd done together as a family. I thought about all the adventures we'd had and all the crazy things we'd done and laughed about out on the road and how I hoped that those fond memories would keep her company while she was so far away from home. As a parent it was and still is deeply important to me that all my children have a strong sense of family history and connection to each other and I am not sure that would have been possible without our Explore All 50 project. I realized spending those last moments with my daughter that all the time and money we'd spent on all of those trips was an investment whose time had now come.
As I gave my daughter a hug and we said our tearful goodbye's I told her there was nothing more important to me in life than her and her brothers and urged her to remember all we'd learned and make smart decisions. Launching your child into the world we hope and pray that we've taught them how to survive and be safe and use good judgement. I thought about all the lessons we'd learned out on the road and hoped that I'd set a good example in mapping our path, solving our problems, and finding our way when we were lost. I stood there feeling her tears on my shoulder hoping with all my heart that she'd learned well from all we'd experienced together and that now as an independent young woman out on her own that she would find her way out in the big wide world.
Though it doesn't make it any less emotional or easy, our travels together have given me more confidence that all will be ok because I know I am leaving her with more than just her suitcases full of clothes, towels and bedding. I am leaving her with memories, life lessons, and the knowledge that could not have been possible without our road trip travels.