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Miles to Memories: Storytelling and Family Road Trips

The Ashburn family on one of their annual family road trips.

Growing up, my family was always spending time in the car. Soccer practice, dance class, school–it seemed that we were always on the road. When it came to vacations, it wasn’t much different. With a family of six and my dad’s fear of flying, the traditional road trip constantly presented itself as the most logical option. To some, the idea of stuffing six suitcases to the brim for every occasion, strategically planning pit stops and creatively crafting activities to keep everyone occupied is not an ideal vacation. But for my family, it was wonderful.

We’d drive for thousands of miles taking in what the countryside could offer, but that isn’t what I remember the most about these trips. It was on these getaways that I would learn about my parents’ past lives, the ones without kids or real responsibilities. The exotic tales of their former selves that had evolved into the two people I looked up to the most in the world would pull us all in for an adventure and often a laugh. Hearing about the time my dad bought an alligator named Killer through the mail for a quarter (yes, it was possible) to the impressive number of concerts my mom attended to—these stories transported us to another time and place.

Their stories inspired us to tell our own, too. My little sister Julie and I would discuss down to the smallest details our hope to one day live in a castle together in France. With rooms made entirely out of trampolines and slides twisting throughout the house, we’d raise our families together in complete bliss. My brothers would let us all into their dreams of playing professional baseball or spending their lives seeing the world and blazing amazing trails. Listening to these stories and dreams connected us even more to our parents—like them, we could have adventures, wonderful memories and the hope to one day share our stories on our own family road trips.

Although the days of piling into a minivan are long behind us, storytelling is still a part of every gathering we have. “Remember that time…” and “mom/dad tell us about…” flood the dining room, filling every corner with love, amazement and laughter that we couldn’t get anywhere else. In a world engulfed in speed and the need to hurry, road trips might seem like the ultimate waste of time but let me assure you: it is worth every minute traveling, for every memory created.

Storytelling is a wonderful way to connect friends and family whether on the road or at around a dinner table. What are ways that storytelling has impact you and your loved ones? Share a favorite story, memory or tip on best storytelling practices with fellow readers–it might spark some memories or inspiration!

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  • By Megan Saley

    Beautifully written.