Even now, living in Bend, Oregon, we leave town every few weeks to stretch our legs and exercise our brains from becoming too used to the same bends in the road. There is much to explore in our neck of the woods—state parks, swimming holes, ski slopes, sledding hills. Quaint towns with quilt shops and deer heads on the walls. Nearby farms full of pumpkins in the fall and Christmas trees in the winter, resort lodges with veritable gingerbread-house neighborhoods, and simple Sunday drives bedecked with sun and snow.
We would explore and wander in our surroundings if we were on a deserted island—not because there’s so much to do but because it strengthens our family bond. Together, we smell smells and see sights collectively that no one else will at that exact moment—or at least no one who will also drive home to the same house and fall asleep under the same roof. When we travel, no matter how near or far, we share moments that shape our family culture. Each exploration, to the next town over or on the next flight out of the country, is one more chisel notch in our family’s sculpture. If we are each a work of art, then our life’s experiences are the tools. Traveling gives us, as parents, the chance to make those tools effective and sharp.
Would we still have the family memories if we never left town? Yes. Of course. Would we be the family we are today, right now, if we never left town? No. Our story written, so far, has been penned when we delighted in the whipped cream snow hanging on for dear life to the Fraser firs in central Oregon. We smile together, knowingly, when an innocent soul tries to sell us on the Best Mexican Food in Town, and yet we are thousands of miles away from Texas. We know what to do with a plateful of whole cloves after a meal in the Middle East. There is an unexplainable bond because of the nomadic experiences between the five of us.
You don’t have to travel far to find that bond. Even visiting a nearby town, new to your clan, means both the kids and the grownups are the students; the surroundings serve as teacher. Together, you learn. And if you’re willing, let the children be your models: watch them visit a new place when they’re well fed and rested; then emulate their attitude. Crouch down to their level, both literally and figuratively, and see the sights through the eyes of your young. You’ll see things you would otherwise miss.
Home may be where the heart is, but on the open road lie your five senses, and when you return to your heart, you’ll better see, smell, and hear. When you stay in the confines of your town for too long, your vision blurs. The same goes for your kids. Keep your vision intact and experience the slow, deep pleasure from seeing the new as a family.
Excerpt from Notes from a Blue Bike: The Art of Living Intentionally in a Chaotic World. © 2014 by Tsh Oxenreider. Used with permission from Thomas Nelson.
Tsh Oxenreider is the founder of TheArtofSimple.net, a community blog dedicated to the art and science of simple living. She’s the author of Notes From a Blue Bike: The Art of Living Intentionally in a Chaotic World. A graduate of the University of Texas, Tsh currently lives in Bend, Oregon, with her family. Learn more at TshOxenreider.com.