I loved our family trips more than anyone else. The older I get the more they mean to me still. I think I love them even more now because I understand just how important they were to my development as an individual and an adult. On those long road trips across the border and into Mexico I grew up so much, somehow managing to discover myself in the midst of all the chaos of traveling with eight other people – my parents and six siblings.
We made these drives often. Usually once a year to visit my grandparents on both sides and all my cousins, aunts and uncles. It was always a party from the moment we got there until we had to head back so my parents could return to work.
On those road trips we would feel connected – to each other and to the land itself. As a teenager I vividly remember riding on a bus with my mother on our way to Monterrey, Mexico to visit her aunt who had raised her and feeling a deep sense of belonging overtake me as soon as we entered the first patch of mountains in the Sierra Madre. Inexplicably I felt like I was home. Even though I was actually born in Houston and raised in the Rio Grande Valley, somehow my body itself physiologically was telling me that I was now where I belonged – where my ancestors had lived and died. I still think it’s weird how our body can speak to us in that way, but I’ve had the conversation about this feeling with others and so many have told me they have felt the same way when they have returned to Mexico or their family’s country of origin.
I believe that experience was a defining moment in my life.
Until then I only knew that going to Mexico every year was about going to see our family. I didn’t know that I was also learning about my heritage. I didn’t understand the role emotion would come to play in the connection I now associate with road trips. Road trips for me are deeply emotional.
They are about discovering ourselves and those coming along with us for the ride. I have the most intense conversations with myself and with my wife when there are no other distractions ahead of us, or around us, or besides us. I don’t actually speak to myself out loud when I’m in the car alone. You should now that. But I do enjoy purposefully listening to my own thoughts when I’m by myself on the open road. We’ve had some of our best ideas pop up or come to light when we have been trekking the country from one state to another. We have grieved, cried, laughed, argued, on the road. We have sat in silence for hours not saying one word to each other, but knowing we are headed down the same path together.
I guess I am a romantic when it comes to the adventure of hugging the road together.
Last year when we pulled up to the Grand Canyon for the second time, I peered over the edge of the canyon, took a deep breath and allowed myself to shed a few tears. This time the emotion wasn’t about feeling connected to the land. It was about feeling a sense of accomplishment as the son of immigrant parents standing there on such an iconic American landmark. I had made it somewhere new, where my parents hadn’t been before, and I knew that if I was standing there it was only because they made it possible for me to do so. Remembering that moment still gets me every time.
The other day I found an old picture of our first visit to the Big Apple. Edgar must have been six or seven years old. He is wearing a superman shirt in the picture and we are standing in the middle of Times Square the three of us with our hands in the air and big smiles across our faces. I know those times when he was that age weren’t the easiest ones for us, but when I look at that picture I remember all the good times and it makes me happy. We were so confused about being in the big city and had made the mistake of trying to drive into New York City just a few hours before, but none of that mattered in that instant. We were bright eyed and bushy tailed standing in the middle of the world taking it all in as a family. I’ll never forget that.
I hope they’ll remember it and never forget it either.
For me, that’s what makes road trips so special. It is also the main reason I love working with Best Western. With 4,200 properties across the globe, I know no matter where I’m going there’s bound to be a Best Western nearby – and that makes creating memories all that more fun and easier.