I have had this romanticised view of a family road trip based on childhood experiences and the golden age of travel, when the Grand Tour was the best way to finish an education. But every time I think about it now, I break into a cold sweat. By Anand Kapoor.
I nostalgically remember, as a child, cross-Europe road trips with the family would mean discovering sights and sounds that you would definitely miss when going by train or flying. The problem with flying anywhere is that you miss the journey to the destination, and the problem with trains is that you lose the freedom to explore, especially on the long cross-country trains. You can’t get off them that easily and explore—it normally has massive ramifications on connections and bookings, and most don’t stop in the smaller, magical villages you would discover by car or getting lost.To be honest, I also remember the boredom of hours in a car asking “Are we nearly there yet?” and making yet another ‘beautiful’ scenic stop, always waiting to get to the destination.
Looking back, I now see the truth that my parents were hiding—there never was a true destination. The journey was the holiday and the destination was the journey. The idea of the country unfolding itself to us as we snaked our way across it, losing our way at times, was incomprehensible as a child; but retrospectively, we got a real sense of place and being. You see, I am a parent of an eight- soon to-be nine-year-old boy and a 13- soon-to-be 21-year-old girl, and in this on-demand age of fast delivery thrills, a road journey—no matter how sentimentalised the concept is—seems like a frightening undertaking.
My parents included us in planning the trip as much as possible to make us an active part of the journey. We were involved in now-unheard-of techniques such as map reading and researching travel books on where to stop. These days, trip planning is asking Google how to get to A, or the shortest route to B. Stops are dictated by where the best selfie can be taken,not by the history, culture, or beauty of an area.
Thus, you are trapped in a moving tin can for hours, with demanding kids weary of their tablets. Expecting them to appreciate real life when they are bored of reel life now seems so last century. It looks like we have truly lost something and this generation may never know or experience the true love of travelling for travelling’s sake.