subwaystairsTravel with family is something that many of us are involved with almost every day. Sure, it may not be travel to an exotic island, a trip to Disney World, or camping out in the mountains. Instead, maybe it’s taking our kids to school, or hopping on a bus to visit a relative, or taking the subway to see your favorite ball team play. So often, we take for granted the time we spend traveling with family on a constant, but smaller scale.

Looking at it from this point of view, perhaps there are some things we can do to look at our daily travels in a different light, and to encourage family memories from travel that’s seemingly rote.

Selling the Subway

Let’s use the subway as an example. I travel from Brooklyn to Manhattan virtually every day, and often with family. But how often do we stop to look at what’s really around us, the things helping to make our trip more manageable and pleasant? The sites and sounds that we may find we remember fondly as we get older and they change?

subway-benchesThe New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority recently announced it is auctioning off original, wooden subway-platform benches from stations around the city. According to Charles Seaton, MTA spokesman, the benches are being replaced with new stainless steel versions in stations that are being rehabilitated.

If you’ve ever ridden the subway in NYC as tourist or commuter, there’s a pretty good chance you’ve come to rest on one of these benches. After all, according to Seaton, they’ve been around for more than 30 years. They are divided to seat six, and were crafted to prevent people from lying down on them. From a design standpoint, they’re considered functional, surprisingly comfortable and downright durable—virtually unscarred considering the rough environment they’re exposed to. In the subway, it’s rare that anyone pays attention to them, but Seaton points out they could make for some pretty cool backyard furniture (make sure to treat the wood if you choose to put them outside).

At $650 per bench, whether inside or outside, there’s no doubt they’d be a natural conversation starter when friends and family visit. (And no worries about crazy Uncle Albert falling asleep on them thanks to those dividers!) I asked Seaton whether there should be any concern about bedbugs (yes, there have been stories of bedbugs in subway benches). Seaton explains that the benches are sold “as is,” but says those bedbug stories were based on isolated incidents.

“I can look at a subway bench and not think one thing or the other, but the next person has some memory of a late night spent there, or a New Year’s Eve when they met a now-girlfriend or wife–the memories are all over the place,” says Mike Zacchea, Assistant Chief Operations Officer at MTA/NYC Transit. Zacchea says there’s currently a waiting list for the benches, but at 400-pounds and 10 feet 7 inches long, sometimes buyers have second thoughts. Some of the benches from the current crop have been bought by architects who use them in office space, and a major retailer who is using them in their show room.

If $650 is too steep for your “travel memory” budget, there are other items to be had as well, including handholds, doors, seating and destination signs from retired subway cars, air gauges, subway seats, grabholds, horns and even stantion poles. (The stantion poles are the handy structures you hold onto if you’re standing while traveling. If you were to put one of these up in your home, I’m fairly certain there is some sort of memory to be made with them. Wink wink.)

Building Experience Tile by Tile

subway-mosaicMany of the stations have beautiful hand-crafted mosiac tiling—which if noticed and pointed out to children while walking through, can be used as a springboard for discussions, ranging from learning the story of “Alice In Wonderland,” to a nature lesson about birds and fish, to a cautionary tale of economics and retail therapy if you happen to be by the shoe-shaped tiles in the station by Bloomingdale’s.

A Mural On Track

Outside of the actual subway, there’s a new subway-themed mural located at the corner of Red Hook Lane and Livingston Street titled, “All’s Fare in Love and Brooklyn.” The mural cleverly energizes a building in need of some repair while also encouraging smiles and plenty of memory recall as your eyes take in all the “station stops” you’ve probably made at one point or another in the realm of love.

Think of the possibilities. Whether it’s planes, trains, automobiles, or more, as you come to better appreciate the travel grind that you and your family may constantly experience, finding those aspects that standout may make for some special family memories.