Our family likes to travel. Is there a grand opening of a farmer’s market 10 miles down the road? We’ll be there for the ribbon-cutting ceremony. Volunteer at a nursing home in the jungles of Costa Rica? You bet! Housesit in the Ozarks for Christmas? Why not?
In my travel-centric world, I assumed most families also enjoyed traveling, even if it was to a neighboring city. Reality hit when I appeared on the hit reality TV show “Trading Spouses.”
Yes, our family was crazy enough to agree to appear on the Fox reality TV show. For one week, I switched places with a mom who had a completely different attitude toward travel than I did. Actually she had a completely different attitude towards life than I did.
Doing Things Their Way
I arrived at my “new” home on a sunny day in August to find all three kids watching videos. The premise of the show is that for the first two days, I blend into their life and do what their mother would do. I found myself sitting on the couch watching one inappropriate video after another.
When I asked the 8-year-old if she had any books we could read, her dad said, “She isn’t a good reader and doesn’t like to read.” I asked if she had markers or crayons or glue so we could do a craft project. Nope. Not even construction paper.
Doing Things My Way
The hours dragged by until the third day when I announced “Now we’ll do things MY way!”
The TV and videos ended and the fun began. Well, it was fun for me, but obviously agony for the family. Since the family never traveled or even attended community events like a street festival, I set out to change that. They lived within 15 miles of a state museum.
It might as well have been 1,150 miles. The dad thought I was crazy for suggesting we visit. He grudgingly took his son to the museum, all the time telling me museums were a waste of time.
The next day I suggested, (OK, insisted) we travel 10 miles to a popular city hiking trail. The dad and three kids complained, moaned and swore at me for suggesting they leave their house and do something new. I applied my camp counselor techniques and cheerfully got them started walking on the trail. We didn’t get far, but at least they experienced a new environment.
Day four found me taking the 12-year-old boy to a drama camp. “We never travel to that side of town,” the dad told me. “Besides, he can stay home all day. No need to leave the house.”
Trading Spouses Frustration
The week consisted of frustration on the family’s part as they were taken out of their comfort zone to travel and participate in a new event.
Yet on the last day, the dad told me, “I think I’ll take my wife on that hike when she gets back.” Upon returning from the state museum, the son said, “That was so cool to see the dinosaur bones. I didn’t know they were so big!”
As for that drama camp? The son enjoyed it so much I got Fox to pay for a 12-week course. Biggest accomplishment of all was getting Dad to agree to drive “to that part of town” and help his son get drama lessons.
I doubt that family will ever become avid travelers, but hopefully my “Travel Boot Camp” with them opened their eyes to the joy of leaving the house and finding an adventure somewhere down the road.