Are we there yet?


photo by Leah Luedeman

Pillows, backpacks, snacks, and blankets are some of the items that can crowd personal space during a long car trip. With no space, it can be hard to fall asleep.

I counted down the days until break, impatiently waiting for the trip north to see relatives. The time finally comes, and while my family and I pack our suitcases and load the car, it hits me. I am trapped with my family in a metal box on wheels. There will be no escape.

Everyone says long car rides make good times for family bonding Internet search results for “long car rides” show games and conversation starters to make them enjoyable. This includes the too familiar “I spy” and “Never have I ever” type of games. No one seems to understand that the family in the car has already bonded for a lifetime. 

People want quiet, but when complaints about sleep and food fill the air, like “I’m hungry. When are we going to stop?” peace ceases to exist. Siblings want attention, and it interrupts the calm of listening to Billie Eilish, reading school required books, or stalking on social media. Dealing with these pesky, annoying siblings wastes time.

If you thought the lack of alone time was bad, wait until you get cramped into a small car with six other people. Everything is stuffed in the car to fit, and empty space never exists. I always feel as if everything lays on top of me as my siblings push all of their stuff on me including the pillow they have drooled on for the past hour. 

After an eternity has passed, the car finally pulls into the only rest stop in a small run down city in Ohio that seems to be from the 70’s. The car empties in seconds and the lines to bathrooms and fast food counters lengthen exponentially. When the several minutes of bliss from personal space and food pass, the personal nightmare starts again, wiping those basic comforts from memory. While the car stops multiple times along the drive, the travelling time increases, meaning more time stuck in the car doing absolutely nothing.

Naps should fill the time, but sleeping on long car rides is painful. With constant shrieks and moving luggage, sleep cannot exist. After having trouble falling asleep, naps never seem to last for more than two hours before everyone has to get out for another “quick” stop.

However, all the problems no longer matter and everything seems peaceful and perfect once the destination is in sight. Suddenly, the reminder of suffering through the same car ride back home flashes in mind and the dreadful process starts all over again. The only relief is when the car parks for the last time on the trip outside my own home.