"The Journey" by Paul W. Smith

I was an only child and my parents, who loved to travel, were both deathly afraid of flying.  As a result, our summer vacations consisted of long, cross-country road trips in my Dad’s Buick.  Historical landmarks were often part of the itinerary, but the final destination was always some relative who lived just north of Nowhere, USA.
     On these journeys, some things never changed.  My Mom, who would get motion sickness from a rocking chair, always rode in the front seat.  My Dad drove, since he was the only one in the family with a license.  The back seat was all mine.  We ate lunch at A&W Root Beer stands.  If there was a Travelodge along the route, that’s where we stayed.  Prior to leaving home, my Dad would visit the local AAA office, where they would prepare a custom map known as a “TripTik”.  This nifty spiral bound booklet featured a highlighted map section on each page, along with suggested stopping places for gas, food and points of interest.  The answer to the question “Are we there yet?” consisted of a page count from the old reliable TripTik.
     Many long hours in a small steel box hurtling along the interstate required an ample supply of snacks, puzzles, books and Dramamine.  My parents were both educators, and they were not inclined to deviate from their lesson plan.  Allowances were nevertheless made to accommodate mechanical problems, road construction, weather, closed businesses, or enticing finds (one of my favorites was the maple candy at Stuckey’s).  At the time, it seemed like a long, boring grind to get to Nowhere.  Only years later did I appreciate the precious abundance of quality time with two of the most loving, caring people I’ve ever known.
     It was more than a few years later when I learned about metaphors and realized that like our road trips, life is a journey.  I can’t say exactly where my TripTik came from, but it clearly had college, career, marriage and family written on its flip-book pages.  All those hours in the steel box may have had an influence.  I’ve stopped asking “Are we there yet?”, because I really don’t want to know.
     It’s been a long time since I’ve seen an A&W Root Beer Stand, a Travelodge or a Stuckey’s; a lot has changed since I explored the world from the back seat of a Buick.  Technology continues to shape the journey. The TripTik has been replaced by the GPS, and there are smartphones that can instantly guide us to the nearest instance of maple candy.  There are still entrepreneurs out there, looking for things that can be improved by the convergence of science and practice that we call technology.  It may make the journey easier, or it may change it completely.


  1. My weekly "road trip" now consists of me visiting my parents every Wednesday, who live 15 blocks away. My mom who is 81 years old still cook lunch for us. It is now my secret mission to make sure her food is not overly salty, which to me would be the first sign that they can no longer live independently. Similarly once a month, my 86 years old dad would cut my hair, the same way he did for the last sixty years. One day these journeys would end. Life don't pay no favors.


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