Parenting, Teenage road trip, Travel

Teenage Road Trip

My youngest son announces he wants to take a road trip up to San Francisco (360 miles away) with two friends. His car, he’s driving, the others are pitching in for the gas. College starts in two weeks and he hasn’t done much over the summer but sleep, skate, and hang out.

“Oh, yeah?” I say. “Where are you staying?” (he has a gas card and $30 left from his June HS graduation)
“We’re sleeping in the car, taking the sleeping bags.” (in a small SUV? He’s 6 ft. tall)
“Where are you parking?”
“In someone’s neighborhood I guess.” (uh, no). “Sam’s Club parking lots?” (no SC in Frisco). “At a campground?” (Muir woods is 2 hrs. away).
“Hostels run about $25 a night.” I say.
“Are you kidding, didn’t you see that movie “Hostel?” (uh, no again).
“Do you know how to change a flat tire or use jumper cables in case something happens with the car?” I ask.
“I’ll youtube it if I need to know.” (uh, right-youtube).
“How you gonna eat on $30 for 3 or 4 days?” (I’ve seen him eat).
“I’m vegan remember, pita chips, hummus, juice, fruit.” (Okay I guess he can buy a lot of that for cheap).”You don’t want me to go, huh?” he says.
“I want you to think about it first. Give me a plan I’m comfortable with and then it’s fine.”

Now I don’t want to be a downer, but I don’t want him rousted by SF police for sleeping in his car. And I don’t want to give him money for a hotel-you know SF prices?! And then I remember my first road trip, when I was twenty, to San Diego and Tijuana with three girlfriends. It was so long ago I can’t remember where we slept, but I still remember the guys we met in SD, Carnitas Urupan in TJ, and having to go to the secondary inspection area at the border crossing.

How can I deny him a road trip experience? Adventure and exploring is part of a young man’s makeup. It was part of my own experience. But then I envision him skateboarding down Lombard St. or sleeping on the side of the road or his car messing up and there’s no youtube connection.

I remind myself that I’m a concerned parent, I’m not hovering over a just turned 19 year old. I don’t know how this will turn out but he just may ask his father for some ways to earn money at his house, or his grandma’s, or sell video games. And that’s fine. Where there’s a will there’s a way is my firm belief.

We’ll see what develops in the next few days. I’m already feeling melancholy.

2 thoughts on “Teenage Road Trip”

  1. Mija, I understand. It's about having a “plan.” I think it's so valuable for teens (especially since he'll be starting college) to learn that. Sure, flying by the seat of your pants has its merits and fun, it also can come at a price. When you have experience under your belt, flying by the seat, somehow has less of an edge to it and less risk involved. One is better able to adjust one's course in the middle of things going wrong.

    In the engineering world we have a term: “single point failure.” We try to design out “single point” failures and purposely design in safeguards that go into effect when one thing fails or goes wrong, that there's a reliable alternative that kicks in to replace it. For instance, having mechanical issues (flat tire, etc) with the car, relying only on the cell phone to get him out of the pickle, is a single point failure. The phone reception, as you pointed out, may be down. Then what?

    That's all part of emerging into adulthood- having plans in place to take care of possible scenarios. Have plan “A” and plan “B” (so you don't set yourself up for a single point failure).

    Ultimately, depending on your son's temperament and how he learns…he may need to experience some failures to learn the importance of plans and preparation. Maybe a shorter trip? That way he has the ability to demonstrate (by way of how he handles the trip) that he can take on a longer one. But I agree, the criteria we as parents use in determining whether our kid is responsible enough to take on such a trip is whether he demonstrates “realistic” expectations. (Understands the cost of things, for instance) If he wants the trip bad enough, maybe you can put the onus on him to do the research (call police dept or online see what the law allows regarding sleeping in vehicles and where….) If he gets hungry because he ran out of food…..that can be a valuable lesson itself. And a motivator to plan better next time.

    Looks like a teaching opportunity for sure! 🙂

    Isn't parenting wonderful? And it's true, we forget about the not so well-thought-out decisions we made in our youth. Barring a dangerous situation…it may be good for him to get a bit bruised by the experience to learn? Only you know the line. But I have found myself extending it (beyond my comfort zone) to allow my daughter an opportunity to make mistakes (that she can recover from while still within my reach). No greater teacher than experience.

    Be strong…have faith…that you've taught him well…. 🙂


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