Two years ago, my spouse broke his leg.  Badly.  It happened two weeks before we were to depart for sunny Naples, Florida.  He was in a wheelchair for months, then on a walked, followed by crutches for more months.  Needless to say, the trip was cancelled (we have never been more grateful for our decision to take out trip insurance months before so we got a full refund on our housing).  We became home bodies, hugging our family room and friends as if our lives depended on it, and, in a way, they did.  That caregiving journey was instructional as a test of our mutual patience, tolerance for disruption, and of our resilience.

The next summer, just ten days before we were to depart for a week on Cape Cod, he was diagnosed with an 85% blockage of one of his heart arteries.  This time, the whole process took only one full day, about 18 hours, to be treated and released.  We made it to the Cape and our gratitude for life intensified.

I share these stories to give you background and help explain why we just returned from a 4,000 mile round trip to Scottsdale, Dallas and Austin to visit friends and family.  Our wanderlust was down a quart or two and it was time to renew and restore our energies.

We were not alone in our need to wander; the latest research shows that 40% of Americans vacationed by car inside the U.S. last year.  The spike came as the travel industry roared back from the recession, hitting record levels of vacation spending, and as more travelers chose to stay within their own country’s borders.  Nearly 14 million more vacations were taken inside America compared with outside the country.

We were longing for the road, in part out of nostalgia, but also for matters more practical: we wanted to take our little dog Winky along with us, we wanted to be able to pack whatever and how much we wanted to take in the car, and we wanted to be able to stop wherever we wanted to.  Lower vacation costs also played a role.

The trip brought us through many interesting small towns with strange sounding names, including Pocahontas, the Kickapoo Nation, Truth or Consequences (honest), and Waxahatchie. The varied terrain included miles of Wind Farms that populate parts of Texas, the hours of driving through flatlands, the mountainous highway that took us from Sedona with its winding switch backs and soaring vistas as we descended into the valley where Phoenix resides; at night, it was like entering a magical kingdom full of neon lights and rushing traffic.  (We have decided that both Texans and drivers in Arizona regard speed limits as mere suggestions!)

Our hosts and hostesses in each of the three families we visited showed true hospitality, and we ate like Kings while visiting; we toured various new developments in each of the areas, and we learned to appreciate the Scottsdale lifestyle in a 55+ community, and to learn the pleasures of living in an inner-city industrial loft apartment in downtown Dallas, as well as to enjoy the pleasures of a suburban lifestyle on the edge of Austin.  It was such fun to sample all three!

Driving by car to our destinations, taking our time along the way, was less expensive and offered more flexibility than flying, not to mention the absence of security lines, and waiting for luggage to arrive at crowded airports.  It was great and I highly recommend it.

One other thing:  driving together over the highways toward our destination added a level of intimacy, shared learning, unforgettable scenery with postcard images that are now indelibly marked in our brains, and a host of other communal living features that bonded me and my spouse.  It was good for our relationship, so, for that reason, I would also highly recommend it to you.  Bon voyage!!