Trip For A Lifetime
By Jeff Tresselt
In the hope of staying connected with my 14-year-old son, Sandy, as well as in some way, helping to guide him through the difficult early teen years, thoughts of some time away were born. His mom and I discussed at length different scenarios and options. However, work, commitments, school and money all conspired against us. The, “it’s still cool to hang out with dad,” window of opportunity felt small and seemed to be closing fast. In September of 2015, Sandy had a couple weeks off school coming, which coincided with my moms 80th birthday. We made last minute plans to fly over from Australia-to-California to celebrate it with her. A week before departure I had an “ah-ha” moment while walking up the driveway to the house. Putting all of the modern day entrapments aside, a crazy thought and vision entered my mind “what if after the birthday we take a year or so driving and surfing our way from Laguna Beach-to-Tierra del Fuego?” Feeling like a surf stoked grom I went in to ask Sandy what he thought. The look on his face said it all and in that moment the wheels were set in motion.
I was born and raised in Laguna Beach, Ca. In 2002 my family and I immigrated to Lennox Head, Australia. At 54 years old, I found myself struggling with work, divorce and children. I had become “the dad down the street”. I watched from the sidelines as my rebellious 14 year old ruled the roost with iron will and quick temper. The older kids at the skate park knew what was best. Desperate calls from Mom followed by 2AM bike rides through town looking for him were wearing me down. My boy was flying the coup and I was not yet ready to cut the cord.
I needed to pull him close and take a leap of faith together out of our comfort zone and into the unknown. I needed to wrap him up in an adventure full of natural beauty, varied culture/language and interesting people. We needed a task of monumental proportions, a journey that would have inherent challenges with difficult logistics to overcome. A trip without time restraints, allowing it to take its natural course and that if completed would not only weld a bond between us but would instill a sense of accomplishment and pride. Not so much a trip “of” a lifetime but rather a trip “for” a lifetime.
For a lifetime of… time shared, waves ridden, beaches walked, experiences had, life lessons learned, stories to enhance and retell, new friends made and incredible memories to recall.
OK, so the reality of just thinking about it and then actually doing it weighed heavy on my mind. Many sleepless nights were to follow. The risks were many but the potential rewards would be huge. The logistics of such an undertaking soon became overwhelming, but staying true to the importance of the mission I pushed on. However, I quickly realized that this trip was bigger than me and I could not possibly pull it all together by myself. I needed help. Several close friends, mostly from the extended Laguna Beach lifeguard and fire department family were let in on the idea. Nothing but encouragement and positive constructive feedback followed. Amazingly all of the pieces quickly began to come together. I was humbled and overwhelmed with the help that flowed in. Sandy and I did not embark on this journey without the combined generosity and aloha given from this unique group of family and friends.
During the long hours of driving, as the reflection of my kid asleep in the back of the Suburban filled the rearview mirror, many random thoughts would play on my mind.
Reflecting back 12 months to the developmental phase of this journey I’m not sure what odds I gave us to get this far. Blindly following my heart and gut, pulling out of Laguna after tentatively telling people we were going to drive to Ushuaia sounded insane, what did that even mean?!! I could have no idea what it would entail to get there. I was always hopeful but with so much unknown ahead smart money might have been placed on “2-3 weeks in Baja and they’ll be back,” with maybe a sneaky fiver put on the long shot “ya, they’ll get to the bottom,” just in case.
Generational gaps to this time are seemingly abled to be measured in finite degrees. Music, hair/clothing styles and shifts in social consciousness, although complex in their own rights, in my opinion, pale when compared to the present happenings. The gap now feels to me like it can only be measured in light years. These millennial children of electronic gadgetry, born into the black hole of wifi-landia with its instant gratification, are not only shaped by their immediate surroundings and experiences but also by an infinite borage of global information. Some good, some not so good, and often eclipsing the real world in front of them. The neighborhood peer group of yesterday has been replaced with a web of social network that is unimaginable to me. To say I can’t relate or even begin to understand would be a gross understatement. With the “genie out of the bottle,” there’s no going back. As a modern day parent it’s a tough act to compete with. The simplicity of leading by example seems inadequate, however its what I’m hanging onto and what I would like to think of as my gift to my son.
You don’t sit in the same car driving crazy distances with your 14/15-year-old boy for 10 months without many things happening. Sharing life’s daily routines with all that entails can be magnified 10 fold while on the road in foreign lands. Then magnified again by the nature of this trip of time, commitment and distance in a car throughout the length of Latin America exposed to the whim of crooked cops, chaotic border crossings and cities, heavy military presence, cartel violence and lonely desolate highways. The highs and lows if measured on a graph, would at times imitate that of an EKG. This journey had a way of stripping defenses. Intense feelings of isolation, insecurity and desolate loneliness during times of teenage rage and meltdowns exposed weaknesses as well as highlighted strengths. The down time behind the wheel forced some serious self-reflection. Our front seat sessions touched on all of the topics with emotions ranging from pure joyful tears of happiness and laughter to heated and frustrated rants taking us out to the edge but somehow always in the end, ratcheting us closer together. Rolling into Ushuaia on a sunny August 2016 day with 10 months, 14,000 miles and 12 countries behind us is a moment I’ll never forget. It’s a moment only realized through the love and support of family and friends coming together. For this I am forever grateful!
To be Continued…