Thursday, May 10, 2007

The Great DVD Player Debate

Since summer is approaching and people are travelling, the old "DVD player for the car...yay or no way?" debate has started and two of my favorite bloggers are weighing in on the debate.

I just can't stay out of it, either.

Yesterday I took a field trip with a group of students and I was stunned by the amount of electronics they brought along. The chatter of kids socializing was replaced with the sounds of a movie from a portable DVD player, and kids ignored the friend next to them while they played Pac-man on a Game Boy. Some pulled a hoodie over their heads and hunched in a seat, listening to music while still others talked on their cell phones.

What ever happened to talking to each other? Group dynamics? Co-operation? Socialization? We had a group of 20+ kids, and as far as I could see none of them were interested in conversation. They all were lost in their own little world of electronics. It was creepy.

This, my friends, is exactly why we travel low tech. For us, a vacation is a time to re-connect and actually spend time with each other without all the distractions of electronics. We spend so much time away from each other at work and school that our vacation has actually become cherished family time where we discover new things about each other and explore wherever it is we're going.....together. We work on problem solving, co-operation, negotiating, and being a team as we tackle the new and interesting places that we encounter along the entire route of our road trip. All 8000 kms, two countries, and 9 states of it. Want some real life lessons for your kids? This is exactly how to do it.

You probably think I'm crazy. Don't I ever feel like duct taping my kid's mouth shut? Sure. Don't I ever have to listen to whines of "I'm bored" in the back seat? You bet. Doesn't anyone get cranky? Of course, and it's usually me.

But you know what? That's life. Part of life is dealing with stuff that can be a bit boring or tedious and one just has to buckle down and make the best of it. Sometimes, what makes something boring simply is the attitude of the person. What I've learned about the whole road trip thing is that it's really all in one's attitude. If one looks at it like it's going to be hellish, of course it is. Instead look at it like an adventure, and before you know it, the trip becomes one.

I can honestly tell you, even on our longest two day drive home from Tucson AZ last summer I was glad we didn't have a DVD player. I would've missed seeing the huge owls perched in the trees on the sides of the road, huge herds of pronghorn antelope, and the games of Uno with Jake that left us howling with laughter. We would have missed the hilarious signs on the way to the Grand Canyon and the ramshackle roadside stands hocking Native American crafts. Why would I want to watch tv when I could look out the window and see the soaring canyons of Utah, farms in Idaho, and the rolling grasslands in Montana? There was even the point where all three of us looked at each other in confusion because we'd been through so many states, we'd lost track of where we were momentarily. Our conversations about school, life, and friends brought us closer in a way we'll remember for years to come. My son, who is reluctant to share much of his inner self, opened up in a way that he rarely does at home and never would have with the distractions of electronic stuff around. I would not have traded those moments for a whole truck load of DVDs.

We don't want or need some battery driven device to entertain us.

We have each other for that.

This summer we are taking another long road trip through South Dakota's Black Hills, Mount Rushmore, Calgary Alberta, Moab and Salt Lake City Utah, Yellowstone National Park, and clear through the entire state of Colorado. See my sidebar for tips for my article at Kids Can Travel on Low Tech entertainment.

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