Great American Road Trip: Travel books for the road-4 of 4: Are We There Yet?

When on a road trip with family–i.e., spouse, kids and possibly in-laws or parents, a travel book that delves into similar situations is a welcome companion. There is an uplifting quality to being able to recognize aspects of the life you are living to what you are reading.

If any of you with children wonder if your best traveling days are over, pick up the 4th travel book I read on my road trip to Montana from Ohio and back. According to this one, your best days are at hand, but only if you grab your family and head out to points beyond the familiar.

#4 Are We There Yet? Perfect Family Vacations and Other Fantasies–Scott Haas

Laura and I knew if we got out and saw the countryside, everything would be fine. The mountains are filled with sanitariums and spas where for at least two centuries the wealthiest, most miserable, worried, and confused people in the world have come to look at the snow-capped Alps and listen to doctors and therapists tell them everything will be fine. Everything will be just fine. I would have liked to hear a doctor say those words to me. But how could we get into the mountains? We couldn’t even see them through the rain and fog.
Scott Haas, the author of this book is a writer commentator for NPR, public radio who I have heard on “The Splendid Table.” He also covers food and restaurants in “Here and Now.” Besides knowing great food and the people who make it, Haas knows how to capture the essence of family vacations in a way that makes you think you are with him where he is, like the Swiss Alps as described in the excerpt.

Of the four books I read, his is one that fits an any one person’s experience. I don’t mean that the book is mundane, but what Haas does is show how people can incorporate lovely travel experiences into their lives with a family. It’s the having a family in the experiences that actually make them grand.

The book starts off with his first vacation with his wife right after their daughter was born. The goal was to head off to Switzerland to stay in a cottage in order to enjoy their new family group. It ends with the children at ages 15 and 12 and the knowledge that life is shifting. The 12-year-old is a son.

Throughout the book, Haas makes observations about himself and his wife, children and the people who periodically join them –and of course the food they eat. This is not a how-to book, but more of a memoir that is engaging and funny. There are travel successes and travel nightmares, such as the time the fog set in in the alps and they had to crawl.

Instead of trotting between many places, the Haas family tends to go to one country and stay put. They stay several nights at once place in order to soak up the scene and blend in. Although, they take in sites, the notion is to not be tourists.

They also repeat places that they’ve been before–not all the time, but the places they like the best. Italy and Switzerland are the most favorite. Greece was not a hit because the food was so bad.

One aspect I really liked about this book is that squabbles are part of the deal when traveling with family, but the Haas family doesn’t let that stop them from heading out. Haas shares his experiences so it feels as if you’re sitting in the room watching and thinking, yep–I’ve been there.

He also illustrates how everyone does not have to be on the same page going at the same speed. One advantage of staying in a place for a length of time is that people can go at their own pace according to their own pattern.

Because Haas also is a psychologist, he has a certain way of making observations that are engaging. As I mentioned, he puts himself into the mix. As a person with a six-year-old son and a 15-year-old daughter, I could relate to much of this book, although spending more than $400 at The French Laundry, is not in my realm of travel jaunts. That’s where being a writer for “The Splendid Table” comes in handy.

I read this one through Iowa and Indiana.