Go West, Young Man! (Part 2)

Last weekend D left his Wisconsin home to head out west with three friends on a trip he’s been talking about for nearly a year. To sum it up, they are driving all the way across the country to visit (and camp and hike in) a couple of different national parks. This is totally different from the last time he left for the western United States; that time it was a controlled summer of working for the Boy Scouts. This time? Pretty much flying by the seat of his pants. In the wild west.

It took a while for Jim and me to warm up to the idea of this trip; at first it just sounded like a ridiculous idea that was fraught with possibilities for disaster at every turn. We kept slipping little parental gems into the conversation when D brought up this epic “spring break” trip:

“You finished school in December; technically you don’t get spring break anymore.”
“You don’t have vacation at your new job yet, which means you won’t get paid for the week!”
“In fact, your boss may not even let you take the time off!”
“Don’t you need to think about saving your money since you have student loan payments starting in June?”
“What if that older vehicle you’re borrowing from your friends’ parents breaks down?”

The fact is, as much as we worried about those obstacles, the overall idea of this trip was pretty exciting and, really, this was the best time for him to go. He’s twenty-one years old and fresh out of college, and his same-aged friends are seniors who finish school in May. Soon they will all go their separate ways to figure out “the Real World”. This trip will probably be life-changing and definitely unforgettable.

It took months for me to get over my own obstacles on this and I still have my moments. Frankly, the idea of my D going on this trip was worrisome to me, because I’m his mom. The mom part of me kept seeing him like this:

Cub Scouts

He’s not that little boy anymore, though. He’s a grown man. He’s a grown man who is still young enough to enjoy the freedom of planning an adventure without worrying about a bunch of “what ifs”.

When he found a post-college job and told us that his boss said he could definitely take the time off for this trip, well, it was happening. Jim and I switched gears from playing the part of “The Resistance” to “The Listeners”. We smiled and nodded when he told us about his plans.

And wow, did he have plans. Big ones. Let me just say that this apple doesn’t fall far from the tree (and I feel terrible that he inherited that part of me, truthfully. It’s a blessing and a curse).

As those plans unfolded, we relaxed about it all. Okay, mostly. Admittedly my jaw dropped to the floor when I saw the route they had planned for one week,

Americonvoy route

…but I reminded myself of the magical potential this trip could have.

Of course, I felt better when he complied with my request for a complete itinerary (even though they didn’t have firm campsite/hotel plans for some of the nights) and the contact information for his travel buddies as well as their parents.

I felt better when I found out that one of his friends’ parents had purchased a GPS tracker for them, in case a rescue was needed.

I feel better when I remember that he’s an Eagle Scout and spent an entire summer living in the backwoods and shepherding young scouts through their own high adventure outdoor survival experiences.

I love that they got on social media with it so I can follow their adventures, like how they arrived at the north rim of the Grand Canyon to find that it is still closed for winter but found an In and Out Burger later that day and got to cross that off of their bucket list.

I’m also happy that he is texting me every other day, just to check in so I don’t have to worry as much. He even called me the night before last to tell me that there was no cell reception where they were camping but he was out on a store run and wanted to call me to say he was fine. And that In and Out burgers didn’t live up to their storied reputation, in his opinion.

As parents—and no matter how old our kids are—some of our biggest struggles consist of situations in which we have to decide whether to hold onto them a little more tightly or loosen the grip so they can try, and do, and experience life for themselves. Letting go is one of the hardest things to accomplish but once we can finally, FINALLY bring ourselves around to do it, there are rewards for everyone.

(That said, it doesn’t mean you have to stop worrying.)


  • Lisa

    I needed to read this today…my oldest will be heading to college in New York come August. That’s a loooooong way away from Kansas, and mama is flipping out a little bit. Your D sounds like a gem; love that he called you!

  • Erica

    Love this! Felt the same away about sending my son to college 8 HOURS AWAY! I know the time will come that he will stop checking in with me every day (his choice, not mine), but I prefer not to think about it. Thanks for blazing this trail for me. Keep me posted on your progress!

  • Shannon

    What a fantastic adventure! I am sitting right now in a college lounge area while my daughter sits in on a class. So this “letting go” blog post is perfectly timed for me.

  • Maggie Moo

    I’m in love with this trip-the posters, the FB page…everything! It’s AMAZING that he’s getting to do this, and he’ll remember it for the rest of his life. SO COOL!!!!

  • Tracey

    I’m excited for him! Remember, at 21, we were both married already… I hope he has a fun and safe trip!

  • Joan

    Thanks for saying I can still worry. I probably always will. When the 22 year old left the day after her wedding for her new home in a state that feels very far away, I didn’t know how I was going to let her go and lead her own life. Of course, I did but I’ll always worry about her long distance. By the way, you have a very adventurous son, but a very, very good one. I love the fact that he’s keeping in contact while having his trip of a lifetime. How wonderful! I hope he has a fantastic time!

  • Sylvia Joy

    So glad all is well and that he is sowing his oats. Everyone has to settle down sooner or later. Let him enjoy life, it comes all to quickly.

    Grandma W