It was our junior year in college, and even though we all spent plenty of time together on campus we still wanted a spring break adventure on the open road. I’d be lying if I didn’t say that Britney Spear’s movie Crossroads inspired us, although the closest we got to her karaoke contest scene was wailing to Vanessa Carlton, windows down, through Sedona National Park.
Lori’s parents’ Nissan Quest minivan quickly became the ultimate road trip vehicle. The first stop was Vegas, where we avoided the typical spring break crowd. Instead, we stuffed our faces at the Circus Circus Buffet, before touring a vitamin factory on the outskirts of town just because it was something free to do.
On the long stretches of empty roads, under painted-desert skies, the girls in the back would cuddle up together, one reading, one dozing, and the other glued to Newsies on the TV. The driver and co-pilot were usually getting philosophical, spilling out future hopes and fears about our impending adulthood. And, occasionally, someone in the back would pipe up a gentle reminder to slow down.
We wanted to slow down more than anything, really. Very soon the looming responsibilities of post-grad life would physically pull us away from each other. Some would get married; others would go on to graduate school on the opposite side of the country or pursue jobs of their dreams.
One night, as we sat under starry Colorado skies, we made a commitment I consider almost as sacred as my marriage vows. We decided that our spring break trip would not be the last adventure before “real life” swept in. Instead, our trip would be the first intentional step at maintaining friendships we worked hard to establish, and were desperate not to lose.
I remember one of the girls saying, “We’re not always going to have the money or the time.” The concerns were valid. Keeping our annual commitment to see each other hasn’t been simple. Demanding jobs make vacation time slim, babies require a lot of attention, and travel is expensive. It’d probably be easier to say, “Not this year. Maybe next year instead?” But friendship is an investment requiring some work, just like a marriage or children.
My girlfriends and I have taken many “spring break” trips since college. We’re continuing to perfect the art of purposeful, relaxing, and playful time together.
One year all of us met in New York City for a whirlwind weekend spent sightseeing and shopping. On the last day though we realized our time had been full of adventure but lacked good conversation. We’d spent three days together but still felt a little bit like strangers.
After our trip to New York, we made another pledge. No matter where we meet, no matter what time of year, no matter how busy we are—we have to make time for intentional conversation. Since then our trips haven’t been nearly as exciting in terms of destination. Instead, the best parts take place around the dinner table each night, or on the porch in our pajamas.
Each year we do all sorts of fun things to make our time special, from discussing a book together to exchanging Christmas presents in person (who cares if it’s July!) But as I get older, the most exciting part about traveling to see girlfriends is simply being with those who’ve known my heart since it was young and naïve. Once a year they pour encouragement into my soul in a way e-mails and phone calls cannot. They speak life into my insecurities, and ask questions I’m not willing to ask myself.
I’m so grateful that who I’m becoming today includes little pieces of each of them.
Lesley Sebek Miller is mama to Anna and wife to Jonathan. She’s a member of the Redbud Writers Guild and her work has appeared on the Christianity Today blog for women and Relevant Magazine. When she’s not writing or chasing a toddler she likes to read, run, and bake sweets. You can visit her at Barefoot on 45th.