One Tip for Getting Out the Door

The greatest obstacle standing in the way of good adventures is a 6.5’x’3′ piece of wood with a knob in it: my own front door. Which, when I put it that way, seems ridiculous. How hard is it, really, to leave your own house? Well, harder than you might think…

I’ve always struggled with getting out the door. As a clinically and, I believe, genetically late person (I’ve heard it whispered about me, in classic Southern form, “Elise, bless her heart, she’s always late”), and a non-morning person to boot, I’ve always started my days with a vague feeling that I’d be in getting-ready purgatory forever. It seems like there’s perpetually one more thing to do. Add two kids into the mix, and I feel like I’ll never escape. Some days, I never do. Other days, I don’t even try because it doesn’t seem worth the effort.

But, then there are days–and these are our best ones–when I’m able to name this as my greatest hurdle, and tackle it head-on. And if I can just surmount it, the world will be our oyster. The whole California coast will be fair game. Anything within a couple hundred miles will be ours for the taking.

When the car is packed, the cooler is full, the kids are miraculously dressed/fed/serviced and buckled in, we’ve all used the bathroom three times, I press the magic button that closes the garage door behind me, and I put the car in reverse, a weight lifts. I’ve done it! I’ve escaped! Surely someone is about to pull me over and tell me I’m actually supposed to remain inside my kitchen, because that’s where stay-at-home moms belong, right? I glance furtively behind me for the first few miles…and not just because I’m trying to hide the stack of Oreos that I grabbed on my way out the door (my secret self-compensation for my efforts).


So we hit the road, and at this point it actually doesn’t matter if I have a plan or not. Maybe we’ll only end up 20 minutes away at a museum or an open space preserve. Maybe we’ll drive 35 minutes and get to a beach or a coastal trail. Heck, I might just drive two hours in one direction to Big Sur for lunch. Or nine hours south to the border of Mexico (true story. It happened once). Sure, it might take three hours to move heaven and earth to get us out the door, but by that point it’s only around 11 am, and no one will be looking for us until at least 6 pm. Those are the moments I realize: this gig really isn’t so bad. 


I’m pretty certain that getting out the door is a matter of 75% willpower and 25% preparation. The willpower I can’t help you with, other than to tell you that it is nearly always worth it to go an adventure, and that you’ll be glad you did: there’s no quantifying the value of a few hours of fresh air. But I do have one solitary and nearly fool-proof tip for tackling the last 25%. Here is the secret formula for escaping from your own house, and it doesn’t even involve picking any locks:

Prep the night before. This is a two-edged sword of pain and suffering, when all you want to do in the post-war…er, bedtime aftermath is crawl into bed with your book, but it’s worth the effort. Crack open a cold beer for yourself, and get to work. First prep the car. Getting out the door is 100x easier in the morning if I’ve done most of the work the night before. This means stocking the car with essentials and provisions for a day of adventures, including, but not limited to: water bottles, lunches, snacks, changes of clothes, jackets, stroller, water bottles, diapers, and A FULL TANK OF GAS. If you have to go out at 10 pm to fill up the car, do it. Nothing derails a car full of adventure-ready kids than the anti-climax of stopping at a gas station: “Hey, we’re going to the beach! Wait, I mean…we’re going to the gas station.” Cue tantrums and toddler screams. Just do yourself a favor and fill up in advance. Then, prep the food. Chop the fruits and veggies. Make the sandwiches. Make a pile in the fridge that you can dump into the cooler first thing in the morning. Put said cooler on the kitchen counter. Anything else you could possibly do ahead of time? Do that, too. Do this every night, if you can. If you’re prepared, then saying yes to adventure is always a viable option.

There you go. You’re one step closer to your escape route. Now the only important question is, where will it take you?

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