Natalie Ogbourne

The last fight between my brother and I involved a fun-size Snickers bar. We were on our way out for a day of downhill skiing and both had our eye the same treat. He was twenty. I was twenty-four. We fought over candy. Travel has a way of bringing it out in people.

It is important, according to travel writer Tim Cahill, to avoid psychotic travel companions. This is the first of his long list of travel rules. He claims that even the most carefully chosen travel companions may become psychotic. We don’t choose our companions. We travel with family: opportunities for psychotic moments abound.

Even the young are not immune. Our youngest, probably because we are less sensitive to her need for sleep than we were to her siblings, tends to have her fill of road adventure and become uncharacteristically belligerent. Like the candy bar fight with my brother, it may forever be remembered.

No, she would not be joining the family as we explored the Mud Volcano area. She would not be walking around one more boardwalk. Embedded in her seat, she cried, “ I am tired of going up and down and up and down.” Eventually, she relented and joined us. We still wonder if up and down referred to terrain or the act of climbing into and out of the vehicle.

A similar event replayed last fall. We had been clear that we were on our way to hike the poorly named Yellowstone Picnic Area Trail. When we arrived four of us disembarked and began to prepare for the hike. She lingered in her seat. We filled camel packs and got the walking sticks and binoculars. When it was time to go, she informed us that she was done hiking. My husband, who should have the Brilliant placed behind his name after this swift rescue, distracted her by telling her that there was sage along the trail and that if she smelled it, it would give her energy for the hike. Sage apparently has this mystical power because out of the vehicle she shot, stopping to sniff the many sage plants lining the trail, eventually separating them into two types: Old Sage and Tooty-Fruity.

Some elements of travel cause people to be grumpy. Grumpy people are not reasonable. Short on sleep, out of routine, and out of sorts, they occasionally succumb to travel-induced psychosis and step, for a short time, out of character. It passes, especially if there is an opportunity for a nap and a fresh start. Or, of course, sage.

Laughter helps, even if the laughter doesn’t start until you are safely back in your own driveway. Our imperfections are part of the adventure, even if often it’s the part that isn’t fun. What we laugh about together often becomes a treasured bit of the family lore, one of the threads that make for a colorful family narrative.

When my companions exhibit signs of travel-induced psychosis and wander — or run screaming — from the trail, the temptation is strong to take it personally. It’s important to remember that I’ve done it, too. Whether it happens at home on a random Tuesday or at a rest stop in the Tetons, there is nothing so comforting as the sight of a loved one waiting by the trail, ready with a water bottle, a trail map, a hug, or even a Snickers bar, when I make my way back.