IMG_5096I spent eight days and seven nights of my Spring Break traveling around California. The trip was fantastic, one of the more memorable experiences of this early 2016. But it can be hard to measure the value of a trip when one isn’t quite sure of the rubric.

As an example, here’s some of the hard data from my trip: 2,020 miles traveled; 5 campsites visited;  $900 in gas and food and lodging and hammock expenses.

But what’s difficult to communicate are the ephemeral moments during the journey. Take, for example, seeing Hearst Castle. Granted the place is beautiful, but seeing a California condor soaring high above the famed Neptune Pool was incredibly. Was it on the brochure? Nope. But that’s it, the unplanned moments that help one take a step back and see a bigger picture about an experience are rarely prescribed.

I have as much of a disdain for the unoriginal and often tread upon as I have adoration for sincerity and authenticity. But what do you do when the two are mixed? Consider Chandelier Drive-Thru Tree in Leggett. What’s exciting about driving through a tree? Here’s a video to illustrate what is exciting about driving through a tree:

Yes, driving through a tree is easy to do; but it’s the time and company that makes all the difference. It’s what you do with the opportunity.

My students will soon be writing an essay that lacks a rubric. The essay won’t lack context, though. Daniel Coffeen, writer of the blog An Emphatic Umph, wrote a piece called “Teaching Critical Writing” about how difficult it is for students to see the forest and the trees throughout their writing maturation. My students have worked all year to get here—to a place where they can explore their arguments while being free to explore a rubric’less composition. But their AP exam lurks around the corner at a month away.

Should I send my students out into a dense forest that so stands in contrast to the sort of writing The College Board lauds? What do I do? I don’t know. But I do know one can’t get out of the forest if they never get into it in the first place.

Here’s to road trips. Here’s to writing.