There is nothing like a boys' road trip. A bunch of good mates spending the week eating up the kilometres, talking crap and sucking in the sights. Every stop we make we make a new friend, can't stay for long, just turn around and we're gone again. It's all about getting to know your companions. Making memories as the state highways disappear beneath our wheels. Ah, the road trip.
It's f***ing horrible. My arse hurts. I wish I was home with my kids.
In your twenties every trip away is a party you may never come home from. You'll jump on a plane to anywhere for any length of time. You'll go hard in the air, go hard when you land and follow that by going harder and harder for years at a time. The only thing stopping you from travelling constantly is a lack of funds.
Nowadays when I get offered a two- week trip to some fantastic location my first thought is "can I do 14 days without seeing my sons". I don't get excited about the adventure, I worry about how much I'll miss my little kids. It's pathetic. Lame. Wussy.
It's not for their benefit. They'll turn up for the nightly Skypes but their hearts aren't in it. "Um ... Dad.. do you know I can't play Minecraft when you're talking to me on the computer? ... can you go now?"
The modern parent is a complete softie. Nineteenth century fathers would leave their families for years at the slightest sniff of financial advancement. I get antsy over a few weeks.
In 1862 Henry Wolsey, an English father of seven, was told that Gabriel Read had discovered gold in Otago. He booked a berth to New Zealand that very day, telling his family at dinner: "I'm off to find fortune in the antipodes. I may be gone for years. I might be eaten by natives." Five weeks later he died at sea and his body was thrown overboard. I respect that.
I'll go to Sydney for the weekend and text my 8-year-old twice a day. "I'll be back Sunday son. I love you'. 'Dad I can't play Clash of Clans when you're texting me, can you stop now?"
In his fantastic book Great Tales from New Zealand History Gordon McLauchlan shares the story of William Dawson. In 1820, two days after his 10th birthday, his father put him to sea as a ship boy.
In Dawson's words: "Captain William Cudgeon pushed me up the gangplank ... The rest of the crew bullied me, and worse, and for the first few weeks after we left England I was fearful all the time ... I would pull the rough grey blanket over my head and sob all the worry and fear out of me."
For the next 19 years Dawson travelled the world, finally ending up working in a Wellington shop. He never saw his family again. No parental Skyping. No letters from Dad. Just good old-fashioned hardcore parenting.
Conversely, this week I put my boys on an unaccompanied one hour, 45-minute flight to Dunedin. A hostess held their hands as they boarded. They were given presents. They had their iPads to play games on. They handed out the lollies. They had petals laid out for them as they disembarked. Yet I fretted about them the whole time.
The second my sister Katharine picked them up at Momona airport I was on the phone. "Are they okay? Boys it must have been horrible without me?" Typical desperate 2015 pussy parenting.
Currently our road trip is racing through Kahurangi National Park. It's beautiful. It's a laugh.
We're making the kind of jokes that would ruin a career if hacked from an email. I'm adding to the filth as best I can but mainly I just wonder what my kids are up to.
It's a sad irony of life that by the time you can do whatever you want, you just want your kids.
If only we could be as cold-hearted and grim as our grandfather's fathers. They knew how to spend time away from their children.
Can't wait get back into range. I haven't talked to my boys in hours.