2018-04-11 / Local News

Life is a highway for the Ovadia family of Cherry Hill

MEET THE OVADIAS…
By JAYNE JACOVA FELD Voice staff

FAMILY: Benjamin, 37; Rosa “Tamari,” 40; Daniel, 11; Ella, 9; Gabriel, 6 months; and hamster Hammy.

HOMETOWN: Cherry Hill

SYNAGOGUE: Cong. Beth Tikvah

FAVORITE PLACES: Las Vegas for Ben; Alaska for Rosa; Salem Witch Museum for Daniel; and glaciers in Alaska for Ella.

The Ovadias, like many South Jersey families, are always on the go— balancing fulltime jobs with their two elementary-school aged kids’ myriad afterschool activities, synagogue and sleep. In October, since baby Gabriel was born, there is even more lovable madness in the mix.

So whenever they can string together a few free days, the Cherry Hill residents pack up their Honda Civic and take off to—as Simon and Garfunkel would put it—“look for America.”

In the name of family bonding, these road warriors logged more than 40,000 miles over 72 carefully planned days of driving through 49 states and one Canadian province in less than three years’ time. Spending on average 10 of each 24 hours in the car, they typically will budget $300 a day for these frugal adventures—and still have managed to experience key landmarks, including the magnificent Ice Hotel in Quebec, lunch in Seattle’s revolving Space Needle, a day in California’s Disneyland and a dip in hot springs during 26 whirlwind hours in Juneau, Alaska.

An oversized map of the United States with color pins marking the places they’ve been is not their only proof positive that family road trips could be successful. Rosa and Ben recently published “Family Road Tripping Without Falling: How to Survive and Thrive with Your Kids on the Road.” The book is both a travelogue and guide to help other parents get over their (understandable) fear of spending long hours in a car with kids in order to discover the joys of the open road.

“You just have to bite the bullet,” said Ben, whose idea of a vacation before kids typically involved plane rides and better hotels. “I was really nervous in my heart of hearts when we went to Kansas because we were closer to the other coast than to home. But once we broke the seal, and spent more than a week on the road every day, it just made us want to do more of it.”

Daniel, known as the family’s “expert car sleeper,” said the trick to surviving long car rides with your younger siblings is taking along several comfortable pillows for nocturnal pursuits and lots of engrossing but packable activities—including cards, audio books and games—for waking hours on boring highways.

“There is this one thing called ‘Mad Libs,’ in which you fill in things like nouns, adverbs and verbs, and it makes the funniest stories,” noted the fifth-grader at Sharp Elementary School.

As Rosa tells it, the idea sparked when she and Ben were celebrating their eighth wedding anniversary four years ago. Reflecting on their life as a family, they came to the conclusion that they wanted to travel more in order to spend more quality time together—but they realized they had limitations.

“We only have a very limited amount of vacation time and we have to consider sick days and snow days in that time and also have to make sure that trips don’t interfere with school,” said Rosa, a business analyst with Albert’s Organics in Swedesboro.

When Ben and Rosa committed to the quest, the goal was to reach all states accessible by car by the time the kids went off to college. They figured 10 years was doable, said Ben, resource development manager for the Salvation Army in Camden. In the end, they met the challenge in less than three years’ time.

Their first 15 trips were each under a week long, Ben said, noting that newbies to family road trips should consider starting with shorter excursions closer to home.

Tag teaming like they do with the driving, Ben and Rosa wrote the book in less than four months time in late 2016 and early 2017. They included travel itineraries, tips on planning and budgeting, and a chapter written by Danny and Ella about the open road from a kid’s perspective.

The family is now in the promotion stage of authorship, having presented at the Cherry Hill Library and other local venues in recent months. On Apr. 29 at 10:30, the family will do a presentation about road trips replete with slide show, excerpts of the book, tips and advice at Congregation Beth Tikvah in Marlton.

For more information, call (856) 983-8090.

“Family Road Tripping” is available through Amazon at https://www.amazon.com/Family-Road- Tripping-Without-Falling/dp/1628654155. 

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