It was the summer after 6th grade. My Pop and step-mom, Amber, decided that we’d take a month long road trip through Mexico. Specifically, we were going to head down to the tip of Baja California, hang out for a few days, then hop on a ship to sail across to Puerto Vallarta where we’d spend a few more days and then drive up the west coast of Mexico back to Los Angeles. A trip full of Summer memories.

So, we packed up the van and headed south. A valued item was our backgammon set. And thinking back, I now realize how integral this game was to this trip. The first time we broke out the game was early on into the drive. My dad was at the wheel cruising for hours down a barely populated highway while Amber and I played in the back of the van. All that playing made the otherwise boring parts of the drive enjoyable. It kept my brain busy and helped me continue learning throughout the Summer. I’m pretty sure I would have been ready to jump out of my skin had we not had this game to occupy ourselves.

My next backgammon memory is a warm evening at a hotel in the south of Baja. My Pop spoke great Spanish which led to making friends with a local family. We introduced backgammon to them, playing for well past my bedtime. We played again the next day and the next day. I made new friends, even though we barely could speak to each other! We used the fun of the game to communicate and bond.

Then, there was the unfortunate trip across the Sea of Cortez. The weather was horrible, making travel both slow and volatile. The electricity gave out, all the food spoiled and there was no clean water. Everyone gathered on the decks, sharing whatever provisions they had, and we played all kinds of games to pass the time. Cards, dice, dominoes and, of course, backgammon.

Needless to say, we were all excited and relieved to reach Puerto Vallarta. Lots of rest, swimming, reading books, making sand castles and playing even more backgammon.

Ultimately, that backgammon set made it home (which is more than I can say of our luggage, which flew off the top of the van). That game contributed greatly to our trip. We made fun of otherwise long, boring drives, we met and played with new friends, and we bonded as a family. That game continued to be well used for many more years, giving me a bounty of additional happy memories. I’m forever thankful for that old backgammon set, as well as many other games I played during childhood. And I now always make sure to pack our favorite games when heading out on a trip with my family.


About the Author
For over 20 years, Matt Brown has been leading high-performing teams to develop vibrant business cultures, invent and launch high-impact branded platforms, and turn around under performing brands and businesses. Matt consults with Fortune 500 and early stage companies. He also co-founded a company called big BOING, an integrated strategy, innovation and development company that partnered with Kraft, Disney, Coca Cola, Nickelodeon, Hasbro, Learning Curve and others to invent, design and launch (or completely overhaul) major domestic and international brands.