Many of the Tips for Meaningful Intergenerational Travel noted in the last entry come from hard-won personal experience. I will illustrate with two trips I’ve taken with my parents, wife and two sons. I’ll share the first trip here and the second in the next entry.
The first was a vacation to the Big Island of Hawaii. My parents have a timeshare, so we used the points from that to get a condo on the Kona side of the island. It seemed ahead of time like a perfect vacation: 10 days of fun in the sun. Except for one small detail.
On our second day there, my wife, Kris, and our two sons Sumner (then 9) and Connor (then 6) were having fun snorkeling amidst sea turtles in this beautiful cove. My parents then came back from a long walk they’d taken and announced they were ready to go. Go? We’d only been there for an hour or so and we (the younger four of us) were planning on spending most of this day – and every day – playing on the various beaches.
It was at that point that I learned something about my parents that I had never known my entire life: they don’t like beaches. More precisely, they don’t like sand or swimming in the ocean. We’d been to numerous beaches as kids. We’d even been to Hawaii with my parents and my brother when I was younger. I recall going to beaches all over the place then.
But that was then.
People change as they get older. With most of us, we get more set in our ways. And I’m not just referring to my parents…
On the one hand, I could understand if at this stage of life, my parents didn’t want to spend a lot of time at the beach. But – hello? – this was Hawaii! It’s an island, surrounded by ocean… and beaches. Why would you come here if you don’t like the beach?
You can see my line of thinking. Their perspective was that Hawaii offered plenty to see and do without wasting your whole time just at the beach. My counter to that was, “Great. You take the rental minivan and go see and do whatever you want and meet us back here…at the beach.”
But that wasn’t good enough. We were here as a family and their expectation was that we would do things as a family.
And therein lay the problem with this whole trip: We came with vastly different expectations that we hadn’t bothered to share with each other before we left. Was that an intergenerational issue? Not exactly. But the differences in age, attitude and the whole messed up package you get when dealing with your parents and all the baggage you all bring as a result makes a bad situation worse.
We’re a very close family. No “Mommy Dearest” skeletons in our closets. But it literally took almost a year after we got back before either side could have a conversation that didn’t contain some veiled snipe at the other’s position about beaches and vacations.
In fact, I think we might still to this day be harboring some grudges among all of us had we not done the most unthinkable thing at the time: we actually took another trip together.
Unfortunately, you’ll have to wait for the next entry to learn what happened on that trip. For now, just rest assured: It didn’t involve beaches.