Have You Ever Traveled With Your Parents?

Artist Point

Have you ever traveled with your parents? I’m not talking about a family vacation where you have siblings or other relatives to distract you. I’m talking about you plus mom and dad where all of their attention is you. In 2009, I went to Yellowstone National Park for one week with both of my parents. Me, mom, and dad, the happy trio. Okay, not quite, but I’ll get to that in a bit.

Let me fill you in: why was a twenty-something girl traveling with her parents? I was back from a year of living in New York and had returned to South Florida to figure out my life goals. (I should really spend more time on those goals.)

Ahh, twenties, filled with so much doubt and fear. Thirties are so much better: doubt and fear, plus bills.

Anyways, I had finished a temp job and my parents had offered me this chance to travel to Yellowstone since they had enough miles to cover all three of us. Free trip? Hell, yes. Count me in. (Don’t judge, you know you’d do the same thing.)

At the time, I’d had some travel experience with group travel, traveling as a couple, and living abroad. However, nothing could have prepared me for traveling with my parents.

grand prismatic springs
A more leveled view of Grand Prismatic Springs

Different Travel Personalities

My travel style has changed in the last 7 years. However, I used to be pretty laid back about going on vacation. I liked to sleep late, as well as wandering and discovering my surroundings. I’d usually let someone else take the reins with logistics and planning. I’d ask for directions if I got lost, but I never did much research about the places I would visit. Oh, how times have changed. Now, I spend months researching everything, but I still like to walk into certain places without a plan.

Yep, that’s me at the ripe age of 23. All smiles during our trip.
My mom is very laid back. If it were up to her we would sleep in until 10:00am every morning, sit for a late breakfast, and then maybe go on a short hike before relaxing with a glass of wine in the hotel. I don’t blame her: she works hard and deserves a break during the one time a year (if she’s lucky) that she gets to go on vacation.

My dad is the POLAR OPPOSITE. My father is someone who likes to wake up at 4:00am, hit the ground running and keep going until we collapse. His idea of having fun with the kids was getting us to build stuff around the house. Afterwards, he would tell my mom that the kids played “arts and crafts with Dad.” (He still does this to me at age 30.)

Up at 4:00am every morning gave us the chance to capture sunrises like this one over Yellowstone.
How did we combine all three different personalities? I laugh at the memory, but we balanced each other well. After my dad woke us up at 4:00am every morning for three consecutive days, my mom and I staged a coup and won a few days of rest before heading home. Once we arrived in Jackson Hole, my parents let me have alone time to roam the town, something I’d been itching to do for most of the trip. (It’s not easy to get away from your parents when you’re afraid that a bear is hiding in the bush outside of your hotel in Yellowstone.)

Putting Up With Your Parents’ Quirks

My dad is a true Brooklynite. Did I mention that? He’s a teddy bear, but he is a tad overwhelming if you’re not used to his New Yorker personality. (When he see’s this, I imagine he’ll be saying, “That’s not true, I’m never overwhelming!”) My dad is also an avid photographer who loves being in the center of everything. I can’t fault him for this since he’s the one who inspired me to go into photography, so I understand his desire to capture exciting moments. But when paired with my mom, it’s obvious my dad’s need to get every shot becomes annoying, especially since my mom has to carry the tripod everywhere we go. Bickering together in thick New York accents, I started to feel like my parents were cramping my style.

Okay who was I kidding: I had no job, and I was on vacation with my parents in my early twenties. I had no style to speak of.

This was the ONLY shot I could get of my dad on this trip because he didn’t stop looking at his photographs.

By the way, did I mention that bears and heights terrify my mom? We were in Yellowstone for goodness sake and she was afraid of coming across any wildlife. Bison stood 25 meters away from us and would even trot next to the cars caught in traffic. When we found a scenic view of the Grand Tetons reflected in a lake, my mom heard rustling in a bush and ran back to the car abandoning us to what she thought was a bear. (It wasn’t, it was just another photographer finishing up his shoot.)

At one point, we were driving along the edge of a cliff without any guard rails. My mom kept squeaking in Spanish, “Precipicio! Precipicio!” and my father kept shouting, “Calm down! I have to concentrate!” This went on for a good hour.

My mother, terrified as we took a cable car into the mountains in Jackson Hole.
In contrast to my mother’s fears, my father made use of my small frame to photograph the views that he didn’t have the physical capacity to see. For example, I had to stick my body out through the sunroof to capture the bison standing right next to our car. Ever heard of those people who got too close to the bison in Yellowstone and were later thrown into a tree? The thought of one of these animals ramming into our car terrified me. Instead of worrying, my dad told me to stay put until I had taken enough photographs.

Did I get good pictures? Nope–I was a novice photographer and my hands were shaking from the cold and moving vehicle. Of course they turned out blurred.

bison in traffic
Just one of the shots I took of bison during a traffic jam.

Becoming Friends with Your Parents

Despite all of their quirks and the incessant bickering that went on during our trip, I found out that I actually like my parents and consider them my friends. How many people can say that?

grand tetons and dad
My dad eagerly walking ahead of us to capture his photograph of the Grand Tetons.
For example, my parents knew that I had gone to Amsterdam while I was studying abroad. Rather than sidestepping anything, they asked me directly, “So did you smoke pot?”

“Sure,” I responded, and told them about my whole experience. I’ve always shared an open and honest relationship with my parents, something that has been beneficial for me when I’m traveling to new places. I know that I can always reach out to them even if I’m 10,000 miles away.

Instead of chiding me for being irresponsible while I was abroad, they started telling me about their own experiences in the ‘60s and ‘70s. Here’s what a lot of people don’t realize about our parents: they have already lived out the decades that we are just entering. While I disagree with a lot of their advice, I end up giving them credit for certain things because they’ve learned from their own mistakes. Plus, they’re human too. Having grown up during a turbulent time in our nation’s history, they’ve seen and done things that I haven’t witnessed.

Another wildlife capture during our trip through Yellowstone.
I’m going to pay for that. They’re totally going to tell me “I told you so” and point out that they’re always right after reading that last paragraph. They’ll also be angry with me for highlighting their age.

Next time you plan a trip, invite one or both of your parents. It won’t go smoothly, I promise you that, but it will be memorable.

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