DO this don’t: Travel with your parents

I haven’t been on holidays with my parents for a VERY long time. And because it was my first year back in Australia and first Christmas at home for more than a week, we decided to plan a trip to Cairns.

My mum had recently seen travel photos on Facebook from a friend of hers who travelled to North Queensland and I think she was slightly jealous that they (being Americans) had seen more of Australia than they had. Up until the beginning of last year they had always used their leave to go back to the Philippines to see family, and it was probably their 5 week sojourn to the USA and Canada in mid 2011 that they finally caught the travel bug to see something more than just their homeland (as lovely as it is). So when mum suggested a Christmas trip to Cairns, I was a little bit hesitant, but thought it was a good chance to get them to indulge in the travel bug and show them how I travel.

The planning process was a bit mental to be honest. Me, being a non-planner, was frustrated by mum’s incessant questions about booking flights early, wanting to stay in a resort with a pool because there were killer jellyfish in the ocean, debates about hiring a car, and if shops were open at Christmas and maybe, no- we should- bring a Christmas ham on the plane just in case shops are closed and there would be nothing to eat and do you think the weather will be good because I hear it’s cyclone season… and so on, you get my drift. Mum’s have a way of being over paranoid so I was forgiving in this respect, but god forbid I was going to let her actually take a Christmas ham as hand luggage on a 3hr flight up to Cairns. Dad and I did eventually convinced her a Christmas ham wasn’t necessary, but when we arrived and were unpacking our bags I did notice she had smuggled across the state border some canned goods and meatloaf (maybe in preparation for that cyclone).

Holidaying with the parents wasn’t as bad as I initially thought. Sure, they’re going to want to eat dinner early, take pictures of everything, over-anaylse the touristy sights and they’re never going want to stay up late for cocktails – but I found that by having tons of patience, a bucketload of compromise and a preparedness to make time for thoughtful answers to all the questions, I actually really enjoyed their company and even learned a thing or two.

My parents are in their mid-fifties, and despite my perceptions that they were old, conservative and boring, I saw quite an adventurous side to them for the first time.  Whilst my siblings and I shivered timidly at the water’s edge of a river in Mossman Gorge, mum and dad both dived in head first into the freezing waters, giggling like school children, and egging us on to jump in.

During our boat trip out to the barrier reef, my dad surprised me by wanting to try diving and loved it. Mum went snorkelling on her own for hours, mesmerised by the rainbow of corals and intent on capturing about 87 underwater photos of the same fish.

When we suggested going jungle surfing in the Daintree rainforest, Mum – who was not particularly comfortable with heights – was terrified at at the thought of ziplining through trees 20 storey’s up, but by the end she was ziplining upside down and screaming in delight – even confessing that she’d conquered her fear and would love to do it again.

Of course when you’re in close proximity to family 24/7 tempers will undoubtedly flare (the most memorable disagreement was regarding having a photo taken with a koala!), but I suppose my point is that I never realised my parents were so fearless and open-minded.

After the trip I realised that it would have taken a lot for them to want to travel with me as well – knowing that I’m a seasoned traveller and can be pretty stubborn about my way of holidaying. In the end I discovered that travel doesn’t discriminate by generation (and why should it!). My folks just happened to get bit by the travel bug later in life. And the symptoms of the travel bug is the same at every age – the desire to get away, try something new, see the sights, be adventurous, meet people and maybe even conquer some fears. To experience a holiday with your parents as an adult makes you see them in a different light – I only hope that when I’m in my mid-fifties I can jump into frigid cold lakes, fly across tree canopies, discover underwater worlds, and put up with stubborn adult children who think they know everything about travel, who stop you from smuggling Christmas hams across state borders which results in having to order pizza and Thai takeaway for Christmas dinner.

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