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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When the world gets you down, give thanks

Let’s face it, we go through our fair share of ups and downs in life, but we always seem to remember the downs. From relationship break-ups, sunburns, parking tickets, rejection letters, bitchy bosses, office politics, unreliable internet access – I’m sure you’ve had it all.

But there’s always reason behind the madness.

I had the most HELLISH day at work yesterday (secret tears in the bathroom kind of thing – and I’m an ugly crier, believe me) where I felt totally unappreciated for all my hard work and my confidence was absolutely pulverised into smithereens by my bitch of a boss. I came home from work and my flatmate was waiting for me with a glass of wine and a ready to ear to listen to my raw, unadulterated anger. Later than night I went to a friend’s house who also had a glass of wine and a shoulder to lean on and she sat quietly listening to me vent, then when I finished announced that her grandmother had just died (making me feel even worse – here I was jabbering on about my trivial issues when there was a family tragedy for her to vent about). My point is, that when the world gets you down, I know that I have an army of people waiting to support me and fight for me.

About 4 years ago I went through a very tough divorce. At the end of it I was emotionally drained, had nowhere to live, was in serious debt and my close family and friends were thousands of miles away. I felt incredibly desperate, confused and alone. I internalised the situation for a long time – I didn’t even tell my mum for 2 weeks – because I wanted to believe it wasn’t real, it wasn’t happening and that it was just a blip. But it was real, and it was happening and divorces are far more than just a blip. When I was open about my issues, I suddenly realised there were people that loved me, that wanted to help me, that would make the time to listen to my problems. I actually wasn’t alone.

Life has a way of giving you lessons – and my divorce was the ultimate lesson in my life. The lesson learned? I am never alone. And for that, I want to give thanks. I give thanks to a casual acquaintance who took me in, gave me a home and helped me rebuild my confidence, emotional stability and positive attitude back, brick by brick. I thank his girlfriend for showing me how to find passion in life, become a confident woman, and for teaching me how to love myself again. I thank all the other friends who I subsequently met in the years following who injected fun and laughter and for creating amazing new memories to replace the painful ones.  To my fellow travellers who I may have only spent a few hours drinking with or weeks backpacking with – I thank them for their camaraderie, understanding and sharing the life changing experiences that travel gives you. To my siblings, with whom I was never particularly close with, but gave me support nonetheless in ways that only family can. My parents, whom I owe everything and thank them for their unconditional love, support (and good food). And to a dear old friend, whom I’ve known for twenty years – who understands me better than I do – without her I would never have been able to cope with one of the most gut-wrenching, emotionally scarring and depressing moments that a woman could ever go through.

And to all the ex-boyfriends, ex-husband, ex-friends, ex-flings, bitchy bosses, nasty parking inspectors, egotistical nightclub bouncers, and Vodafone customer service – I thank you guys too. Because without you, I would never have woken up to realise that I have amazing friends and family to help me get through your incompetencies, lack of commitment, pretentiousness, bitchiness, laziness and pessimistic attitudes – through them I’ve learned that when the world gets me down, I just give thanks.

And if the world is getting YOU down, please don’t feel that you are alone. Reach out the someone, anyone. See a counsellor. Talk to God. Hell, email me if you really want (I’ve been told I’m a good listener!) Otherwise if you  keep yourself caved in, locked up, and let the issues eat away at your soul – you might never have known that there are people out there who will look out for you, help you and build you back up again.