“Don’t touch that.”
“Don’t get on the road, keep to the right!”
“Stay here. Wait for me… <comes back from asking for directions>… where did they go????”
“Get off Facebook and eat your lunch before it gets cold!”
Remember being told of these things? Travelling with parents is kind of like that, except it’s been me telling them off for breaching the same rules we had as children.
I recently spent a week with my mum and dad in Germany, playing both tour guide and translator through the cities of Cologne and Bonn. It isn’t the first time I have travelled with them as an adult, but it is the first time that we had travelled to a place that wasn’t a resort holiday, where they are unfamiliar with, where they are filled with all the anxiety and excitement of the first time travellers.
And boy, were they hard work!
I say it in the most endearing way. It has been fascinating to watch them on their virgin trip to Europe, gasping in awe at the size of cathedrals and churches, struggling on the cobbled stones (my mother has limited mobility in her legs and must walk with a mobility frame), being delighted by the wildflowers of spring and shopping at markets checking out the ripened tomatoes, berries and fantastic array of fruits that all look too perfect to eat.
They wanted to touch everything, photograph every corner, tree and cobble stone and above all, boast all about it on their Facebook pages. It was as if, they’ve just woken up from a long slumber and are seeing life in a new light.
Of course, I am reminded that they had grown up in an era where societies are not as open as now, and where lifestyle is concerned, was all about finding a job, getting married and settling down to a family life rather than being encouraged to explore the world. It is not their fault that the world is full of wonderful places, and being first time travellers to Europe, of course they are going to run off in pursuit of exotic sights, which leaves me going on frantic laps up and down the street trying to find parents who’ve gone rogue!
Sometimes when we travel with the older generation, we can feel ’embarrassed’ by their actions and reactions to certain things and situations. Just like when we first hit our teens and thought we were too cool to be hanging out with them, many of us distance ourselves from such behaviour, sometimes getting angry, and sometimes we simply walk away.
However, just as I have learned that different countries and cultures do things differently, and may find some of the mundane things from one exciting in another, it can be said about how we see our parents behave.
A lot of things we take for granted now (such as cheap flight deals and being able to take time off from work to fly somewhere exotic) wasn’t available to them, and therefore, they would not have had the same opportunities to experience, to learn and to adapt to new ideas and new cultures. It is easy to assume that they ‘simplify’ experiences (by saying things like “oh Europe is just all about churches” or “Risotto, that’s just fried rice with cheese!”), but it’s their way to connect something new to something familiar, something they already understand.
All these first time curiosities that I have forgotten as a seasoned traveller, and being with my parents have reminded me of that initial romance of travel, and a confirmation of why I continue to travel.
Of course, the challenges of travelling with parents are there, no matter how young or old you are, you are still of different generations with different interests and priorities, but it is still an experience, and a way to learn a little more about each other. especially when you haven’t grown up with them (ahem, me).
I am extremely proud of my parents on taking the chance to come to Europe, despite initial health concerns (for mum) and feeling the usual anxieties of the first time travellers in the beginning! I’d be happy to welcome them to Europe again :)