Growing up I spent every year hearing from my friends about their upcoming vacations with their families to go to an all inclusive resort somewhere in the Caribbean or down south to Florida. The brutal Canadian winters had people fleeing for the heat where they could dip their toes into warm, clear waters and go on snorkelling excursions.
But every year my family would stay in the cold, harsh Canadian climate while my sister and I participated in a number of extracurricular activities. Our family trips would involve going to cities within the same province, and occasionally a little further for my dance competitions. We would visit family in Atlanta, Georgia and rarely go somewhere just as a trip.
As a child these were wonderful and exciting events, and I was never disappointed. But as I got older and developed my own path, created my own habits and tendencies and began to travel on my own, it was going on family trips that quickly pointed out how different my travel style was compared to my family’s.
I always wanted to go on vacation with my family and thought I liked it (family vacation means I pay for less, woo!) and the idea of exploring new ground with my family should be a bonding experience. But it never was. Fights would break out with my sister, I would get tired and become snappy, agreeing on a restaurant to eat at would be a nightmare, and my parents would want to go back to the hotel room for a nap or to relax. To nap?! How was I supposed to see as much as I could if I was taking a nap? When would I ever be back at whatever city or even country I was visiting? The only time I want to nap is when I fall asleep in the cool breeze on a white sand beach, to wake up and get a cocktail within minutes.
My realization that I can’t travel with my family hits me every time I’m on my way home. As I sit on the plane I think about all the things I disliked about the trip, what I would have done differently, and how I couldn’t wait to be alone in my room.
Yet I continued to go on trips with my family, some of them even my idea. And of course I was nothing but angry when my family informed me that while I had to stay home in cold Canada one year they would be going on vacation to Punta Cana, Dominican Republic to the first all inclusive resort that my family ever went to all together. They called it a family vacation. Apparently the daughter who lived in a different city (me while in college), which wasn’t that far, was never a part of the plan.
I got over it eventually and got to hear about their wonderful stories, and how pretty the beach was, and how relaxing the whole trip was. How nice, I thought (with sarcasm). I was bitter about it all.
The next vacation I actually went on with my family was my idea. I was 20 and really wanted to go back to New York City. I didn’t have a friend who wanted to go so I invited my family, my mom declining to stay home to take care of our pets, and my dad joining last minute. It was an eventful and stressful 4 days. I had a list of what I wanted to do that included many touristy things like seeing a show on Broadway (Chicago was amazing), seeing the Statue of Liberty, visiting Carlo’s Bakery, walking through Times Square, down Broadway, and in Central Park. While my dad and sister were happy to come along I also felt that it was my responsibly to make all the decisions. I would get frustrated because I felt the pressure to decide and ended up having a yelling match with my dad in La Guardia airport at the end up the trip, which was not my finest moment of travel. What did I learn? I’m a control freak and feel the need to organize everything, but when I don’t feel like deciding what to do I continue to pressure myself.
Next my mom wanted to go on a spur of the moment trip to Florida, which I of course wanted to join in on. My sister got invited too and we decided to be like children and go to Universal Studios in Orlando where I got to walk the streets of Hogsmeade, try Every Flavour Beans from Honeydukes and eat lunch at the Three Broomsticks. I was beyond happy. My mom was patient and had no problem roaming around while my sister and I went on rides. And I was happy to let my sister choose where to have lunch on the second day. But yet the bickering continued, and I found myself bored whenever we stopped doing anything. What did I learn? I’m very impatient and feel the need to always be doing something while on vacation.
Lastly I managed to get myself invited on my sisters grad trip with her friend and my mom to Punta Cana, Dominican Republic. Here I was happy spending time on the beach and relaxing, but also wanted to drink at night and go to the disco. My sister and her friend weren’t interested in the disco and I was told I didn’t know how to relax on a beach and that I stressed my sister out. I was woken up earlier than I wished to be everyday and was sleeping early (almost sober) every night. What did I learn? I liked to go on my schedule and wanted everyone else to go by it as well.
This post has made me seem like I’m the problem, and I have to admit that I am. The fact that it took me so long to realize that my style of travel is completely different from my family’s is embarrassing. I love to be with my family, but I’m also a person who needs a lot of space. Being on an airplane, sleeping in the same hotel room, eating every meal together, and deciding on a schedule is not something we can do. We have two totally different travel paces and desires. Sure I like to relax, but I also like to do as much as possible.
Luckily my family is very supportive of my solo travels and adventures and they’re confident that I can find my way overseas. To my family (if you’re reading this) I apologize for my bossy behaviour, I promise you, it’s me, not you.
And to everyone else out there struggling on their family road trips, beach vacations, or lengthy holidays, be happy that your family is taking you along, learn to bit your tongue, or simply just travel on your own. Family vacations are not meant to be torture like some believe, so take them as an opportunity to learn, to see places you may not necessarily go to, and to bond with your family whether you want to or not.
I consider myself lucky to even get to travel with my family, but I’m happy that I’ve learned and grown from each situation we’ve undergone together. Without my family I wouldn’t of had been able to see Austria and learn about where my dad grew up, or act like a giddy child at Orlando Studios. But, just because you’re related does not make you good travel partners. And having the perfect travel partner makes all the difference in your trip.
What’s your worst family vacation?