The Arizona road is so dark this June night it feels like driving through an endless black cave. We roll along for miles before another set of headlights appears in the rearview mirror. The semi gains on us and then roars ahead of our little SUV.
“Perfect,” I comment to my 28-year-old daughter. And I mean it. The truck’s red tail lights glow like a demon’s eyes in a roller coaster tunnel, making it easier to navigate the black stretches of Interstate 15 between Las Vegas and our destination, Grand Canyon National Park.
We should probably be getting concerned about our situation, considering the eerie and unfamiliar roads, our soon-to-hit Eastern Time Zone jet lag and the Grand Canyon Inn being a distant three hours away.
But we’re not.
As a lively pop tune in the background urges us to “shut up and dance with me,” Stephanie and I chat and laugh. Far from frantic, we are two kindred spirits reunited – my daughter from New Jersey and I from Ohio.
We’re off on an adventure, and all is right with the world.
As a lifelong travel addict, I’ve loved sharing my passion for exploring the world with my son, Chris, and Stephanie since their toddler years. And now that they’re adults, it’s especially satisfying to see them following in my footsteps, obsessed with far-flung adventures, soaking up new countries and cultures, and rolling with the punches when the unexpected happens.
Nowadays, I travel with my kids every chance I get. It’s nice to know they’re still interested in their young-at-heart parents as travel buddies.
If you’re a travel-loving Baby Boomer who hasn’t hit the road with your Millennial children yet, you should give it a try. I can think of dozens of reasons why. Here are just eight.
Nothing is more fun – or fulfilling.
Can anything make your heart sing like a trip to some fabulous destination? If travel weren’t so much fun – both in the moment and through lasting memories – why on earth would we bother with it?
For me, there’s no one better to share these rich experiences with than the people in this world I love best: my children (and my husband, Don). I delight in predawn excursions with Stephanie to photograph seals lounging on the rocky shore of an ocean cove, or sitting in a Bruge brewery with Chris, sipping a deliciously hoppy elixir he’s selected for me while we learn about Belgian monks’ brewing traditions.
It fills my Baby Boomer’s heart with joy to know that Don and I have nurtured them as curious, respectful travelers and open-minded citizens of the world.
And the memories? They live on.
Shared travel experiences forge family bonds.
Don and I are poster children for the nose-to-the-grindstone Midwestern work ethic, and we’ve tried to live modestly…except that family vacations have always been our splurge. (In fact, we now joke with our children that we’re spending their inheritance on travel.)
We’ve found that these trips strengthen our family bonds unlike anything else. From swatting mosquitoes while cruising the Okefenokee Swamp with our kids as preschoolers to ghost-hunting after dark on the grounds of a haunted castle in Scotland last year, our shared experiences have created a treasure trove of fond and funny tales.
These are the stuff of our conversations, our inside jokes and a legacy I know our children will pass down to our family’s next generation of travelers.
It’s a chance to hear your children’s stories – and for them to hear yours.
Long drives and every meal together are infinitely more conducive to juicy conversation than a month’s worth of quick phone calls while your kids are on their way home from work. These opportunities open the door to stories about their misadventures (Do they really think they invented mischief? Ha!) and their dreams for the future.
Of course, you might also be ready to come clean about your own pre-parenting shenanigans.
I had never wanted my children to live by the example of my youthful foolishness, so it wasn’t until only recently that I divulged the long-held secrets about my early hitchhiking adventures out West and seat-of-my-pants (pre-Internet) travel around the world with my best friend at age 23.
Your children will challenge you to step outside your comfort zone.
Millennials are doers. Mine have never met a trail they didn’t want to explore or a spiral stairway in a church tower they didn’t want to climb. And although most Baby Boomers aren’t triathletes, many of us are too spunky, fit and proud to sit in the car while others are testing their limits in some awesome adventure.
For example, last summer, Stephanie’s business trip to Las Vegas was all the excuse we needed for our side trip to the Grand Canyon. Having worked (and hiked) there the summer after college graduation, I was eager to return decades later.
Our three-mile canyon hike in the midst of a heatwave was grueling and slower than my physically fit daughter could have completed without me. But thanks to her patience, we had time to appreciate the canyon’s breathtaking scenery, decide who would shower first when we got back, and discuss the beverages of choice for our congratulatory toast that evening.
Ok…so are the twenty- and thirty-somethings stronger, faster and more agile? Probably. But travel with the parents is a good practice for their future, when they’ll have toddlers to determine the pace of their progress.
At the same time, the prospect of the next adventure is a terrific incentive for us Boomers to spend an extra 15 minutes on the exercise bike and pass up the cream-filled donuts.
Young people come up with amazing travel destinations.
Millennials are experts at digging through every nook and cranny of their online resources to discover interesting and exotic destinations.
These aren’t the run-of-the-mill tourist sites that show up in every travel guide, but truly unusual places that appeal to the inquisitive traveler.
My own kids’ knack for research has allowed me to hang out with sloths at a sanctuary in Portland, Oregon; visit the bookshop in Porto, Portugal, that inspired the Hogwarts staircase in Harry Potter; tip a pint in a London neighborhood pub so steeped in tradition its ban on using cell phones is enforced by other customers; and kick up dust among the tumbleweeds of Silver Reef, a Utah ghost town.
Your kids expand your list of fun travel companions.
Let’s face it. As we age, that list shrinks.
Maybe your spouse can’t get away from work, or your sister is facing a knee replacement. Possibly your best friend can’t leave her 91-year-old mother, who’s just suffered a fall.
So, when that super bargain trip to Alaska (or the Amazon, or Australia, or you-name-it) crosses your radar, or you just need a quick getaway, there’s always a chance one of your kids might be able to squeeze a bit of travel into their schedules.
You’ll learn about the latest travel hacks.
Even if you consider yourself smart and savvy about technology, the Millennials in your life probably have their fingers zipping around new travel apps and gadgets that you’ve only read about.
Maybe I would have learned how to use Uber, Snapseed, Google My Maps, Beer Advocate, and the Olo Clip (a nifty smartphone camera lens) on my own, but the lessons from my kids were personalized and infinitely more fun than any online tutorial I’d complete on my own.
There’s safety in numbers.
The human predators of the world target older people, counting on us to be confused, weak and unaware. Although traveling with a Millennial or two won’t guarantee your safety, criminals may bypass you and your valuables if a strong, younger person might complicate their nefarious plan.
This didn’t occur to me until a few years ago in Barcelona. Don and I were “marked” by a would-be thief. Chris was leading the way when I noticed a young man close behind and keeping an eye on us over a succession of crowded street crossings. Hoping to get him off our trail, we stopped and sat down on a bench in a busy public park. He followed, sat down 30 feet away and began texting. In moments, a co-conspirator entered the scene and sat on a different bench. Then, Chris stood up and stared them down. That was all it took for them to move on.
Good riddance, creeps.
When it comes to travel, this Baby Boomer still has miles to go.
Whether it’s navigating a pitch black highway in Arizona, riding a bike over bumpy cobblestones on the Appian Way, or bouncing along on a dusty trail in the African bush, I’m always ready for the next adventure.
Going places is my enduring passion. Spending time with my family is my ultimate pleasure. When I can blend the two together…well, life just doesn’t get much better than that.
Boomers – have you ever traveled with your kids? Share in the comments!