This is a momentous post, dear readers! The next time I write to you, I’ll be sitting pretty in Germany, describing the celebratory beers I’m drinking and the oh-so-cute way my cat refuses to interact with me after the 7-hour plane ride. It’s gonna be spectacular. For now, however, I’m still in Philadelphia, and since I’ve spent the past two weeks preparing for a licensing exam (think the social work equivalent of the bar), my most exciting travel has been walking around with the lovely Beth. Don’t get me wrong, that was spectacular. But I’d rather talk about something else this week, in honour of my imminent departure from the United States and subsequent distance from most of my family.
My extended family- especially on my dad’s side- LOVES to travel. When my aunt and uncle retired in their early 50s after intense legal careers in California, they opted to spend their retirement traveling everywhere and anywhere. It became a family joke that the last place you’d find them is at their home. Traveling with them, as I first discovered when they took me to Paris (yes, you read that right) just before I turned seventeen, is a wonderful melange of cultural history, delicious food and wine, and a constant flow of ridiculous humour. They’re the travelers who love comfortable hotels, swanky restaurants, and having to-die-for day trips and night life.
Add to the mix my parents, who are also avid travelers but who tend to prefer do-it-yourself vacations. Both have an appreciation for good food and wine, but are far better at sussing out heritage museums, fascinating road trips in rented cars with badly-drawn road maps, and tiny restaurants that have cats sitting by the fireplace or a good selection of local brews. It’s no surprise that, when you take the four adults and add in a few young folk, you get a wide variety of options for things to do each day. It’s also no surprise that, when renting bikes (for example), my dad and my uncle spend a significant amount of time making siren noises and attempting to run each other over. I’m not making that part up.
The final person to mention is my sister, who, like me, is a mix of all of the above qualities. She’s happy to spend the day in the infamous Viking Museum in Oslo, eat an extravagant five-course dinner, and then spend several hours kicking my ass at rummy before we pass out from exhaustion. She’s the fearless traveler who, while working for the Obama campaign in 2007 and 2008, dropped out of undergrad to drive back and forth across the country (including one road trip from Connecticut to Oregon). Because she’s the product of our family, she’s also got a wicked sense of humour…and has no qualms about employing it to make an otherwise unbearably aggravating experience, like touring the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, entertaining and worthwhile.
I tell you about these people not just because they’re my family and I’ll miss traveling with them while I’m in Europe, but also to illustrate a point: namely, while solo travel is awesome, so is companion travel. Our family happens to work so that all of us can travel together and have a ball, in spite of our occasionally competing interests. It works for any trip, though, that if you’re interested in enriching some aspect of it- cultural, gustatory, entertainment- you probably know someone who’s that sort of traveler and can do that with you. Maybe, like me, you enjoy the vacations where it’s unpredictable which experience you’ll get on any given day. Regardless, having someone (or several someones!) around that you like and care about- and can stand to travel with- can make any fabulous travel experience exponentially better.