Picture from Flickr l Jack Anderson Photography
My parents are somewhere out in the great abyss right now, on their way to one of the greatest adventures they’ve ever taken. In just a few hours they will be dropped right in the middle of the swarming, sticky hub that is Southeast Asia. I imagine them stumbling off the plane, grubby after their 18 hours of flying about to be assaulted with foreign smells, heavy humidity and the dull excitement that pervades the exhaustion.
There is nothing better than getting off that airplane for the first time in a new place. On my first trip through Europe as I hurtled through countries at a breakneck speed, I remember feeling anxiety that I was rushing through it all. Never again would I have that first chance to see the city lights in Paris, party all night in Barcelona, or stumble home from the beer garden in Munich. But then I started feeling smugly protective of those first few experiences. I realized that this first trip into the great big world would be all mine, never to be marred by a fight with a traveling companion or a subsequent break up with a lover. I still feel proud of that teen aged girl who booked herself a trip for three weeks in Europe without knowing a soul and I’m forever trying to capture that sense of discovering.
That same sense of adventure I had at 18, my parents seem to be inflicted with in their fifties. Sure they are a little more unsteady and fearful as they make their way, but the commitment to discovery and leap of faith is the same. They aren’t trying to strip down the experience to expose only the safe, antiseptic parts like so many other tourists. They are willing to get dirty, be tired, get sick, be frustrated and challenge themselves. There are no four star hotels on their itinerary, instead they are following our meandering path through budget accommodations and street food recommendations.
I admit I pushed them a little so I now take full responsibility for their well being. They expressed interest in a few places I had been, mainly South America, Africa or Southeast Asia. At first I thought South America would be a perfect trip for them. With the amazing food, great adventure and the relative ease of travel, I could guarantee they would have an amazing time. They seemed interested in Africa but it has been awhile since my trip there and I wasn’t positive it was the right choice. When my dad began to show interest in Southeast Asia, I began to get really excited. Roem and I had come back from our trip there last year changed forever by the people, the culture and the experience. I began to sketch out an itinerary and work on a budget.
We began to work on some possible routes and connections, trying to get them everywhere they wanted to be in only two short weeks. This is the kind of challenge I thrive on and we spent hours researching modes of transportation and destinations. My dad was especially interested in Vietnam so I added Hanoi to their itinerary. We took out the four day trek Roem and I barely survived (okay that was just me) and swapped out Luang Prabang for a few days in Hanoi and one more day in Saigon. My mom replaced out a few of our more “primitive” hotels and did a ton of research on the destinations, learning every useful tip on the internet.
I still worried about my dad. See, he prefers more “Americanized” food than the more adventurous females in his family. Our suggestions of Thai or Vietnamese restaurants are usually met with a grimace of distaste and a suggestion for Italian. But to my surprise he fully embraced the challenge. He did a ton of research on Travelfish and watched every episode of House Hunters International and No Reservations with Anthony Bourdain ever filmed in Asia. He bookmarked websites, took notes and has become basically the most informed traveler I have ever come across.
I admit my eyes tear up just thinking of them decked out in wick away shirts and matching khaki pants with their rolling duffles about to plunge headfirst into Bangkok. I am just so PROUD of them. I wish I was there to hold my Mom’s hand when she freaks out on her first tuk tuk ride or take a walk with my Dad at the crack of dawn when he can’t sleep because of jetlag. I want to be there to help them order the perfect plate of steaming noodles or exclaim over the cheap price of a huge bottle of Chang beer. I even want to bring them back some coconut water when they puke their guts out after some bad food (fingers crossed that doesn’t happen). But this is their trip. They know it inside and out and are ready for whatever comes their way.
My parents truly embody the spirit here at White Picket Passport as there is really no time like the present to get out there and experience the world. I plan to keep you all updated on their travels and will do my best to persuade both of them to write a guest post.
“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”
– Mark Twain
We love you Mom and Dad! Bon Voyage.