“I don’t know how you travel with dad, I don’t think I could do it,” my siblings often mention to me. We all have distinct memories of growing up and my father being the ‘leader’ of the family and family trips. He was the one who made all the decisions and ultimately the family dictator. Yes – that’s how family life was back then growing up GenX…none of this ‘let’s get consensus so everyone is happy’ stuff. You did what you parents said you were going to do.
But with age we all change. We are no longer kids, he is no longer a middle age father trying to make ends meat and raise a family. That’s the beautiful thing about time and aging…we mellow. I’ve mellowed, my dad has mellowed. Our father daughter relationship has changed and matured. And with the passing of time he’s become one of my favorite people to travel with these days because we are probably more alike than I like to admit.
Or maybe it’s just that I like to go at ‘senior’ speed, you see and experience things differently; it’s one of the many reasons on why you should travel with your parents. He doesn’t need to see and do everything, he’s pretty happy with one activity a day and then sitting around, soaking up the environment and reading – while I work on blogging.
Saying Yes to Father Daughter Travel
I was pretty excited when he finally said “yes” to my invitation to join me hiking the Camino de Ronda in Spain. However the excitement quickly changed to worry (a trait I inherited from my mother) as soon as I got off Skype with him. I started to really wonder if I should be taking a 79 year old on an intense 2 week coastal hike. I found that for the weeks leading up to the hike as well as during the hike, I would be balancing those emotions of excitement and worry constantly.
Once we got on the trail, and started our 15-day, 100-mile journey we got into a rhythm, which is one of my favorite parts of long distance hiking; your day is about eating, sleeping, and moving forward – that’s it. It’s the simplicity that I love. Someone asked me on social media if we walked separately or side-by-side most of the time, and the answer was that we were seldom side-by-side. It wasn’t a hand-in-hand skipping father-daughter Yellow Brick Road hike to Oz. We were typically about 20 feet apart on the trail changing the lead constantly. We hiked at different paces, we entered our own little worlds when we started hiking, and conversation would ebb and flow.
So that means that I had a lot of time to think,when I wasn’t watching my every step on the technical terrain! Hiking is like active meditation as I think about all kinds of things; blogging strategy, writing, relationships, lack of love life, and on this hike I thought a lot about my dad and this special experience I had with him. And since we have Father’s Day right around the corner, I decided to share those thoughts.
8 Things I Thought About When Hiking With My Father
1. Are we going the right way?
Hiking is often the eternal struggle/doubting of finding our way. And I certainly didn’t want to lead us down (or up) a wrong path that we would have to retrace. When you are 79 years old – every step counts! We got in a few navigation arguments, but nothing serious.
2. Will I be in that good of shape at 79 to do something like this?
Considering how bad my knees and foot are from running in my 30’s, I am pretty sure the answer is “no” . But who knows, maybe I will get his good genes. When a friend asked my dad what his secret was to being in this good of physical shape at this age, he answered, “there’s a lot of luck involved.” I agree. I think there’s a lot of luck in general in life – and sometimes you have it and sometimes you don’t. My dad might not look fit, but he’s a very active person, and I think one of the keys in aging well is to just keep moving, stretching, and being active; a sedentary lifestyle if the fastest path to an unhealthy life. And of course there’s a little luck involved too!
3. Why can’t he go faster…oh wait a minute…he’s 79.
Yes – there were days where I wondered why he had to stop so much, or take breaks when I wasn’t tired. He went slow and worried about steep climbs, and I just powered through wondering why it was taking him so long. And then I’d remember…oh yes, he’s 79. One thing he really improved in throughout the hike was reading his own signals of when he needed to stop and take a break. And I got better at learning how to ‘honor’ that and even ask if he needed a break.
4. Is he eating and drinking enough?
Yes – I’m a worrier – especially when it comes to my dad. Hiking with someone else reminds me of that fact that everyone’s eating and drinking needs are different. Not everyone is like me who needs food every couple of hours so my emotions don’t plummet. Once again, we figured out our routine when it came to eating during the hike. And some of my favorite times were stopping under a tree, my dad getting out his pocket knife, and sharing an apple together.
5. I wonder if he feels as awkward as I do when hiking past these nude beaches?
We had more than enough nude beaches along the trail in Costa Brava. I hadn’t really prepared for that, and tried to hurry us along as fast as I could when we encountered them. Awkward….even at 46 years old.
6. What will I remember about these times when he’s gone?
Many days on the trail I found myself wondering if this was the last big, active trip we’d take together.
I know that’s a sad thought, but I couldn’t stop my mind from going there. My parents mean the world to me – and I live in fear of the day when they are no longer here. They are my lifeline. I wondered what the next few years held, and I wondered how many more years we would have together.
As I watched him hike I tried to burn the memory deep in my brain, every interaction, every little laugh, ever disagreement…I want to remember it all. I know that all of these little things will be beautiful memories I will always have and savor. Yet at the same time more than ever I reminded myself to be present during this trip, as I never know what the future holds.
7. Since I don’t have children – who will take me traveling when I’m old?
I couldn’t help but at times wonder if anyone would do this for me when I was 79? Would I be forgotten without children and an immediate family of my own? I travel with my nieces to help ensure that I’m not forgotten and alone as I age, but there are no guarantees for the solo people – and that was a sobering thought.
8. Pure admiration…
As I watched him teeter on rocks and slowly move over boulders getting stronger every day, I felt nothing but pride in his accomplishments. So much so that I shed a few tears when he wasn’t looking. I love that I did this trip with my dad. I feel so happy when I can take him out of his world in South Dakota and introduce him to new adventures. Like me, he also thrives in these situations. And I’m thrilled he’s open to flying around the world to push himself to try new things. Most of his friends his age would never consider doing such things. It just reminds me that we are more similar than ever.
We may not have ever had a father daughter wedding dance to share, but I’ll take a father daughter hike over that any day.