Discovering the world together can provide parents and children with memories to cherish, strengthening the bonds of love and respect—or not. Here, Hemispheres contributors share tales of family trips that didn’t quite follow the script, along with tips to help others avoid familial woes in far-off lands.
We were taking a family road trip through California—I must have been 10 or 11 at the time—and my dad told me a special surprise lay ahead. The next day, we arrived in San Luis Obispo and headed for Madonna Inn, a quirky old hotel in which every room is designed according to a theme. Dad had booked my sister and me into “The Caveman.” That was the surprise.
In hindsight, the room was pretty awesome. The shower was a waterfall inside a mini cave. The ceiling was made of fake rocks. The only thing missing was dinosaurs. But I refused to be impressed; instead, I threw a screaming, stomping fit the moment I entered.
The problem was, I’d interpreted my dad’s “special surprise” as a promise that we would be meeting my hero, Hulk Hogan. He hadn’t suggested anything of the sort, of course, but that didn’t make the disappointment any easier to bear. That night I fell asleep to my Game Boy playing a loop of the Hulk Hogan theme song.
Sorry, Dad. —JASON FEIFER
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My younger brother and I used to fight all the time. We fought hard. We fought dirty. There was scratching, biting, punching, kicking, tattling. And that was before we were put in a car together.
When I was about 9, we were on a road trip out West and our parents had had it up to here with our bickering and boxing. So they kicked us out of the car. Just like that—spit us out on the side of a dirt road like flavorless pieces of gum, with nothing but a shrub or two for shelter.
As our parents vanished over the horizon, we started hatching survival plans. My brother peed “SOS” in the dust. We gathered firewood. We dreamed up travels around the world together as orphans; maybe we’d start a circus.
Eventually our parents came back, and we resumed our journey in relative peace. Something important had been accomplished here, though at the time we weren’t quite sure what it was. —SOPHIE-CLAIRE HOELLER