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.
Though it’s a parent’s job to keep kids out of harm’s way, sometimes he or she can take the job too seriously. I’ve never had that trouble with my mother. She’s the kind of person who, on a family trip to Hawaii, will insist we all hike up a volcano in the middle of the night (precisely what the guidebooks say not to do).
We were on Kilauea, in the Big Island’s Volcanoes National Park. With Mom in the lead, my dad, sister and aunt and I trudged across a lava field lit only by the moon and our two tiny flashlights. Glowing lava flowed nearby. Bursts of steam shot up around us. With each step, it began to feel less like an adventure and more like a disaster movie.
Five hours later, it was clear we were lost. My sister and I muttered expletives under our breath as Mom sang jaunty little songs. “The parking lot’s just over the next ridge!” she kept shouting. At hour six, my aunt realized she needed her medication. Our shoes had been shredded by sharp rocks, but our mother MacGyvered them back together and we pressed on.
Eight hours after setting out on our one-hour trip, we found the car again, all of us except Mom practically weeping with relief. Nobody suffered any burns—unless you count Dad, who, in his castaway shorts and ratty T-shirt, looked like a boiled, poorly dressed lobster thanks to a kayaking outing earlier that day. That’s what happens, my mother reminded him, when you spend an entire day without sunscreen. —LESLIE PATRICK
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Planning a cruise with my two young kids, I thought it would be a great idea to invite Grandma along. What could be better than bonding time and free babysitting? I imagined post-sunset dinners, late-night cocktails and onshore excursions sans diaper bag. My mom, however, had other plans. Once aboard, she quickly made friends with a group of solo cruisers. And as I put the kids to bed and watched Ocean’s Thirteen on repeat, Mom and her new pals spent the entire week taking salsa lessons, attending cooking demos and drinking cocktails into the wee hours. Well, at least someone had fun. —CELESTE MOURE