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.
On the way home from one of our less successful family vacations—a wet, ill-tempered camping trip to upstate New York—my dad made an announcement. “Guess what? Your mom and I thought we might check out Plymouth Rock while we were nearby.” “Nearby,” in this instance, was being used loosely: This meant a detour of several hours each way.
We arrived at the rock, piled out and looked at it for about 15 seconds, then left. Symbolic though it may be, large though it may loom in American history, Plymouth Rock is a rock. We resumed our journey feeling even more gloomy, if such a thing were possible, than we had before.
But maybe we were missing the point. Maybe what matters, in the end, is not so much what a rock is but what it stands for: the human urge to embark on pilgrimages, the search for a better life, the determination to make it home with something more than the memory of a damp tent. —ANDREW JENNER