TAMPA, Fla., July 22, 2012 — At first glance, it may not sound too appealing. After all, if you’re headed out for a partially relaxing escape to an exotic destination, why travel with your senior parents and your young adult children?
I have to admit those were my first thoughts when presented with an opportunity to bring my kids along on a work-oriented trip to Costa Rica, which then evolved into a three generation family expedition once my mom heard about it and voiced a desire to come along too. Given our different ages, desires, likes, and personalities, I was more hesitant than that quintessential toddler trying brussel sprouts.
And so, after careful consideration and lots of communication, I cautiously forged ahead, and the four of us took off in early July for a ten-day cross-country tour of this amazing and unusual Central American nation.
Our trip was booked with Club ABC Tours, whom I’ve traveled with in the past. Of all the tour companies I’ve considered over the years, they consistently provide the biggest bang for the buck, and my hope was that there would be enough diverse activities planned that we all would find some things we could enjoy, individually and together.
Perhaps my biggest surprise came when we first met the other travelers in our group. Of the twenty-eight journeying with us, more than one third were also with grandparents, parents or children. On one hand I found that very surprising because even with ABC’s most competitive pricing (the ten-day, ground cost for this tour was only $1,299 including three meals a day, all travel within Costa Rica, and several eco-related rainforest tours and activities), international travel is not cheap. Yet given the all inclusive nature of the trip for such an economic price, I realized for those families that do have some extra income for travel, this may well be the only way to go together.
Our itinerary was challenging. Most mornings we were up at the crack of dawn and on the bus by 8 a.m. Several activities included semi-strenuous walks, like the hanging bridges at Arenal, which boast static and suspension passage-ways, all dangling over the most dramatic rainforest filled with monkeys, toucans, snakes, poisonous frogs, hummingbirds, and more. While some travelers skipped certain activities, for the most part, young and old alike were dazzled by the flora and fauna of the jungle, including two boat excursions and rarely were there any complaints overheard.
Within my own family, we all found unique bonding time with each other either together or separately. I enjoyed amazing zip lining over the rainforest canopy with my son in Tortuguero, delightful sunset beach walks with my daughter along the Pacific coast in Guanacaste, and Mom and I took a fairly arduous but thrilling night hike along the Caribbean coastal beach to watch a Green Sea Turtle emerge from the water to build her nest and lay 150 eggs. The kids also found brother/sister time, rocking out in the disco.
Mealtime was our chance to regroup, to review the excitement of the previous twenty-four hours and to plan for the following day. With three sit-down meals included every day, there was more than ample time to reconnect.
For me, even given the rigors of traveling with very different people within a fairly set itinerary, the opportunity to be together as a family was key. Eric Cheskin, a financial account manager from Maryland came to Cost Rica with his father Dr. Larry Cheskin and Larry’s wife Lisa Davis, along with Davis’s ten-year- old daughter Libby McGuire, and Davis’s father Eddie Davis Jr. He, too, noted the importance of family time.
“We don’t really live near each other and we don’t get to spend time with everyone a lot, so it’s been really nice to be here all together,” Eric Cheskin said.
Lynne Cohen came on the trip with her daughters Sharon Garber and Michelle Strager, sent by her husband Paul to celebrate each one’s milestone birthday (Cohen’s seventieth, Garber’s fiftieth, and Strager’s forty-fifth). She, too, noted the significance of having family time together.
“It’s all about the bonding,” she said. “Everyone is so busy in their daily lives, it’s hard to make time and connect with common experiences.”
Keep in mind, there will be issues. Trust me, we had ours.
For fifth grader Libby it was sharing a room with “Pop-Pop” and listening to him snore, while grandpa Eddie noted the rigors of trying to keep up with his granddaughter’s unending energy. Michelle Strager said the women also had a few tough moments, but none that were insurmountable.
“In our family, when something is on your mind, it’s on your lips,” she said. “Any time you get a group of women in a tight place there will be challenges, but that shared experience is what bonds you. You might argue, but it always brings you closer.”
For me, it’s hard to say whether or not we’ll find the opportunity to do this kind of major expedition together again, so I am grateful we had the experience. But I do believe the family that plays together, stays together, and although in a rare instance, it may feel like a wild teacup ride, most of the time, traveling with the relatives can be a walk in the park.
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