Mom: “Do you want me to pull out the map?”
Michael: “Traffic circles were designed to let you bide your time.”
Me: “I’m pretty sure the goal is to only go around once.”
It was the first day of our two-week family vacation to Europe, an idea that had developed a year earlier as my mom approached her 50th birthday. She wasn’t interested in parties, new cars or lavish celebrations. She wanted to travel.
But wanting to take Michael and me, her adult children, with her? That was radical.
Of course, my brother and I beamed when she proposed the idea. Michael, 23, was finishing up an engineering degree. And I was facing a new mountain of student loan debt after completing a graduate program in communications. We weren’t going to be able to finance a trip like this on our own for quite some time.
Obviously, we thought this was the best idea our mother had ever had.
But as our departure drew near, the reality of traveling as a 25-year-old with my parents began to set in. The phone calls and e-mail reminders from my mother arrived with increasing regularity.
“Don’t forget to make copies of your passports.”
“Make sure to call the bank.”
“And seriously, Cara, pack sweaters. You’re going to be cold.”
It had been seven years since I’d lived at home. And aside from the holidays, the four of us hadn’t spent much time together in close quarters in ages.
Although I’d been living, working and traveling on my own, I was still my parents’ child. Would they worry if I ventured off by myself? What should I pay for, or should I allow them to pick up every tab? How early would they expect me to get up in the morning? And most importantly, how would I maintain my sanity for a full 12 days?
It wasn’t long before I learned the golden rule of traveling with close kin: Just roll with it.
I figured this out on the first leg of our trip. The plan for one day was to go up the Jungfrau, one of the major peaks of the Swiss Alps. But as we headed out, it became increasingly obvious that the pesky cloud cover we’d awakened to was going to be sticking around. The Jungfrau was bound to be socked in.
Mom wanted to stick with the plan, anyway. She had her heart set on seeing what brochures labeled the top of Europe. But the rest of us thought it was a bad idea. It would cost the four of us roughly $880 to go up to the summit — and probably see nothing. Dad suggested that we go up a lower adjacent peak instead. It would be a shorter trip, and $400 cheaper.
But when we arrived at the base of the mountain, monitors with live video from the top revealed a dismal view filled with snow and freezing rain.
We were bummed. Secretly, though, I was less bummed than everybody else. After all, I’d been to this part of Switzerland before. I was looking forward to the next phase of the trip — Italy’s Cinque Terre and the beach. I’d been dreaming of the sun-soaked shoreline for months.