On the cusp of Thanksgiving we’re taking stock of our blessings here at Wildland Adventures. High on our list always is the privilege we have of sharing the world and its many people with our clients.
While this has been our practice for over three decades, we’re following an emerging trend that is especially gratifying. Grandparents want to travel alone with their grandchildren – leaving parents behind. Something we and others are calling 'Skip-Gen' travel. We started asking questions of both generations.
What’s it like for tweens and young adults to travel in a foreign country with only their grandparents as companions? And conversely, what do grandparents experience when their travel mates are more than a generation apart?
Interviews by telephone with grandparents were intense and often emotional just before the recent midterm elections and after learning that scientists predict that Mother Earth, as we know it today, may slip from our fingers by 2040. The grandchildren interviewed reflected confidence and were highly appreciative of their grandparents.
The desire of these grandparents to bond and create memories with their grandchildren is universal. However their motives in opting for travel as a pathway to those memories is informed by their concerns about the world and by their passion to impress upon their grandchildren that the world is more than the United States. They see travel as a game changer for grandchildren who will better understand the changing environment and vulnerable communities on the planet they are to inherit. They want their grandchildren to become better ambassadors of their future.
Good Luck in Morocco
“I didn’t travel until I was 50 beyond Mexico, Canada and Hawaii. I wanted my grandchildren to explore the world earlier. They had a hand in where we went, a place they were curious about, but I insisted it be on another continent. I just traveled to Spain and Morocco with my granddaughter who is 20. Emma’s world is getting way beyond mine. I wanted to get experiences myself through their eyes, to be awed by a very different lifestyle and culture,” says grandparent Anne.
Anne and her daughter’s journey through Morocco sparked conversations about the roles of women in the world, about what constitutes work in different cultures and even about social media. They tented one night in the Sahara, experiencing a severe storm that induced a long-dry river to suddenly flow. Their guide wept and said that they brought good luck.
“In Morocco there are so many different cultural codes. It was hard for me to understand. But I could still relate to people. We had different world views but we could share this incredible moment. An experience like this expands your world view. I definitely won’t be the same person that I was before I left,” reflects Emma.
Active in Belize
Lollie is another grandparent inspired to travel with a younger generation. When her grandchildren turn 11, they study up on where they want to go and select activities. Her goals, shared by nearly all of the grandparents are to broaden their appreciation for the rest of the world, to understand that, throughout the world, cultures are different but people are very much the same, to learn about the abundance (and diversity) of animals that inhabit our Earth and to become better stewards of the environment.
Granddaughter Emily, age 12, chose Belize’s active adventure, including zip lining, cave tubing, horseback riding, canoeing, snorkeling and paddle boarding, with time out to visit ruins...all the while experiencing a culture very different from home.
“This trip made me able to see how different other parts of the world are from where we are. It changed the way I look at things,” says Emily.
Slower but More Fun in Tanzania
Adventuresome grandparents George and Dianne enjoy arranging activities and experiences for grandchildren that may be out of the parents’ reach financially at this point in their life.
Their 14 year old granddaughter, Ana, remembers her excitement as George planned their trip to Tanzania.
“The Africa trip was really, really fun. Grandpa booked everything before. He knew everything about the trip. We just came along and enjoyed. He always likes planning ahead of time,” Ana says. One difference between traveling with grandparents is that travel is “slower but more fun. It’s always a quicker pace with my parents.”
“On the way to Tanzania, we spent a few days in Amsterdam”, adds Diane, “While there, we had a tour of the city by a young lady who showed us her family’s synagogue and shared the experiences of her Jewish Grandparents’ survival during WWII. That experience impressed the children far more than just reading about WWII in a school setting would.”
South Africa Then and Now
At age 20, Hunter’s grandson, Evan, hopes to pursue environmental engineering, in part because of a trip to South Africa.
“Living in the US, my concept of being poor was very different before the trip than after. Travel gives you an appreciation of the hardships people face in other places around the world,” reflects Evan.
Hunter enjoys sharing generational differences related to exploring the world, explaining along the way “what it was like to travel abroad when you traveled back in the 1950s compared to now, the understanding that traveling around Africa even 10 years before we did Africa was different.” He anticipates traveling with the next grandchild but with the caveat that deciding where to go isn’t “totally free form. We’re not going to Yemen.”
When she was widowed, Marna thought, “Aha!I know how I can see the world...” Costa Rica, Galapagos, Tanzania, Hong Kong and Malaysia later, she has traveled with one grandchild at a time, save for one trip which included an extra cousin.She prefers a solo companion.
“These were serious 10- to 14-day trips taken in the summer. We went where they wanted to go. I wanted them to know there’s something else going on in the world. Now I’m out of grandchildren. A lot of people would like to give me theirs,” says Marna, who professes to be a third-world traveler.
It’s Not a Frightening World
Grandparents Bob and Judy like to feel the excitement of their grandchildren when together they visit places familiar to the grandparents.
“I want the kids to know that differences are good. There’s a world out there they should be able to travel in and be with anybody. It’s not a frightening world,” Judy underscores.
Their granddaughter, Isabelle, thinks it’s more fun to travel with Bob and Judy than with her parents. Her travel takeaways? “You never understand how much you have until you come back. You visit poor villages; you see things they can’t get in everyday life – clean water, a healthy diet. In Cape Town houses are made of trash, metal slabs, they built with their own hands. They had no electricity. A family of eight lives in a house the size of my bathroom. How grateful I am. I don’t take things for granted.”
Taking Charge in Costa Rica
Determining where to go is a challenge, says Ellen, a grandmother of six. It is especially difficult when one of the rules is that the upcoming destination can’t be one a sibling or cousin has visited. “We want them to be interested in travel and out of the basic comfort zone with their own family,” notes Ellen, underscoring the importance of guides in helping secure the impressions and memories that come with travel.
Ellen and Robert charged their 13-year old grandson to take oversee their inner-generational vacation. “Our grandson chose Costa Rica and did the research where and what he wanted to see. He made the final decision choosing a company. We just tagged along, enjoyed everything, and were thankful he chose Wildland.”
This grandson was moved to write a blog about their trip. Please see https://ww2.wildland.com/travel-blog/costa-rica-teen-review-everything-was-perfect.html
The experience he shared expresses what Anne and I as guides and grandparents hope to foster from our inner-generational Wildland Adventures around the world. After our son traveled together with his Turkish grandfather in their ancestral homeland of Turkey, and after many family adventures together throughout the world, our son’s family is truly all of humanity. Most recently we traveled with our teenage grandson to the jungles, Mayan temples and indigenous villages of Guatemala, a journey that took him way out his comfort zone while discovering the mysteries of ancient civilizations and wildlife of tropical rainforests, and in these discoveries transforming his outlook on the world and of himself.
Whether traveling for first-hand insight or through informed journalism, we strive for an accurate depiction of our world. Thank you for the understanding you share through your communications. If you would like to pursue this new trend with us, please let me know and I can introduce you to some of our senior and junior clients.
Helping all to become citizens of this amazing world!
Founder and President of Wildland Adventures
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