On Saturday, Amy responded to a letter from a woman whose “amazing boyfriend” is taking her to Paris for Christmas! Oh, but wait. He’s also invited her mother and her 10-year-old daughter. Darn it! The woman’s main concern is that her mother won’t be able to keep up. But I’m actually more struck by the one sentence she says about her daughter. Read for yourself:
Dear Amy: My amazing boyfriend is paying for my mother, who is on a low budget and is not able to travel on her own, to go to Paris this Christmas.
She has been dying to go to France for years.
While my boyfriend and I are extremely mobile, we are going to be slowed down quite a bit by my 10-year-old daughter. However, I am afraid that my mother cannot even keep up with her.
Although my mom is capable of being active, she has been sedentary for years, and I thought that a trip to Paris would at least motivate her to get up and start walking.
I do not live near enough to my mother to walk with her, but I do want to talk to her about preparing for the trip without offending her. — Paris Blues
Um….see it? She is extremely mobile, and enthusiastic traveler…when not dragged down by her damn child, of course. Seriously? If you want it to be an adults-only trip, leave the kiddo with grandma and have a romantic, um, mobile, get-away weekend. But if this is a family affair, it’s not about your mobility vs. your kid’s. If you have a ten-year-old, and you’re traveling together, you’re a unit. You are not “mobile” while she is not. You have the same joint mobility.
Amy reminded this woman that both her mother and child might surprise her with their energy and endurance, and that’s true. But let’s be clear–this woman is right that traveling with an older parent and a young-ish child is not at all the same as jet-setting with one other adult.
My parents traveled with my brother and me a lot when we were quite young, and by the time we were ten, we were pretty seasoned. We packed and hauled our own suitcases, were quiet on planes, knew how to entertain ourselves, etc. But we remained suspicious of unfamiliar foods, and had to stop to eat and go to the bathroom a lot more often and more desperately than an adult would. My dad sucked it up and tolerated a lot more overpriced, crappy, tourist trap food than he would have liked, because we’d reached a point where the choices were food, here and now, or meltdown (to be fair to little us, this was usually after keeping pace with him over cobblestones and through museum galleries for hours).
My point is, yes–traveling with even well-behaved, energetic, and good-natured kids changes the pace of your trip. But that’s hardly the kid’s fault. I guess it just really seems important to emphasize that, unless your minor child is explicitly in the care of someone else, and you are on vacation, your mobility and your child’s are the same thing. It bugs me that this woman doesn’t see it that way.
To return to the grandma issue–I wrote in to Amy to reply, but didn’t include any of the above rants (Amy never likes my rants. I’ve sent her a couple over the years and they never make it into the paper). Instead, I focused on how to make Paris more accessible for an older person who may not be able to walk much. Here’s what I wrote:
Several years ago, my dad took his mother to Paris for her 75th birthday. She traveled the world widely when she was younger and is extremely knowledgeable about and interested in all kinds of art and culture, but walking long distances is no longer do-able for her–and her excruciating pace would have made my go-getter dad pull his hair out.
They found a happy medium in the “Hop-on, Hop-Off” bus (http://www.hopon-hopoff.com/). These double-decker tour buses can be found in many major cities around the world. Part tour, part transport, you buy a ticket that lasts for a couple of days, and can “hop on” as you like. The bus hits all the major destinations of the city, offering some history and guidance along the way. When you get there, you can “hop off” and explore on your own, and pick up another bus when you’re ready to go somewhere else, or just ride around and get a good overview of the city.