Gazing out at the snow-covered pine trees in Washington, our phone rang. My Grandma and Grandpa invited me and my brother Kyle to vacation with them to Mexico. Mexico in December? We didn’t think twice.
A few weeks later I sprinted barefoot on the sandy beach as I chased after the spiraling football that Kyle launched into the sunny blue sky. After I caught the pass I noticed a handful of local Mexicans admiring the two tall American boys playing catch on the shores of the Sea of Cortez. They laughed when we had little luck cleaning our sandy feet in the crashing waves. After giving up, we walked towards the car with our sandals still filled with golden sand.
Today, almost a year after our trip, my most cherished memories of that week are not of the warm Mexican coast. Instead I am grateful for the relationships I improved upon with my family.
Traveling with grandchildren is a popular activity among grandparents. My grandparents, Dean and Nancy Hoch, are respected travel writers. Together they have authored a book and numerous articles on their adventures with their grandchildren.
Like many kids who live far from grandparents, I saw them at important events like birthdays, holidays, and graduations. Unfortunately, these few occasions are not ideal for developing individual relationships. I always felt close to Grandma and Grandpa, but after a week-long vacation to Mexico, they became my friends. I learned that spending a fun week traveling with grandparents changes the way grandchildren see them. To use the lingo of grandchildren, my brother frequently said during our trip that, “We didn’t know Grandma and Grandpa were so cool.” Going on vacation is a unique time to become closer to loved ones. You leave behind the stresses of the real world and have time to relax, talk, and enjoy each other’s company. This special experience creates lasting relationships between grandparents and grandchildren.
For grandparents who are thinking of taking more than one sibling along, I highly recommend it. Due to various curveballs that life had thrown at us, my brother Kyle and I had grown distant from each other. I was 22 and Kyle was 18, so my Dad urged us to go on this trip together when the opportunity arose. He knew it was a great chance for Kyle and me to rekindle our friendship. The time we spent together ended up saving our relationship, and to this day we are best friends. My grandparents made a wise decision to invite the two of us. Although it depends on the age of the kids, my experience with Kyle shows that taking two kids along can be a great experience.
Kyle and I left snowy Seattle and flew to Phoenix where we met our traveling group. The next day Grandma, Grandpa, our great aunt Mary, and the two of us youngsters drove from Phoenix, through the border town of Nogales, and on through to San Carlos, Mexico. For the eight hour trip Kyle and I brought our portable DVD players and iPods, but to our surprise they never left our bags. Instead Grandma and Grandpa subtly encouraged us to talk with them during the car ride. I talked to them about their religious conversions, how they met their spouses, and other stories from their lives. It was a rewarding experience to learn about my family. We laughed for hours at Grandpa’s jokes while looking out the window at the cactus-covered desert. I still remember the advice they gave to me. I could have isolated myself with technology, but I am grateful we had an “old fashioned” trip down to San Carlos.
San Carlos is a quiet Mexican town on the shores of the Sea of Cortez. Compared to popular Mexican spring break destinations, it is very mellow. This location was ideal because it provided a balance between fun activities and relaxation. While we had fun as a group, my grandparents wisely gave us two youngsters time alone to bond as siblings.
Kyle and I spent our afternoons lounging on the lawn chairs at the beach. We talked about sports, girls, and school. Time alone helped us become close friends again. Every day after swimming and throwing our football on the beach we walked to the main street, which was full of street vendors. Our favorite food stand, “Ricos” had Mexican-style hot dogs for about one U.S. dollar.
A year later we still crave the salsa smothered hot dog in a homemade toasted bun. Kyle liked it so much he took a picture with Rico on our last day. Something happened during these fun days that helped us become closer than we had been in years.
Every morning all of us ate breakfast together and planned our adventures. Following breakfast we helped around the house with chores like cleaning the car or doing the dishes. After breakfast and chores it was time for fun. One morning we drove through a poverty-ridden fishing community. Seeing the tin roof shacks and the barefoot children with dirt on their faces opened our eyes.
This prompted a conversation about our blessings. These kinds of teaching moments are a great aspect of traveling with grandparents. Another rewarding activity was a hike to a desert box canyon filled with palm trees and other greenery and referred to locally as “The Oasis”. It was exciting for me to get outdoors and see my grandparents climb around often steep grades of the beautiful mountainous setting.
After tiring days, we would wind down at night by watching movies together. Kyle and I watched some of the older movies like Chariots of Fire and Aunt Mary’s favorite Waking Ned Devine. They compromised and watched some of our newer movies like National Treasure. This simple exchange of movies was one of the highlights of the trip.
My vacation to San Carlos is a special memory. It was a life-changing experience to really get to know my grandparents and my great Aunt Mary. My grandparents understood how to have fun and make this vacation a memorable experience for us grandchildren. Through compromise and stepping slightly out of our comfort zones, we all created lasting relationships with each other. Somehow the time spent on the shores of the Sea of Cortez broke down generational barriers and we became closer to each other than ever before. The last day Kyle and I bought two colorful oversized sombreros. We had so much fun that we wanted to take that experience home with us. We decided to wear the sombreros during our flight home to surprise our parents at the airport. The occasional confused look in the terminal was worth the pictures we took: pictures that illustrate the joy of our vacation with Grandma and Grandpa.