When My Dad Thinks of Traveling He Thinks of Hospitals.
Yes, sadly it is true.
As my dad is trying to recuperate in the hospital I can’t help but think that my father, the man who gave me the gift of wanderlust, has had his own traveling days cut short due to his health problems which have spiraled out of the control for the past few years.
As far as travelers go, my parents were pretty bad-ass. We made it to almost every state (48 out of 50) and usually with no itinerary.
They haven’t done much in the way of international travel but they have given me and my sisters an up front and personal view of the United States. In my youth we spent weeks traveling the country, usually in search of same post apocalyptic, forgotten cowboy town. My dad is obsessed with cowboys and Indians and the good ole’ American West. A typical trip would involve flying somewhere and renting a van while we traversed the western states for weeks on end. Often times we would spend 8 – 12 hours a day in the car all while on search of towns that barely existed.
Sometimes it was awesome. Sometimes to a teenager, such as myself, it was not awesome at all. I remember one tiny town we rolled into a donkey came to greet us and then a toothless man who was 1 of the 6 remaining residents. The donkey stuck his head in our car window and tried to eat my fathers shirt – much to our amusement. As kids we got really good at entertaining ourselves on these long trips and would play the most random games, such as counting cattle guards or bridges. For our reward, the winner would get a dollar! Somehow this still seemed like a good deal to us.
Now you should know my father is the curious sort. He takes his sweet time going anywhere new and I know I’m just like him because it drives me batty when Randy just wants to cruise through something quickly. I mean how can you really see it if you’re going so fast!?! I can drive the same street several times just looking at ‘stuff’. To top it off, my father is a National Park junkie. His goal was to see every National Park in the US and honestly we made a good dent and have seen most of them. My mother however is just the opposite and if she mangaged to get the wheel we would go whizzing through areas with barely a stop. So of course my dad never wanted to relinquish the driving role and my mother drove like a speed demon whenever she had her chance. When she was behind the wheel all we saw were blurs of famous monuments or attractions. It was always a big running joke in our family.
To give you an idea of the slow “take every minute in” kind of driving my dad would do let me paint this picture:
We were in Yellowstone National Park and my father wanted nothing more than to see a bear. Wherever we went seeing a bear was on the top of the list. As good kids we dutifully pushed our heads against the windows and shouted out whenever we saw a black dot in the forest that somewhat resembled a bear. We stopped for each and every possible bear sighting but they always turned out to be rocks or tree stumps. There are a lot of things that look like bears in the woods! This drove my mother mad. By the time we reached Yellowstone my father was in a full bear frenzy. We still had not seen a bear in our travels and come hell or high water he was going to find one. In a way it’s bizarre since my parents live in the country and we have bears that walk through their backyard. Somehow though in my fathers mind these these bears are very different than any bear you would spot at a National Park. And for some strange reason all this man ever wanted was to see a bear on vacation at a U.S. National Park.
So one day he came up with the great idea that instead of waiting for a bear to come lumbering out of the woods on it’s own we should lure a bear out into the open so we could all see it. How would we do this? With peanut butter of course. Because as dad accurately reasoned – what mammal in the world doesn’t love the smell of peanut butter?
We went to a restaurant and ordered lunch and the diner happened to have the little packets of jelly and peanut butter on the table. Which was great news to my dad because now we would not have to buy multiple jars at the grocery story. Much to my mothers mortification we took them all. My father sent us as his happy, eager minions to collect countless teeny tiny containers of peanut butter not only from our table but all the other tables around us. We regaled in this mission because it meant we might see a bear but more importantly because our mother, rightly so, was thoroughly embarassed by the entire episode.
(A side note: My dad was the perfect father to have as a young kid because he is quite mischievous himself. When we were little he was always encouraging us to do silly things. One time he and I had a spitball competition of who could blow the biggest spitball into a woman’s wig (this poor lady had the misfortune of was sitting at a booth in front of us) without her noticing it. She walked out with about 10 spitballs in her hair and never noticed a single one! He also showed us how to make straws long enough so we could put our sodas on the floor and still drink them. Whenever we went skiing without my mother we would go on pixy stix benders. He would buy me and my sister an endless supply of 3 foot pixy stixs which we would suck down before we barreled down the slopes like sugar crazed addicts. Ahhh, the 80’s when you could eat straight sugar without being guilt ridden. As kids, any activity with dad was pretty much a guaranteed good time but my mother was usually horrified at his hijinks.)
So on this day in Yellowstone with the little packets of peanut butter in hand my dad decided that the best way to attract a bear was if all of us (my mother refused further involvement after about 15 seconds) opened the packets, held them out through the car windows and drove at the break neck speed of about 2 miles per hour through the park. This way the bears could get a good sniff and would come out of their hiding spots looking for the tasty treat. Then my dad could finally see a bear and snap the picture he wanted so badly for years. I’m sure this excruciatingly slow and embarrassing drive was more than my mom could bear but me and my sisters thought it was awesome.
We never did see a bear.
After this charade my mother had seen all she needed so she made sure in Colorado that she was going to drive and we were going to get somewhere, anywhere fast. So when she scored herself a big day of driving she used it to her full advantage. On that particular day we were supposed to visit the Garden of the Gods. As we sped through the National Park my father was literally screaming with the window open and pointing at rocks saying all in one breath – “Look kids this is the Garden of the Gods. Of course you can’t see it because your mother drives like a bat out of hell but look at it – this is it! Aren’t the red rocks nice?!? Whoops, there it goes – Kids that WAS the Garden of the Gods, we sure saw that in a flash!” It was hysterical and had us all in stitches. We sped through that place without stopping once. We didn’t see much but it really was a lot of fun since everyone, even my mother, was laughing so much.
My parents also rarely planned a steady itinerary. They had an idea of where we would go but that was it. We would head off and stop where we wanted and found a hotel when we were tired. A couple times we got screwed and couldn’t find places to stay. One time we had to stay in the conference room of a hotel because everywhere was booked for miles (due to a fly fishing competition), we also had to sleep in the car and another time we had to actually stay at a real dive that was actually called the Bates Motel. My mother made us sleep on top of the covers and we couldn’t take our shoes off just in case we had to leave quickly. We also stayed in some historic hotels and really fancy digs in special places as well. I’m sure it’s because of their free wheeling travel style that I am so adverse to travel planning. They raised a bunch of ‘go where the road leads’ kids. We had a great childhood with a lot of amazing memories – that is for sure.
For years my sisters Bridgette, Kate and I have been trying to get them to travel internationally (besides Canada) and have had no luck. It’s not that they don’t want to go it’s because my father is afraid to go. I know in his heart he wants to see other parts of the world (he started crying the minute I skyped him with his cousins from Lacedonia, Italy) but he is nervous because of his health.
He told me once he is afraid to travel because he worries that something could happen to him and he won’t be able to get to a hospital. On top of that is the additional fear that the hospital might not have enough knowledge to help him. I told him we could get him we could get him travel insurance that even includes coverage of airlift by helicopter. It did seem to excite him a bit but didn’t assuage all of his fears.
But we’re still holding out hope because much like the elusive bear sightings there is one other thing he has been itching to see for the past several years -the Panama Canal. He goes on and on about it and strangely enough Panama actually offers free travel insurance! When Randy and I went to the NY Times Travel show this year I confirmed that with a rep and it is true. So if you are going to Panama be sure to remember that.
After I told him about the free insurance and after hearing his barber regale him with stories of the canal my dad got a little bit excited and started looking up cruises to the canal. Which is actually a big deal since he has been so nervous to go anywhere for years now.
It makes me happy because I want them to go somewhere. I would love for them to get over the fear of medical issues abroad and go someplace new. They are so happy when they travel but they haven’t been anywhere in over 5 years. My sisters and I are secretly trying to see if we can send them on the cruise next year but this depends on my fathers health so it will be a while before we actually can think of setting anything in stone.
Does anyone have any similar situations? Is there anything you can do to try and help someone get over their health fears while traveling?
*Please remember all photos on this website, unless otherwise noted, are copyrighted and property of BeersandBeans.com, NarikosNest.com & Bethany Salvon. Please do not use them without my permission. If you want to use one of them please contact me first because I do love to share and I would be flattered. Thanks!
Like Our Post? Subscribe by email and get new posts delivered straight to your inbox!