Thanks for the Travel Memories, Mom & Dad

Thanks for the Travel Memories, Mom & Dad

Dear Mom & Dad –

We’re on the verge of yet another Thanksgiving – that time of year when people take a collective pause to reflect on all that they’re thankful for. And while I try to reflect on what I’m thankful for on a daily basis, I think it’s necessary for me to share my gratitude with you guys, not only for being amazing parents, but for this lifestyle of travel you’ve cultivated within me. And that’s why, despite you cautioning Jave and me to slow down our travel roll, we just can’t. Not even when we have children of our own. We’ll continue to travel with your grandkids in tow – hopefully even more frequently and for longer periods. Someday, Jave and I hope to give our kids the world through travel just as you’ve given it to Aaron and me.

Although Dad thinks that I was too young to possibly remember, I do still have memories – albeit somewhat vague – of traveling with you guys around Central and South America: the windowless hops on huge C30s; la cucaracha in the shower and the grainy sand in the bed at that filthy hotel on Isla Grande off of Panama’s coast; the yellow lava in that volcano and the ornate oxcarts for sell in that countryside shop in Costa Rica; the man who got hit by the car in a busy intersection and eating beef pizza in Argentina; going with you guys to the seamstress in Uruguay to get coats custom made; and countless, priceless memories of childhood in Panama.

And what a childhood it was! Aaron and I still reminisce about our house across the road from the dense jungle and your warnings against venturing into it. We remember the geckos and huge, creepy iguanas that we used to find in our carport, and the kudamundis that used to roam everywhere. And I remember the red, black, and white snake that we saw lying dead in the gutter although I’m not sure if it was the poisonous type. And I remember how it used to rain, and rain, and rain in Panama to the point where the gutters would fill with water and kids would ride down the hill in the gutter like a waterslide. I remember the convenience of being able to pick bananas and mangos from the trees right from our front yard, or how Ronnie, Joey, and Little David would climb coconut trees when their mother wanted some coconut milk. I remember the big earthquake we had and warnings of a tidal wave. Aaron and I were so excited that we ran upstairs and changed into our bathing suits. I even put my floaties around my arms and waist in anticipation of the waters coming to wash us away. And I remember how Aaron started a neighborhood Bow & Arrow Club and how he used to catch caterpillars and raised them until they metamorphosed into butterflies. And I’ll never forget the painful lesson of playing in the park after the rains despite your warnings and how I fell into a mound of fire ants with pinchers. And I ran and screamed all the way home where dad was waiting for me with the door open, ready to quickly brush me off, scoop me up, and shake all of the ants off of me. Looking back, even that is a precious memory.

Our house in Panama
Our house in Panama
Visiting ruins in Panama with my mom and some childhood friends...
Visiting ruins in Panama with my mom and some childhood friends…

What I truly appreciate is that our travels didn’t end after we moved back to the States. Even after dad decided not to extend his military service so that we would have the stability of a permanent home, you guys still made it a priority to ensure that we traveled somewhere every year. Despite the fact that you’d take a kid-free trip each year, you also made annual family vacations a priority. From Arizona to unexplored parts of California, and from Florida to New York City, you always made sure that we had a vacation to look forward to each summer. Some summers, you even allowed us to travel with our grandparents for Grandaddy’s conventions where we’d meet up with all of our friends from different states that we’d met from previous summers.

Mom, you even made preparing for trips a fun ordeal. You’d always ensure that we had new outfits, new socks, and even new underwear before we’d travel. To this day, I still usually treat myself to a few new items of clothing before embarking on a great adventure.

And whenever we were on vacation, after a full day spent exploring and sightseeing, in the car on the way back to our hotel, you guys would always quiz us on the places we saw and the history lessons we learned. While we got to participate in some kid-centric activities, by and large, you guys were never solely concerned about us having a “kiddy” experience. We were expected to actually read the exhibit displays at museums, ask questions of tour guides, and engage with the people we met. We were expected to be able to clearly articulate our travel experiences, and by setting that expectation, you truly raised the bar and got us to realize that travel is an experiential affair.

Some of my favorite travel memories with you guys are of our road trips where we’d drive late into the night and I’d sit in the backseat in the dark watching you guys sing ‘80s slow jams to each other. And Dad would reach over to grab your chin, Mom, and he’d briefly take his eyes off the road to look into your eyes while belting out a verse. I recall wishing that I could freeze those moments in time.

Of course, time goes on. But even when I got to be a young adult in my pre-Jave years, you still invited me let me join you on your special trips without putting up too much of a fuss. During those years, I was always the third wheel, but you never seldom threw it in my face. A college graduation trip to Europe with Dad and Aaron, Thanksgiving in Maui, a train ride from Montreal to Quebec, short jaunts to Seattle and New Mexico, a fall getaway to Boston. But one of the trips I’m most grateful for is our trip to Bermuda. Bermuda and I had a soul connection from the moment our taxi began to wind its way from the airport to our hotel. The winding roads, the colorful houses, the water five shades of blue – Bermuda moved me unlike any other place I’ve ever been to. And Monty’s. Oh, the Bermudan fish chowder at Monty’s! Horseback riding with dad. Thank you, Mom, for choosing Bermuda for our vacation destination that year! I loved Bermuda so much that I planned a return trip the very next year with Aaron and our cousins.

(l): In Amsterdam; (r): In London
(l): In Amsterdam; (r): In London

 

At Marksburg Castle in Germany
At Marksburg Castle in Germany

 

Parasailing with my dad in Maui
Parasailing with my dad in Maui

 

Watching the sunrise at Haleakalā with my mom
Watching the sunrise at Haleakalā with my mom

 

In Maui
In Maui

 

In my beloved Bermuda
In my beloved Bermuda

 

Mom & Aaron at Niagara Falls
Mom & Aaron at Niagara Falls

I just felt compelled to write you guys this letter to let you know how much I love you. I really, really do. I always say that God knew what he was doing when he assigned us to each other. You’ve given me and Aaron every advantage in life. That’s what Love does, really. It gives the advantage.

From our education, to providing home cooked meals every night (Mom), to being present at every significant event in our lives, kissing bruised knees, drying tears, disciplining, long lectures (Dad), praying with us and for us, holding us accountable, helping us to understand the value of being socially conscious by making us volunteer, peeping in our rooms in the middle of the night to check on us, sending care packages whenever we were away from home, sending money while we were in college (hallelujah!!), offering sound advice and wisdom, and all of the wonderful things that wonderful parents like you do – thank you!

But I also want to thank you for this priceless gift you’ve shared with Aaron and me. The gift of travel – a thirst for culture and new experiences, a hunger to explore, a passion to connect with locals and people in need at home and on the other side of the globe, the desire to capture beautiful photos and to share intriguing stories, the will to keep challenging ourselves to seek new adventures. Sheer wanderlust. Thank you, thank you, a thousand times – thank you!

— Dana Carmel

thatgirlcarmel

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