Figuring Out Dad: The Reluctant Traveler
My mother is currently celebrating her 59th birthday in Swiss Alps -- a trip she's been anticipating for nearly a year when her brother first put a bee in her bonnet. She's been in Europe for just shy of four days now, leisurely making her way through Switzerland with a few stops scheduled in Italy and France. Along with her oldest brother, my mom's travel-mates include her youngest brother and a few of her favorite sister-in-laws. Missing from the mix? Dad.
My dad had no interest in joining my mom on her European adventures. He was happy to drop her at the airport and wish her safe travels. It’s nothing personal; Mom's not the only one who has experienced the dad-drop-off. My sisters and I have bid Dad farewell at the airport in route to Norway, Ireland, Mexico, Argentina... "Have fun. Be safe." We did. We were. Dad would make his way home, content to keep his feet on the ground and let his girls do the jet-setting.
How did this happen? How did a cool, calm and perfectly content homebody create a daughter who gets antsy without an upcoming trip on the horizon, and perhaps has a little bit of a chemical imbalance that requires a rush of adrenaline to correct?
I can only image that he is equally confused. When I brought up the desire to take Amazon sea-kayaking trip this winter, I was quick to also add a few extra Amazon-esque embellishments that among many things included the disappearance legendary explorer, Percy Fawcett, electric eels and the infamous candiru; the bloodsucking tiny fish who has a reputation of seeking out the most intimate parts of the body… Dad didn’t quite share my enthusiasm.
But no matter how reluctant my dad may be to join in the travels, he is the one to blame for the wanderlust. As a kid, Mom and Dad toted my sisters and me across North America, from Alaska to Florida, and plenty of weekend escapes to Lake Superior’s North Shore – we filled in the gaps with the best of Minnesota. We were encouraged to wonder what else was out there to explore. It was more than just the mere action of traveling. It was things like Dad’s 4:30 am rise and shine to watch the sunrise along the Mississippi. It was things like earning our stripes in the Polar Bear club – Dad proudly led his bear cubs through the thin layers of lake ice; the colder the temp the greater the bragging rights. It didn’t necessarily matter the places we saw. It was the way Dad showed these places to us, with energy, curiosity and an ongoing pursuit of adventure. I took it in – wide-eyed and eager for more.
Last Father’s Day, Mom and Dad made the trip from Minnesota to my home in Missoula. Almost the minute they arrive, I took off to do a little backcountry in Glacier National Park. It was beautiful trekking, a bit of spring-snow – prime grizzly country. My parents enjoyed a private weekend with the grandkids, they took care of Dad’s day with plenty of grand-kid charm that included a few carefully constructed artistic gifts. And to be honest, there are few places my dad would rather be than quietly strolling Missoula; it definitely has his rhythm if not his politics.
Glacier and grizzlies for me. Chillin’ in Missoula for Dad. Yep, that sounds about right.
This Father’s Day we will both be grounded; me in Missoula, Dad in Minnesota. But we’ll take time to connect. I’ll give him a call, ask if he’s heard from the Swiss-Miss (Mom) and let him know that my Amazon trip is a go. He’ll send me well-wishes, “Have fun. Be safe.” And while I won’t need a dad-drop-off for this upcoming adventure, I know I’ll get there because of Dad nevertheless.
So Dad, while you say potato and I say high altitude 4-day Andean trek – at the end of the day I have you to thank for the countless, unforgettable travels I’ve had the privilege to pursue. And I promise I’ll keep a cool-head when you make casual comments like, “Now that you mention it, I have always wanted to visit the Galapagos.”
Love you Dad. Wishing you and all charming, supportive and loving fathers out there a happy Father’s Day.