There are countless articles out there written by leaders, for leaders, advising us on how to best maximize our vacation time, or giving us recommendations on what to do with our free time in order to improve. I've even written a few myself. But most of them tend to focus on solo travel or business travel. What about family travel?
More specifically, I'm referring to traveling with your parents. As adults, we don't do this much. We either go home to visit our parents, or we travel to see them with the whole family. But traveling with just your parents can give you amazing insight into why you are the way you are, why you were raised a certain way, and what you want for the future.
Recently, I spent a couple trips with my parents. I was in Peru speaking at an event and my parents joined me on an Inca Trail trek. Then, shortly after, I was in Chicago with my parents for a couple days, bracing the wind and the cold. I learned so much and the perspective change these trips gave to me motivated me to share some of these learnings. Here's how traveling with your parents can be beneficial.
They know you better than anyone.
Your parents have known you since you were born; no one else can say that. They watched you grow from a helpless infant into a child, then a teenager, then an adult. They've watched the evolution of your goals, hopes, dreams, and values closer than anyone else has. Traveling, meanwhile, teaches you more about everyone--even your parents, and even (especially) yourself.
Traveling with your parents, then, can help you revisit that progression. What did you want to be when you grew up? What has always been important to you? What used to be important, but no longer is? Reflecting on these questions can help you figure out how to best proceed to get to where you want to be.
You can learn about them (and thus, about you).
Your view of your parents has likely changed as you've grown into adulthood. As we get older, and begin to view our parents through the same lens with which we view our friends or colleagues, we understand them better. Traits that may have seemed inexplicable when we were children suddenly make sense as we gain a better knowledge of day-to-day adulthood, and, if you have children of your own, the trials and tribulations of parenting. They also may share things with you that they didn't when you were growing up.
Learning more about the people who raised us helps us to learn more about the way we were raised, the traits we may have inherited from them, and why we are the way we are. Similarly, traveling highlights everyone's positive and negative traits. If you can point out a flaw in your parents and form an opinion on how to improve that flaw, then perhaps you can do the same for yourself. Likewise, recognizing your parents' strengths can help you to acknowledge your own, and further, how to highlight them. Knowing your strengths and weaknesses is essential to achieving your dreams.
You can see a future you.
This one isn't always fun, but it it extremely useful. Observing people a generation older than you, up close and personally (while traveling, for example), can help you figure out what you want and don't want for your own future. Maybe one of your parents didn't take great care with their health and is now suffering the consequences. Or maybe they stayed in a job they disliked and wish that they hadn't. You can learn from the mistakes or regrets of others (which is probably something they taught you growing up, anyway).
It doesn't all have to be negative, though. Maybe one of your parents took up a hobby they love much later in life, or invested their money smartly and are now reaping the benefits. You can also learn from their triumphs and figure out how you might like to spend your time, money, and energy when you're their age, and what you need to do in the meantime to make that happen.
If you have lost your parents, were raised by someone else, or are estranged, you can still learn from people with a few years on you. Consider spending serious quality time with an older mentor, sibling, or friend. Even if it's not an extended vacation, a weekend or even a day trip can teach you a lot about someone, and help you see your own reflection in them. And as leaders and doers, we should always be reflecting, so that we can always be progressing.