Lessons Learned: A Family Road Trip

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Earlier this month a few of my extended family from the Philippines visited the U.S. for the first time. As the first members of my mom’s side of the family to be approved for a visitor visa, we were ecstatic to host them and to show them our life here. We took them on a mini tour of the East Coast from Washington, DC to New York City to Ontario, Canada. It was a packed 12 days filled with lots of driving, lots of eating, lots of laughing, and lots of photos.

Traveling with family in enclosed spaces for a long period of time can test one’s patience (among other things). Here’s a few things I learned along the way about myself and traveling in general:

I walk fast.

Or is it that everyone else walks very slowly?

My family is terrible at this communication thing.

I already knew this before we went on our numerous road trips, but it was further highlighted throughout our trip. At times it was funny though, like when I got mad that no one told me I was supposed to drop off my aunt at her apartment instead of going back to the hotel.

They told me when I was about to turn into the hotel.

It was nearly midnight.

(Funny and maddening).

As the driver, you can miss out on some things.

I like driving. I do. Maybe just not parking gigantic full-size SUVs that are a foot taller than I am. Climbing into that monster of a vehicle was its own training exercise.

By the time we were on our last road trip to DC, and I had driven yet another rental car (this time a van), my right leg started cramping and I was struggling to walk down the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.

It’s also a lot of responsibility, and it’s hard to have meaningful conversations with your relatives when you’re unfamiliar with the car and your surroundings. I may have wanted to engage with them more, but I was mostly focused on the road and staying awake and alert. In a way, I felt like I missed out on connecting with them. I also often take on the responsibility of entertaining my family and making them laugh; I’ve done it ever since I was a little girl. So I felt bad that I wasn’t able to keep everyone entertained and that there were long lulls in the car. Then I realized that those periods of silence weren’t because people were bored. It was because they were all sleeping.

I can be moody, but it goes away quickly.

This a truth about myself that I had to confront during and after our trip. Have I always been this way, or is it a recent development? Have friends been trying to tell me this but I wasn’t ready to hear it? Does family bring out the worst in you sometimes? How could I have handled situations better instead of just snapping?

I’m sure we’d all like to think we can control our emotions all or most of the time. Before their arrival, I was mentally and emotionally preparing myself to be on my “best” behavior. In Filipino cultural terms, that means being polite, respectful, and not shaming your parents in any way. But when my family arrived, something switched and subconsciously, I decided to come exactly as I am–moods and Americanness and all.

So when I was upset about something, I expressed it. Not in the best way sometimes, but I didn’t want to silence myself. I was finally on a family trip where I could be all of me. Where I didn’t feel like I couldn’t say something for fear of shame or rejection or misunderstanding. Other family trips have usually been to the Philippines when I don’t feel like I can be exactly as I am–loud, outspoken, strong and sweet. It was important to me to be real, even if it’s not deemed to be “good” behavior.

However, I recognize that being true to oneself doesn’t allow me to be disrespectful or disregard others. Are there moments I wish I approached differently? Yes. Will I still snap if I’m hungry, sick, or when people are being unreasonable? Probably. But maybe not as often.

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