Seriously, just go travel: why you shouldn’t write off a destination
We travel a ton. That’s our family schtick: “2 dads raising their 2 sons and traveling the globe, giving the kids a broad world view. Traveling, parenting, and experiencing culture.” We like to go to the common tourist destinations and some off-the-beaten-path ones. It’s good to have a mix. You never want to hit up a destination too many times and get bored with it.
All too often though I hear somebody say “Oh, you went there?” or “Ooh, was it totally crowded?” What? Do people ask these questions because the last time they were someplace they didn’t love it? Or do they ask these questions because they’ve heard bad things about somewhere and just wrote that destination off as not worth a visit?
As a dad, I’m constantly asking my four year old “Can you please tell me why you don’t like that?” and it’s usually in reference to food. No, it’s always in reference to onions. Jaded travelers or just tired adults are the same way. Maybe I’m rude, but I always ask (and I can get a little sassy with it) “Can you tell me why YOU don’t like visiting…?”
Here’s what we’ve learned…
Reputation: once a bad rap, always a bad rap
We live in Washington State. I’m a west coaster and proud of it. We’ve got so much awesomeness on the west coast that a lot of people don’t feel the need to venture out. And if they just ever visit local spots, they’ve got their own thoughts about what an out-of-towner should visit or not. And some places do just have a bad rap.
Example: Forks, Washington – Did you see the Twilight Saga? Yep, Forks. Do people in Seattle like to take visitors to Forks? Nope. Do visitors find their own way? Yep. What is it about Forks that locals don’t like but tourists do? Well, locals think of it as the rainiest place in Washington and just an old rundown logging town that was the setting for Twilight. What do tourists think about visiting Forks? There’s the treaty line of course (I’m team Jacob. Is that still a thing?), but it’s also the gateway for the Hoh Rain Forest and some of the most epic beaches in the state. From perfectly calm waterways for river kayaking to incredible lines of surfable waves, Forks is much more than too many Seattlites think.
I just wish I had an honest stat about how many people from the Seattle area have ever actually visited the destination in question. Fun activity: ask somebody if they want to go to Forks for the weekend. No takers. Ever. Except for us, because we know the awesomeness that is the land of the sparkling vampires.
Tip: if there’s some place local that you haven’t been to but visitors always want you to go to or have questions about, maybe that’s the perfect getaway or day-trip that you have been looking for. Just sayin’…
A destination can change
If there was one region of the USA that you’d think a gay family like ours wouldn’t belong or just would totally avoid, where would it be? I’m just guessing you were thinking it’s the South / Bible Belt. Know what? It’s one of our favorite places to go. It’s funny when people hear that we’re going to Georgia again… Yep, we love it there and we’re as welcome there as we are outside of any metropolitan area.
Gay families belong everywhere and should travel out. The people that would treat us poorly or try to cause us harm are so few and far between that we hardly take them into consideration.
Recently I wrote an article about what it’s like for an LGBT family to travel through the South. The responses I got were mostly surprise and shock. The gist of the article: people are nice, we felt welcome, there will be crazies or bigots anywhere. That shouldn’t keep you from traveling.
I think if we were traveling with our kids to the rural South ten or twenty years ago we’d tell a completely different story, but in 2016 we feel as at home there as we do in the Seattle area. True, the likeliness of running into another family like our is minimal in the South, but I know that we’re not alone.
Tip: if you’re not sure how your family will feel in a destination, research it. That’s why us travel blogs exist: to share our thoughts, experiences and opinions. And most of us are totally open to questions and dialogue regarding our experiences.
Any destination is more than the drunk Instagram pics college kids post
“Dude, like, where’s your favorite place for Spring Breakin’ with your bros?” “Cabo, man. Sand and shots.” Okay, that was my best impression of college kids taking a trip south of the border.
One of our favorite family destinations is Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. Yes, this is the home of El Squid Roe (drunk college kids) and Cabo Wabo (wasted middle-agers). But it’s also the home of pristine beaches, incredible hospitality and the gateway to all kinds of Mexican history.
Mature adults that we discuss travel plans with always giggle at us for going to Cabo… and they usually roll out a story of “oh gosh, I remember going there right after I turned 18…” and they think they’d have the same experience now as then.
If somebody’s had a very memorable experience, for one reason or another, or if a place has a strong stereotype, it can be tough to think of it as anything else. Especially if they’re not willing to give a second chance. We have been there as the irresponsible dudes and as the parents with young kids, and it’s perfect… for either demographic.
Tip: go off the beaten path when you’re in a destination that’s clearly marketed for tourism. You’ll find some incredible sights, unexpected experiences and genuinely wonderful people. And the prices are usually a lot more reasonable too.
Even in a crowded place, you can still relax
“We’re waiting until the kids are older to go” or “Disneyland is for children. Do you actually enjoy it?” or “There are just so many people.” When was the last time you were in a Disney park? It’s totally true that Disney parks have huge crowds, but it’s also true that not every time of year or every day of the week is that way. And do you know what? There are actually places that you can sit and relax and people watch. Taking kids to Disneyland is an awesome experience, and yes, it is crowded, but that’s easily dealt with. While I’m not here to hand out travel tips at the moment, here’s one: ask for help finding a quiet spot when you just need a break. The Magic Kingdom or Disney’s California Adventure have some nice areas tucked away. And if you’re lucky, you might even score a glass of wine (but not everywhere).
The same goes for traveling to cities. All around the world there are wonderful parks and green pockets in cities. If you’re worried about taking kids someplace where they don’t have play space, take a moment to research and see if that’s actually the case. If you’re waiting until your kids are teenagers to visit historical and cultural sites, um, why are you? Start kids with experiencing all kinds of environments early so they can be aware of the many types of people and places in the world, densely populated and not.
Tip: the resources for making the most of a Disney Park visit are countless. Use them! The parks themselves also have created resources online to be helpful. And there’s, of course, us bloggers to check with!
Tip 2: be thoughtful in your lodging choices in a city, as small kids are tough to occupy happily in a concrete jungle.
Just go see for yourself
Stop judging our travel choices. We will enjoy wherever we go despite what people think. We can deal with crowds. We’re not going to take the kids to a tourist bar so they can learn about taking shots. We’re going to travel to unusual places with varied cultures where WE will be the minority. We’re going to see for ourselves if a place is worth visiting.
Since all of the sudden I am in the mood to hand out free advice, here’s a nugget: don’t discount a destination or somebody else’s travel desires; everybody finds their own value in where they go. If you think somebody’s making a poor choice about visiting somewhere, maybe you should go with them and see for yourself and maybe you too will see that all parts of the world are worth exploring.