A Father-Daughter Adventure: Or, Why You Shouldn’t Wait

I’m typing away at the lounge of an airport hotel while my dad naps in his room upstairs. At 73, he’s got plenty of energy most days – teaching community college a few nights a week, greeting the grandkids at the bus each afternoon, and walking with his most beloved dog every day. But he’s also very aware that he has only a few years of globe-trotting adventures left in him. So here we are in Southeast Asia.

In some form of linguistic irony, the man can quote poetry endlessly but can’t get past the simplest of accents. Perhaps it was the decades of serving as a translator for his parents’ thick Irish brogue at any New England restaurant or diner. But now, even the clearest speaker of English (as a second language) can stun him. So he does better with a travel cohort. And my sister and I are grateful for the appreciation he feels with an adventure compatriot.

This is not to say that adventuring with dad is easy. His arthritis is bothering him these days. The guide and I bought him a cane to help him navigate the occasionally uneven surfaces. But he’s not quite ready to accept life with a cane, and leaves it behind as often as he can. The heat is more than either of us expected. So I’m glad that he’s setting his own pace and staying behind on days when he knows he’s not up to clambering in tropic heat. Especially after a few too many cardiac adventures in recent years.

The days that he’s game are fantastic. He marvels at the tree roots twisting through the ancient walls and feels a spirituality he’s certain he’s only found in a handful of places in the world.  He finds a most dapper hat on the first day of temple exploration. He may actually have been serious when he threatened to not leave the museum for a few days. The drive through the countryside exposes an entirely different side of Cambodia’s culture and economy. I even convince him to get a pedicure here (they come with a back massage, so why not!).

But the best is the food. My dogged pursuit of travel as an excuse to eat almost anything is key proof of shared genetics. We try each new dish at the hotel’s morning breakfast fare. We feel amiss in considering a return to the same restaurant twice. Best of all, we manage through a simple form of cooking class, struggling to learn to properly shred green mango while relieved that the flour is already measured. The result is our most delicious meal of the trip: one that we’ll repeat at home as soon as we can, regardless of how much we mangle the careful folding of banana leaves.

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Don George, Editor

Don George is Editor in Chief of Wanderlust: Literary Journeys for the Discerning Traveler. He has been Travel Editor for the San Francisco Examiner & Chronicle and Salon.com, and Global Travel Editor for Lonely Planet Publications. Don has published eight books, including Travel Writing, A Moveable Feast, The Kindness of Strangers, and Tales from Nowhere. E-mail him at don@geoex.com.

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GeoEx event with Isabel Allende in Conversation with Don George; September 24, 2014
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