My dad and I were not particularly close when I was growing up.
I think there were many factors that played into the reasons behind that. For starters, my dad says he is not good with children. He says he lacks the patience to engage with them.
When I was young, he didn’t want to play make believe with me, and I didn’t want to put together a puzzle like my sister did. I was high energy, talked a mile a minute, and wanted nearly constant engagement.
In short, my dad just didn’t get me.
Now that my sister and I are adults, he says he wishes he had had more children. Go figure. 😉
He also started a financial planning business the year I was born, which he still owns and runs to this day. As anyone who owns or has owned a business knows, it takes a tremendous amount of time, effort, and energy to get a business off the ground and generating a profit.
Quite frankly, I don’t remember him being gone a ton, but I do remember that he would often shut me down if he was working on something that required his full attention. He was never the “drop anything for my daughter” kind of guy.
As a result of these and probably other factors, I attached to my mom as a kid and never really looked to my father to meet my needs.
But our relationship began to change for the better when I went off to college.
My parents and I moved from Wisconsin to San Diego after I finished high school, and I lived about 25 minutes away from my parents during college.
I saw them about once a month and recognized that my dad was making more of an effort to connect with me. In between seeing each other, he occasionally texted me to ask about classes and if I was making any new friends. We also started playing tennis which had been an interest for both of us but we hadn’t previously played much together.
Let me be clear: change didn’t happen overnight. It has and continues to take effort on both of our parts to develop and maintain what I now consider to be a close relationship. It took personal development on his end, maturity on my end, and both of us learning the ways in which we could connect.
And while I’m still closer to my mom and will virtually always call her first when I have a problem and want advice, there are a few times, particularly if it relates to my career, when I will call my dad first. Through my actions, I want to show him how much I value his life and business experience.
All of these things have improved our connection,
But the best thing for our relationship so far has been our trip to Hawaii last year.
My mom, sister, and I had taken a girls’ trip to Brazil years before, but a father-daughter trip had never been on the table.
The idea for the trip came after my cousin and uncle took a father-daughter trip to Canada in 2016. My cousin raved about the experience of traveling with her dad and recommended that I do the same with my own.
So I mentioned it to my dad, and he agreed.
My dad has never been very proactive about travel, and I could tell by his reaction that he wasn’t going to push the gas pedal to book a trip.
And I was right.
But that all changed when my uncle passed away unexpectedly in April 2017. This shook my dad, as he had been very close with my mom’s brother.
He hasn’t said these words to me, but I think he was suddenly gravely aware of his mortality and realized that he needed to make time for the people he cares about while he still has the chance here on earth.
We booked a trip to Hawaii fairly immediately. The plan was for us to spend ten days together, part of the time on the big island in Kona and the rest on Kauai. Unfortunately, my sister didn’t join us, and having her there was the only thing that could have made the trip better.
Expectations for the Trip
I set a personal goal of wanting to learn more about my dad’s life. That encompassed a wide range of topics including his upbringing, his twenty-something years in a band as the lead singer, his career path, and his overall satisfaction with his life.
My cousin had given me a book to give to my dad. She had given it to her dad, but sadly he wasn’t able to fill it out before he passed away. I asked my dad to set aside time on the trip to complete it for me.
It’s a piece of his legacy that I want to carry with me, and if I have children, pass down to them. I’m so grateful that he did complete it, and I will always have my dad’s life story in his own words.
Apprehensions about the Trip
Prior to this trip, I had never spent ten days alone with my dad, so I could only make educated guesses based on family vacations and knowledge of my dad’s habits and personality as to how our time together would unfold.
He is a people pleaser who is also conflict avoidant, so I didn’t anticipate any arguments.
But, my dad is an extrovert who likes to talk constantly (funny how I was the same way when I was a kid but that annoyed him) and is extremely active, energetic, and has a hard time sitting still (no matter that he was 67 at the time; the man still runs the hills of San Diego 3 days a week).
Conversely, I am an introvert who likes to socialize but also needs time to recharge. And while I’m active as well, I appreciate down time too.
I didn’t know how these two personality types would mesh…
or if they would clash.
The Power of Travel
Travel with another person fosters a unique connection. It has the power to challenge even the strongest relationships, but it also has the power to forever bind two people together.
So here they are: the most notable reasons why our trip to Hawaii was a turning point in my relationship with my dad.
When I was in Bali on my single solo trip of my life, I did many things alone. And while I believe there is value in being comfortable alone, I also realized that I didn’t much care for experiencing amazing things without someone to share it with.
My dad and I had many shared experiences on this trip. In fact, you could say that the trip was one big shared experience. But I’m going to break down a few particularly special and meaningful moments in the trip that I think bonded us more to each other.
This post’s featured image is one of my dad and me when we were hiking the Na Pali Coast, also known as the Jurassic Park hike because it’s where the famous movie was filmed. The hike is 8 miles in total and leads to a huge waterfall.
In terms of difficulty, I did not find this to be an incredibly taxing hike in the physical sense, though it was made more strenuous by the heat and humidity. That being said, at times we had to cross rivers by jumping rock to rock. If we missed a rock or slipped off one, we would fall into the river.
At times, I was very nervous. On the way to the waterfall, I took my time and was able to get across each river without incident. However, on the way back, there was one crossing that was very busy and I was rushed to cross. I too quickly chose a route and got stuck at the final rocks. It was a very big leap, and I knew it wasn’t going to end well because the rock I was to land on was sloped and my tennies were slick with mud and water. But I had no other choice except to continue forward with people behind me waiting to cross.
Sure enough, I slipped and fell.
It was embarrassing. I scraped my legs and arms, but luckily was able to grab onto the surrounding rocks to stop myself from being carried down the rocky river.
Still, my camera case which housed both my DSLR and my cell phone had been submerged. I freaked out and screamed for my dad. He was up ahead so it took a bit for him to turn around and get to me.
By that time, I was already out of the water and feverishly unzipping my camera case. By some miracle, the zipper around the case had enough of a seal that my electronics were safe.
The views were incredible, both along the coastline and when we got to the waterfall. We will always have those moments to reflect back on.
I will always remember my dad’s strength, both mentally and physically. When I said I wanted to go the full four miles there to the waterfall, my dad was all for it, no questions asked (in fact, I think he would have been disappointed if I’d only wanted to do the shorter, four-mile round-trip hike). He carried all of the water for us on his back, even across those crazy rivers.
Later in the trip, we snorkeled with manta rays, a first for both of us. We agreed that this was one of the top three adventures on the trip, and for sure a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
We also hiked the Grand Grand Canyon of the Pacific. Being out in nature is a spiritual experience for me. I feel connected to something greater than myself. It moved me to witness this beauty, and it means so much that my dad and I shared this adventure.
On this trip, there are things that I handled, and others that my dad did.
Traveling takes a lot of planning, organization, and divvying of tasks. It can be tough to decide who does what since not all tasks are fun. I assumed the responsibility for most of the trip planning, including things to do, restaurants, and lodging. My dad handled the car rental booking.
Researching and planning trips is not my favorite thing. It’s time-intensive because there’s an overwhelming amount of content online to sift through. But I knew that I was better equipped to research than my dad would be and that he would appreciate my efforts.
I handled breakfast preparation every morning. I made the coffee and smoothie bowls and put on some music for us to enjoy the view and each other’s company on the balcony of our condo.
[we enjoyed many sunsets from the balcony too]
I was also responsible for taking the majority of the photos on the trip.
My dad did all of the rental car driving on our trip and, as I mentioned above, carried the water for us on all of our hikes. These are things that I preferred not to do, so I was grateful that he was willing to handle them.
Teamwork says “I can’t do it all alone.” It’s easy to believe that we can do everything and we don’t need others. But that’s not the case. Life becomes a little less of a struggle when we can rely on other people. It also enhances connection between two people because
relying on someone else is an act of vulnerability.
Traveling with another person requires tolerance.
Truth be told, my concern that our differing personality types did come into play on a couple occasions. And I had to express my feelings which is something I still struggle to do with my dad. For as much as we have grown closer, I always fear that I will hurt his feelings which makes it hard for me to be honest with him sometimes.
But on the trip, I did my best to communicate how I was feeling. One time, my dad asked if I wanted to go for a walk. I was feeling like some quiet time reading and communicated this need to him. He said he understood and went for a walk alone.
Tolerance also involves compromise which my dad is great at. He never complained and was down for any activity that I had planned or suggested. He is without a doubt the most positive, upbeat person I know. He has endless energy and will always have a smile for you. It makes him great at business.
No two people are the same, and travel can draw out challenges in agreeing on what to do and when. Everyone involved needs to be open to compromise and understand that tolerance is integral to having a positive experience.
Opportunity for Connection
I spent nearly every moment of those ten days with my dad. This uninterrupted time with him created the opportunity for connection.
As I mentioned above, I had a goal for the trip of learning more about who my dad is as a person and how he would describe his life experiences to date.
I achieved this goal.
I was able to learn so much about my dad’s childhood, dreams, ambitions, intended legacy, and more. It’s not that I can’t ask him about those things when we aren’t traveling, and to be clear, I had previously talked with him about some of these things.
What travel does, though, is create more opportunities for connection without so many distractions to thwart those efforts. At home, our conversations are often abbreviated because we both lead busy lives. Getting away from our jobs and other relationships made space for us to focus just one each other and our relationship.
Understanding more about my father and his experiences has also provided insight in my own upbringing as well as informed the backstory on some of my own personality traits and tendencies. In essence, learning more about my dad has helped me to get to know myself better, too.
Travel is not the only way to improve relationships with loved ones and friends. But I believe that travel provides the opportunity for connection which is what everyone on this planet wants. I will always be grateful for this time with my dad, and I hope that there are more adventures like this one ahead.
Have you found travel to be good for a relationship in your life? Did the experience enhance your connection with that person? Or maybe it showed you a negative side of that person that you didn’t realize existed? I’d love to hear your thoughts below.