WHEN WE FIRST launched AKontheGO in 2009, “AK Kid” was only four, and young enough to merely trundle into the car, airplane, or boat when we adults wanted to go somewhere. Considered old enough to carry his own luggage but not old enough to warrant an educated opinion about our destination, my husband and I simply went where the stories were. But things are different, this summer; Kid is now a grown-up 7.75 years old, and wants a voice about where we go, what we do, and how we do it.
Perhaps the most important lesson I’ve learned yet in the scope of family travel writing is being learned right now, tonight, as I sit across the hotel room from our leggy, almost-tween, hearing him snore with the enthusiasm of a lumberjack. His interests are not reflected in mine.
My son is now able to read a map and peruse a guide book. He loves museum dioramas and anything with wheels or a motor. Nearly eight, he enjoys nature movies and natural history slide shows when we stop at visitor centers, and loves to push all the buttons of interactive displays. He’s all movement, all the time, and if there’s no action, perceived or actual, then it’s no good. I get it. But I almost missed it in my hurry-up world of making sure I had my own bases covered.
Take a close look at the photo above. That’s our son after three days of ferry-riding, wildlife-cruising, trail-hiking, and Independence Day-celebrating in Valdez, where we are guests of the Convention and Visitors Bureau. Yes, he’s tired. Yes, he’s also hungry. But he’s also had it with us. I think just after this shot, my kid told me to buzz off.
How could this be? We are a family of adventurers. Three people, one family travel blog, and six undeniably itchy feet. Four years of writing about Alaska has taken us to places near and far, toward breathtaking glaciers and among wild creatures; how could our dear child be so ungrateful, so, so, obnoxious? Haven’t we given him everything, everywhere, in Alaska?
I thought so, too. But in the seasons of exploring nooks and crannies of the 49th state, and immersed in the growing of a family travel website, producing a radio show, and digging up freelance gigs, I had forgotten about the most important maturation of all - that of my own progeny.
Happily, tonight we regrouped after a few hundred calories were consumed and we had reminded ourselves of one important family travel guideline: Everyone chooses. One individual activity, one family activity, depending upon time and destination. All hands on deck - everyone participates, everyone smiles, no one complains. Yes, even if it means going to the hotel swimming pool and playing Marco Polo. Quid pro quo, parents. You may have wanted to spend nine hours aboard a 50-foot tour boat looking at hunks of ice while standing in a rainstorm; the least you can do is take a time-out in another watery environment.
Humbled by an 7 year-old. God bless his little traveling heart. Now, I need to go to bed. The pool opens at 8 a.m.
Erin Kirkland is an Anchorage freelance writer and publisher of AKontheGO, a website dedicated to family travel and outdoor recreation in Alaska. She lives in Anchorage.