I lost a travel buddy this past March. He was an older gentleman with long jowls and thinning, cottonsoft silver hair. He thought he looked like the actor Robert Mitchum, and he tried to prove it by lowering his eyelids and tucking in his chin in a poor imitation.
A big man who grew up during the Depression, my father was an easy travel partner, though he liked to talk politics the entire time which got pretty tiring. He was positive in all ways, though not so adventurous in inclement weather. He’d eat pretty much anything served to him, but a portion often landed on his shirt or jacket. He really didn’t care — what was a little mustard stain? He always carried his harmonica and, if the group was lucky—especially if there was a bottle of Scotch around—he’d treat them to his rendition of any song ever written, particularly anything by Pete Seeger or Woody Guthrie. Traveling with my father was an adventure in itself.
This year marks the 25th anniversary of the quirky little nature travel company I started on a shoestring.
My father, a Harvard-educated lawyer, had every reason to be a naysayer about this crazy pursuit—I mean, what was I doing with my life, walking around in the woods? But, instead, he gave me his unconditional approval, enthusiastically encouraging me at every turn, even during the hard times. Since my mother passed away eight years ago, I’ve embarked on some elaborate adventures with my father, and travel bonded us. The discovery of unnamed waterfalls and prides of lions and soaring bald eagles brought us together in ways that simple weekend visits couldn’t. We experienced these things together, and we shared the stories long afterward. Swimming in the ice-cold Inside Passage, getting my father into—and out of—a cramped kayak, and rising well before dawn for early morning game drives in the Serengeti are memories that will last my lifetime. Some will last for my children’s lifetime as well, since he also loved to travel with his grandkids.
When our parents pass on, I think we tend to regret the hard times we gave them, and we wish we could do some things differently. I know I do, as I was, admittedly, a serious pain for my folks. But there is also one thing I did right: I took my dad on amazing trips, and for that I will be forever grateful. I carry the memories and a few cherished photographs from these adventures that enhanced our lives – and our relationship — immeasurably. In the end, these times spent together as a father and a son, no matter the age, traveling the world to discover new and exciting elements of our planet, make all the trials and tribulations of our daily lives worthwhile. Travel really is that important.
Yours in Discovery,
Founder & Director
Natural Habitat Adventures