Costa Rica Lesson #5 – Evolving and new family traditions 

As families change and grow, so too do the rhythms of their interactions. Over the course of many years’ experience in helping families move from the rupture of divorce to the challenge of restructuring, I’ve seen many people create beautiful, meaningful, new traditions that enhance their lives in ways which were initially unfathomable. 

Travel is often a piece of that change. Just by virtue of being out of one’s usual environment, the unanticipated situations that arise create lasting memories. After all, rather than the routine, it’s the novel and the unusual that we tend to remember.  

Traveling is a chance to learn, explore, and experiment in ways we might be reluctant to do in our home environments; it also gives us great opportunities to observe other people and the ways they interact. 

With vacationing comes the prospect of meeting new people and observing them, and often those chance encounters develop into unexpected friendships, be they for a week’s vacation or–in some instances–for years to come. Depending upon the personalities and ages of your family members, meeting entire families creates worlds of possibility. Our recent trip to Costa Rica was no exception in this regard, as we had front row seats to the interactions between two very different families. While hiking, rappelling and throughout a day of snorkeling, we found ourselves quite often interacting with two contrasting sets of companions.

Each family was composed of a mother, a father, a daughter and a son, all roughly the same ages. However, the similarities ended there. Because families are a composite of the interactions between their members and not the bodies that house them, this reality was brought into stark relief. 

Each of these four-person families had two mothers and two fathers, but one set were working harmoniously together, while the other pair were trying not to interact at all. Two young boys, one playful and engaging and the other critical and mean-spirited.  Two daughters, one curious and compassionate and the other competent but callous. Courtesy forbids me from going into overly-specific details here, but suffice it to say that the angry, unpleasant children had caustic, “checked out” parents. Watching that brother and sister interact prompted my son to ask his sisters if he’d ever been that mean to them. I could hear him exhale in relief when they quickly screamed “not even close”.

In juxtaposition, the other parents shared our journey with grace and ease. Those folks were adventurous and enthusiastic young parents; when they had a baby but they didn’t want to stop traveling, they launched a website called BabyCanTravel. That website eventually evolved to allow them to leave their corporate jobs and create a lifestyle based around travel. As their children grew, so did their company and their adventures, and another website was born: FamilyCanTravel. I’m sharing their websites with you, as I trust the information they share there will inhabit the spirit they bring to their adventures and will, during a time of change and growth, enhance any journey you might choose to take.

Raising children is an awesome responsibility. While giving them tools to navigate the world is part of a parent’s job, giving them a generous attitude to share with others what they know and love means that they can travel the world and never find themselves alone.

Lesson #5 notices the importance of evolving, and creating new family traditions. The memories you make will help you grow, and stay with you long after the journey brings you back home. 

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