All your scattered seeds, which perhaps you have already forgotten, will take root and grow up; the man who received them from you will pass them on to someone else. And how can you tell what your contribution to the shaping of man’s destinies will be?
– from The Idiot, by Fyodor Dostoevsky
Family travel has always been popular in one form or another, but in the last 20 years its popularity has mushroomed at the same time that the number of ways for families to travel together has grown.
And that is one trend I heartily endorse, because I think family travel is one of the best things you can do. Let me explain.
When I was coming of age there was much talk about finding one’s purpose in life. When I considered my own purpose, I thought of lofty feats, great heroic actions and historic achievements: Winston Churchill defeating the Nazis, Lincoln saving the Union, Einstein discovering the principle of Relativity, the Beatles transforming popular culture, the accomplishments of great humanitarians, movie stars and authors.
But now, decades later, I wonder if when seeking my life’s purpose I should have been looking closer in. I recently saw this idea beautifully expressed in a Facebook post.
In the story someone asks, “What is my purpose in life?” A voice answers, “What if I told you that you fulfilled it when you took an extra hour to talk to that kid about his life? Or when you paid for that young couple in the restaurant? When you choose to act out of kindness, compassion and love, you are already aligned with your true purpose.”
That really clicked with me.
Now I have come to believe that it is the individual acts of kindness, small or large, that really count in this life. We all need to give back for the great privilege of living, and we do it by performing acts of kindness for others. Ultimately I believe that is my life’s purpose.
When I come to the end of my road, it will be the multiplicity of all those acts throughout my life that will make up whatever weight my life has.
As Dostoevsky describes in the above passage, it’s impossible to calculate the totality of the effects of a single act of kindness as it reverberates through the human community down through time.
Certainly the same kinds of waves of influence are generated by unkind acts. So it’s important to focus on kindness.
Much like anyone else, I want to leave as good an influence on the world as I can. Fate has placed me in a certain place and time, and the people I have been placed close to are the ones with whom I have the greatest opportunity to do some good that might continue to reverberate long after the deed, and maybe even after I am gone.
That which you invest in grows. I’m not talking about money, I’m talking about life energy, love. The chance to have a positive influence on a child during its formative years is a great opportunity. At no time in their lives will they be more open to learning and absorbing influence.
Whatever seeds I plant in my grandson might still bloom within him when he reaches the age I am now.
Family is Whom We Love
I don’t think it’s possible to overstate the importance of family in human life. Family is our most fundamental connection to the earth, to humanity, to the past and the future. Family is the root toward which we are drawn back at the major transition points of life.
We receive our preparation for life from our parents, and we try to pass on as much good as we can to our descendants to help prepare them for the life beyond ours. I believe that traveling together is one of the most enriching ways a family can spend time together and have the kind of exchange that sits at the center of family life and gives it meaning.
Family is not defined strictly by a genetic connection. A genetic relationship is a marvelous thing. But that by itself barely qualifies as family. It is the people we invest ourselves in who are our family. Family must be actualized.
I was struck by this idea in the 1961 film Fanny, in which a young man impregnates his girlfriend (Fanny) and then goes off to sea, leaving her abandoned and expecting an illegitimate child.
Then a kind, older gentleman marries her and provides a home for her and her child. A couple of years later the young man returns from sea and wants to claim his girlfriend, and the child. It is the young man’s own father who tells him that he has no claim to the child.
“When this child came into the world,” says the father, “he weighed eight pounds of his mother’s flesh. Now he weighs 23. Do you know what those extra 15 pounds are? Love.
“Love doesn’t weigh very much. It’s like cigarette smoke. It takes a lot of love to make 15 pounds. I gave my share, and Fanny too. But the big weight, the bulk — Panisse [the adoptive father] gave it. And what have you given?”
The young man retorts: “Who’s the father then? The one who gives life? Or the one who buys the bibs?”
His father answers, “The father is the one who loves.”
It’s by love expressed through action and shared experience that real family bonds are forged. The word “karma” means action. Having children or grandchildren is a special gift and opportunity. But it is only through action that we gain its potential value.
I like the idea articulated by the author Ken Kesey: “Put your good where it will do the most.” The importance of kindness applies to strangers too, whomever fate has placed in our pathway that we may be able to help. But my best opportunity to leave a meaningful legacy will be through the people whom providence has placed closest to me.
There are many ways I can have a good influence on the lives of my children and grandchildren. But I can think of no better way to concentrate the most enriching experience into a given period of time than through travel. It’s a great way to invest in quality time with family members.
Travel as Education
A travel experience includes practically all kinds of activities. When well planned, travel can be among the most educational, enriching experiences possible and can create some of the best shared memories of any activity.
When not well planned, a family trip can be a trial, especially for whoever is in charge of keeping things on track. Just piling the family into a car and heading off can be a lot of fun, but if you have a more complex itinerary in mind, a professionally operated family travel group can give you the benefit of experienced travel planners and guides, as well as savings on shared costs.
I believe education is one of the best gifts I can bestow upon my family, and travel is one of the most concentrated forms of education that I have ever found. So by that logic, travel with family is literally one of the best things I can do.
It’s only my belief, nothing more. You can take it, or leave it or call me crazy. It doesn’t matter. It works for me.
Your humble reporter,
A. Colin Treadwell