The Pleasures (and Perils) of Father-Daughter Travel
“Keep pedalling!” I yelled, as I watched Grace’s bike begin to wobble at the start of what could only be described as a very gentle ascent into the hills and through the vineyards around Meursault.
Barking instructions at your teenage daughter on a country road in a foreign land in front of bemused locals is not exactly a recipe for familial harmony, and so after a few more yells and a few more wobbles (and a few choice words muttered under my daughter’s breath), I decided to shut up and let her figure it out on her own.
It’s hard sometimes to recognize that your children are their own unique beings, capable of sentience and free will and all the other dangers of adulthood, but somehow it’s easier to let go and accept them for who they are when you are travelling, when we are all to a degree liberated from the narrow constraints of our daily lives.
In seeing the world through their eyes, you come to see your children themselves differently.
I’ve come to realize that there is a certain fleeting stage in the cycle of parenthood when the father-daughter relationship enters a halcyon state of mutual love, respect, and camaraderie, and I hit mine soon after my daughter’s 14th birthday. The fact that it occurred while I was taking her to France on what was ostensibly a “business” trip without her mother (who’s relationship stage seems to be on the other side of the cycle for the moment) or her brothers (who aren’t yet on the relationship cycle) may have helped to kick-start the process.
“Business” at B&R means many things (most of which have nothing to do with business), but in this case I was spending a week at our European headquarters in Beaune, Burgundy, and since Grace had just emerged from a stint of French immersion at school, I thought it might be fun to introduce her to the real thing.
And since Beaune happens to be located at the epicentre of some of the world’s best road biking (not to mention the world’s most renowned vineyards), it seemed like a good opportunity to introduce her to the family business of biking, walking, talking, tasting and otherwise indulging around the world.
B&R’s tagline for family travel is “see the world through their eyes,” and while I truly believe that this is part of the alchemy of family travel, I also learned that in seeing the world through their eyes you come to see your children themselves differently.
What looked to me like a molehill appeared to Grace as Mont Ventoux, and her sense of accomplishment at conquering it was genuine and profound. The psychic leap necessary to get her head around eating snails was inconsequential to me, but a gaping chasm to her, and the sense of empowerment in making it to the other side was life altering.
The flush of confused embarrassment at being offered wine in every restaurant was real and secretly satisfying, and the sense of pride at having gotten her hands dirty as a grease monkey changing bike chains was deep and gratifying.
I discovered with my daughter that the great gift of travelling together was the opportunity to be present at transformational moments, when challenges arise and are overcome, when fear of the unknown is confronted and wrestled to the ground, when character is shaped and courage is discovered.
These moments are fleeting, and once they happen there is no going back; because they are more likely to occur while navigating the exotic streets of Paris by bike for the first time than doing almost anything in the familiar and safe cocoon of home, their pursuit ranks highest among the myriad reasons that compel us to travel.
To be sure, the world at large is an uncertain place, but the risk of staying home is far greater if it means missing the opportunity to create transformational moments together.