Why We Travel: Honor Thy Father and Thy Mother

Angela recently wrote about her trip to Biltmore Estate with her mother as part of a series of excursions that they regularly take together, and I recently posted the latest installment of the annual Guys’ Dive Trip, this time to Grand Bahama with our son, Ben. We both shared our adventures in Australia with the whole Smith clan, and Angela’s father, Dan, hit the highlights on his travels with the U.S. Navy.

As Angela and I continue this exercise of blogging about our travels, we have come to realize that the wanderlust is, perhaps, genetic. Or, if not part of our actual DNA, then the need to travel is, at the very least, something that has been instilled in us through word and deed.

My grandfather and grandmother were constantly on the go. They would set out from their home base in Alabama, riding motorcycles up and down the eastern seaboard. Grandfather was a skilled mason, engineer, and mechanic. He could literally fix anything, often machining his own parts and repurposing materials to make entirely new inventions. He built a pontoon boat using aluminum fuel tanks and had a working rail system that launched the boat with the push of a button. He converted a 1969 VW bus into a camper with working toilet and shower that expanded their travel radius all the way to Alaska.

Scott and Bob on Motorcycles

Grandfather and Dad in 1956, posing in front of the cut-stone house Grandfather built by hand.

Some of my father’s earliest travel memories were from the back of a motorcycle or from the window of that converted VW bus, vacationing in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, or Jackson Hole, Wyoming. Dad tells stories of camping on the beach in Destin, Florida, where his father turned down an offer to purchase beachfront property at $50 per acre. Even in 1950s dollars, that was still a deal!

Those memories engendered in my own father the fearlessness it takes to step out into the greater unknown world. I have already shared how we were uprooted from our small town in Tennessee to experience the cultural diagonal that is Saudi Arabia. During those formative years, we had the opportunity to visit much of Europe, Africa, and Asia. And, just like his father before him, my father created in me the need to see all that I could, for as long as I can.

Dad is currently fighting his battle with terminal brain cancer.

His memory of recent events is fading as quickly as the passing of days. But when he speaks about the journeys he took as a kid, and about the early trips when we were all seeing the Red Sand Dunes or Mount Kilimanjaro for the first time, his eyes regain focus. He smiles and recounts every step of the adventure with clarity.

Rhodes Two Generations

Two generations on the Street of the Knights in Rhodes, Greece. On the left, Steve and me in 1983. On the right, Angela recreating the moment with Zack and Ben in 2015.

This is why we travel. To make memories that cancer can’t kill. To honor our fathers and our mothers. And to hope that our children, by boldly seeking their own adventures, will do the same for us.

2 thoughts on “Why We Travel: Honor Thy Father and Thy Mother

  1. Oh, Mike. I somehow missed this post. I had no idea about your dad, and it’s impossible for me to think of him as anything but the relentless tinkerer who could build his own hot tub or beat you soundly at a game of Pictionary. Prayers for your family.

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    • Thanks, Gina. Yes, there is very little of Dad still left. It’s a different type of adventure, and not a fun one, but we’re getting through it.

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