Lessons from Traveling with Family

Lessons from Traveling with Family

Apr 23, 2014
Top photos – Seminyak Beach and Resort Spa; Middle photos – Taman Ayun temple, offerings on the streets, Pura Batu; Bottom photos – fire dance at Aluwatu, water sports at Tanjung Benoa Beach

I mentioned last week that for the first time in our family history we would be traveling during the Holy Week holiday. As a tradition, we would stay home, do our annual closet cleaning, attend church services, be together as a family in Metro Manila. See last week’s article why we had to break tradition. We went to Bali, Indonesia. It was the first time for all five of us to visit this place, which is known as the island of the gods, one of the most popular island destinations in the world. 

I wish to discuss the importance of traveling with your family and the lessons we learned from this trip.

1. Travel gives you a needed break from the routine. We, both parents and children, all need to break our everyday routine in order to welcome new ideas and insights into our consciousness. What better way to do that this summer than to experience it with our family?

2. Children learn how to pack. When they were very young, packing was a big task for me as I was packing for four (myself and the three boys. Luckily, Marvin packed his own clothes). Like most moms, I packed coordinated outfits for my sons. But early on, I decided to teach them how to do it on their own. I would come up with a list of what outfits were needed for certain activities, and they learned quickly. I think as early as grade school, they were doing it on their own with little supervision from me. Packing, especially for trips that need air travel is a good exercise of budgeting space in their luggage. They are forced to exercise discipline in bringing the more important items within the maximum allowable weight. They also learn to distinguish what should be checked in, and what they need in their carry on bag to while away waiting time at the airport. We’ve moved from favorite small figure toys, coloring books, play cards, Gameboy, to cellphones, ipads, and occasionally, paperbacks that they’d still prefer to read on print. I highly recommend allowing your children to pack at an early age. Isn’t it better if your kids know exactly where to find their things because they did the packing themselves? Don’t wait for the time when your adult children are on their way abroad for further studies or work and still find yourself doing the packing. So what if they forget to pack something during a vacation? It’s a learning experience while they’re young and you’re still around.

3. Planning is key to a successful trip. However, not being stuck with the plan is also key to enjoying the trip. In our family my husband, Marvin, and first born, Martin, take the lead in planning our trips. Martin loves to travel that he even enjoys the scent and atmosphere of the airport. There are times when Martin would ask his younger brothers to help research on what activities to do given the limited time. He presents us the options and then he and Marvin book the trip. But no matter how impeccably planned a trip is, untoward things can still happen. That is why the open attitude to use Plan B, C or even D is very important. We model during these times. When kids see that their parents are so pissed off with an inconvenience, they follow that lead. The best thing to do is to express your frustration and immediately reboot your mood. We should not allow an unfortunate incident or two to ruin this great vacation. 

4. Traveling teaches open mindedness. When you travel to a new place you learn new ways of doing things, new sets of beliefs. My second son Enrique’s takeaway from this trip came from our Day 1 tour guide and driver named Made. He discussed Hinduism, the religion of 90% of the Balinese population (although the entire Indonesian population is predominantly Muslim) in his own words and interpretation. Made said, “We Hindus, you Christians, the Muslims and other religions have only one God. But God has many manifestations. You believe it’s Jesus Christ, the Muslims, Allah. We believe in Hindu trinity consists of Shiva, Vishnu and Brahma. We have many other gods. And for me, a great manifestation of God is the mother. She gives birth to you, takes care of you, she’s there when you need her. She’s the best manifestation of God.” His interpretation may not necessarily be accurate but the way he explained his universal views made sense and impressed my son who just came straight from his oral exams in Theology and Philosophy a couple of days ago.

5. Time is a precious commodity when traveling. Our two days of touring Bali made us realize how valuable time is. The traffic in the place is comparable to our city traffic that a 30-minute ride on record can stretch to an hour. It’s a good idea to check what activities you can already do in your resort before you take that drive. In retrospect, we should have spent more at the resort which offers free activities such as yoga, fruit carving lessons, water sports, etc. We stayed at the Seminyak Beach and Resort Spa, a really nice place with five star amenities and great staff members who pamper you. It also has a glass gazebo structure facing the sea, which is spectacular for wedding. There was a wedding held on Good Friday! Well I guess despite their huge Easter décor at the lobby, we don’t celebrate the same way. I kept greeting the staff Happy Easter last Sunday and they just smiled back. When I asked, “When is the Easter egg hunt?” they answered, “Oh it was last Friday madam.”

6. The beauty of gratitude. We noticed a lot of tiny trays with flowers, nuts, incense sticks and other items. The tour guide told us that every morning they give these offerings to their gods in thanksgiving for all the blessings that they received and will receive. The beauty of gratitude was Martin’s takeaway from the trip. Another one is the people’s more relaxed attitude and time to greet each other, which according to the guide is not the case in Jakarta, the country’s capital. Now, I’m thinking what could be a tangible gesture that we can do every morning similar to the offering of the Balinese? I say a thank you prayer everyday but maybe something more tangible would do wonders in increasing the consciousness of gratitude.

7. The gift of hospitality. Youngest son Anton said that he appreciates our country even more after the travel. He liked the warmth of the people and realized how happy and at home a tourist feels when extended that hospitality. He realized the importance of that Filipino hospitality and decided to mindfully extend it to tourists who come to our country.

8. Traveling is an opportunity to teach about money. If you freely discuss money at home, it may also be a good idea to inform the children about the cost of traveling, especially if they’re all grown up. During breakfast, Enrique asked, “I wonder what stage in my life will I be able to afford vacations in nice resorts like this?” I replied, “Maybe earlier than us. But always remember it’s better to delay buying luxuries. In fact, I want you to still experience backpack traveling.” He said, “Yes of course. I know when I have to travel on a budget and when to enjoy something better.” Then he realized that he had the money to buy a vacation like this but why should he? It’s the third law of money discussed in my next book. 

9. The sunk cost fallacy and blink. The not so nice part of our trip happened when we set off to have water sports at Tanjung Benoa beach. After more than an hour of traveling we reached Pandawa Marine Adventures. The place was so crowded with both local and foreign tourists eager to take part in the many water sports being offered. It didn’t have the welcoming vibe as the other places in Bali. It was hot and a lot of people were smoking. Add to that the signature body odor of people fond of spices emit when they start to perspire! We were approached by a resort staff named Ketuk. To improve my unpleasant blink (first impression) of the place, I tried to be friendly by mentioning that he had the same name as the medicine man in the book and movie Eat Pray Love. When he was giving us the prices for the different water sports and how we can get discounts, I felt uncomfortable. Anton, who just came from Boracay said, “Wow the prices here are triple those in Boracay!” I actually wanted to say, “Let’s get out of here, I’d rather be at Seminyak right now.” But of course, we’ve spent over an hour traveling and I didn’t want to be a kill joy. So we got a package and were given a “discount:” Sea walking for all four of us, parasailing for Marvin and Martin, and flying fish for Enrique and Anton. After collecting the rather huge payment, Ketuk forgot to inform us properly where to go. He even refused to give us an extra locker and expected all five of us to fit all our things in a single locker! Of course they didn’t so our driver had to look over our things. The activities were done haphazardly. They were all in a rush, no life vests were given to us when we rode the boat going to the middle of the sea to do the sea walk. We were brought down a little too quickly that the ear pains due to change in pressure was too much. The flying fish was done at a fraction of the time they do in Boracay. The long line for the parasailing was under the direct sun. There were so many things going on in the area it was almost chaotic. From where I watched I was concerned the parasailers would tangle into each other. When it was time to take a shower, there were no decent shower rooms, would you believe I used the toilet bidet to take a shower? I wonder why they have those many positive feedback on tripadvisory? In retrospect, I realized that I ignored my blink and allowed the sunk cost fallacy to kick in. Despite the long travel, we should have cut our losses! It was like buying a bad stock and after it plummets, buying some more shares with the hope of recovery. After the activities and during our late lunch we just had to express the frustration and regret of having gone through it all. We refused to make it ruin the rest of the day. In the end, we all felt (or at least tried to convince ourselves) that there must be a lesson learned from that expensive experience.

10. There’s a lot of things we can do here in the Philippines. With all due respect to Bali’s natural beauty, our beaches are really more beautiful back home. We just don’t have that many beautiful resorts to choose from and of course our airport has a long way to go to really make it more fun in the Philippines. What we should all remember as a nation is that it’s the people who would ultimately make a difference in a visitor’s stay. I really hope that we can eliminate the unpleasant tourist tricksters here. Even at the airport, when we could not contact our driver, we were unhappy to encounter airport taxis who were out there to rip you off. And of course, I still long for the cleanliness of Palawan to be acquired by the entire country. 

Despite number 9, our trip to Bali was a wonderful one. It’s a place rich in culture with friendly and warm people. The food is good, the temples are beautiful, the airport is impressive. Even the Easter mass at a Jesuit church was good. They have a wide array of beautiful resorts at different price ranges to choose from. The one we stayed in has amenities far better than what we had recently in Palawan at a fraction of the cost.

This trip was another great learning experience with the family. I learned more about myself and the boys, even just while waiting at the airport, making mistakes in filling up travel forms. The best part is having all family members together, bonding and creating memories. During the trip I got a valuable insight from Enrique’s comment during one of our long drives, “Ma, it’s a good thing we always talk during dinner, otherwise, long drives with family like this can really be boring, if not painful!” 

Enjoy the rest of the summer with your family. And remember to have that regular dinner together.


Watch out for my next book, a children’s book on the Basic Laws of Money.