While in Canada my family decided to visit me on the road. This isn’t common for many backpackers and when it happens the backpacker often enjoys that for a short time they no longer have to endure hostels and budget restaurants and can live as a two-week tourist.
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However, my mother and sister decided they wanted to experience the backpacker lifestyle. Now that they’re gone I wanted to share a few things I’ve learned.
1) Get to the first city before your family does
Getting lost or not knowing your way is fine, and sometimes fun, when traveling solo. It is stressful when others are depending on you to know where to go. I spent a couple days in Quito before my family arrived to check out the sites and a few restaurants. It made things much easier the first few days – except the getting robbed thing.
2) This is not the time to have a loosey goosey schedule
I often don’t keep an itinerary and will move onto a city when I feel like it. Your family does not want this. They want to know where they are going, how long they will be there and what they are doing while they are there. We changed the schedule a few times but it’s important to have something concrete so they feel everything is under control.
3) Patience is a virtue
Keep in mind that the dynamic will be different, especially if those visiting are novice travelers and they do not speak the language. There’s not a lot of English in Ecuador – at least the places we wanted to visit; in restaurants I needed to translate the entire menu to them, if they needed to use the bathroom I had to find it for them.
4) You need downtime/alone time
It’s difficult spending so much time together. There are long stretches of time where you aren’t more than ten feet away from each other. With Modern Family and Cougar Town on my netbook we’d often end the day by just relaxing and laughing. Sure, it’s not glamorous to say you watched television while on vacation but we needed time to unwind.
Fortunately, my family recognizes the value of spending time alone, so when I snapped at my mother for being only two steps behind me in a church, she didn’t take it personally. It’s also the beauty of traveling as a trio, when one is being bitchy, the other two can laugh about it.
5) Appreciation is key
Sometimes you get so caught up in planning and organizing that you forget what an enormous effort it was that they came to see you. They braved all their fears because they wanted to spend time with you and share in the experience.
I tried to relate to them by remembering my first days in Mexico when I spoke no Spanish and everything was so overwhelming. They dropped themselves into an unfamiliar country and embraced the culture. For that I am so proud.