I’ve long said that people are everything when it comes to great travel. I coined “the people we meet create the paradise we find” back in 2005, spoke about it in my TEDx talk, and continue to believe it now more than ever.
In December, I saw out the year with some memorable adventure: I travelled with my daughter to Costa Rica for a fantastic story about family legacies, and my kids (plus a niece) on a road trip down the Oregon Coast for a story that turned lemons to lemonade, and heavy rain into rugged Pacific storm-watching! I kicked off the new year taking the kids to Orlando – my first foray into the Sunshine State – and then headed to New York for IMM, the premier international travel media marketplace. With a general atmosphere of uncertainty (here’s looking at you, US and Canadian Elections) it’s shaping up to be that kind of year: this feeling of wanting to go everywhere and do everything while there’s still an opportunity to do so. The trip this month I was looking forward to most in January was unusually personal, and it’s all about people, of course.
I grew up in a tight family in South Africa, gathering every Friday night for family dinners that included my grandparents, aunt, uncle and cousins. It’s a tradition my own family continues to follow, and my kids thankfully have the same experience in Canada. Like seeds from a dandelion, my extended family scattered about the globe, and we had not been in the same room for a staggering 27 years. In that time, close family members were sadly lost, but we were joined by new spouses, kids and grandkids. Having relocated to Delray Beach, Florida, my aunt now lives with her daughter (my sister-cousin) and grand-daughter, three generations of strong, beautiful women I have missed dearly. With my aunt turning a sprightly 80, the opportunity presented itself for the family to finally gather from three continents for a long overdue reunion that would celebrate the past, and relish the present.
After an exhausting schedule in Orlando, my kids and I took the spotless Brightline train to Boca Raton, where the kids would meet their great aunt and extended family members for the first time. My own family flew in from Vancouver, and we rented a house on Air Bnb just a few minutes’ walk from my aunt. Unseasonal (and unreasonably cool) weather be damned, the atmosphere was immaculately joyous. It’s one of the reasons why I encourage everyone to travel into their past, seeking out long lost relatives and newfound family histories. It all becomes a deeply personal layer of discovery that instantly elevates any journey into so much more.
I can't say I explored much of Delray Beach – an affluent coastal community – other than a lovely long lunch at a beachfront restaurant and a decent walk alongside strip malls, expensive cars, ocean canals and enormous mansions home to the mega rich. While my own family lives far more modestly, the obvious and ostentatious wealth was unavoidable (I heard Lamborghini made SUV’s, I didn’t expect to see four in a single afternoon!). In truth, we could have been anywhere and it would have hardly mattered.
Over a long weekend, my family gathered for every delicious meal, the conversation was effortless, the kids got on famously, and the years simply vanished. All of it a powerful reminder that the very best destinations don’t have to offer much, just the very best people to share it with.
Please come in. Mahalo for removing your shoes.
After many years running a behemoth of a blog called Modern Gonzo, I've decided to a: publish a book or eight, and b: make my stories more digestible, relevant, and deserving of your battered attention.
Here you will find some of my adventures to over 100 countries, travel tips and advice, rantings, ravings, commentary, observations and ongoing adventures.