…for a multi-gen tour of France
By Orsolya Harrach
Travel with a teenager? Quite challenging. The solution? Bring two of them. It worked perfectly for my son, my nephew, and me.
4-weeks exploring France from Paris to Bretagne, and Rodez. We would visit interesting areas and meet new people. Their hospitality would allow us insight into everyday life with French families. We used backpacks for everyday stuff and shoulder-bags for daily gear. We carried a list of addresses for our hosts. We knew them only through email exchanges.
Challenges to competitions
Such a trip is full of challenges—finding the right address in a foreign town—walking long distances with difficult baggage—the sun’s full glare—deciding a daily plan. These types of challenges can often turn into a fight between a grown-up and a youngster, especially when they are tired or frustrated.
Two boys together will look at such things as a competition. They made things fun. They amused each other while keeping an eye on the luggage while I got our tickets.
They often explored together while I had free time. They would compete to see how to get from A to B by subway. They discovered on the TVG (train) that the checked side-table is a game board, a perfect place to play Chinese Checkers or Four-in-a-row.
The question of language
Hungarian, our first language, is not well-known around the world. The boys had a chance to practice their English. The French often do not speak a second tongue. We often used pantomime to be understood.
We combined spoken-language and sign-language skills when ordering from a menu. One time, we chose something we thought would be a chicken breast but turned out to be liver.
Our destinations quickly settled into museums, churches, and big palaces. We rotated as tour guide and itinerary planner each day. Each of us got involved. Everybody tried to find a more interesting destination than the others.
Most of all, we each visited places we would not have gone on our own. The boys found that a fashion museum could be attention-grabbing, and I was surprised by the many kinds of cataphract armour.
Share the work
Being the only adult in a group of children can be frustrating and fatiguing. But who says you must be the person who does everything?
Finding the shortest route, calculating which fare is the most favorable on public transport, shopping for the next day’s meal; these are all things for which I used the talent and competitive spirit of youth.
To help mum can be boring – but to show who can turn obligatory tasks into more exciting games is totally different.
For example, the subway system in Paris is excellent, but you can’t say the same for the subway entrances. One of our everyday games was hunting for them. The person that found the most each day chose what to have for dinner.
Worth the challenge
Staying with foreign families had challenges for the boys. Adapting to different habits, confronting strange foods, and not being picky, playing with the baby when it falls in love with you. Things like these resulted in my being enormously proud of my well-mannered boys.
While nothing is perfect on any trip, the challenges faced on my multi-gen journey with two teens was terrific.
About Orsolya Harrach—Orsolya is a Hungarian freelance translator and travel blogger. In her sixties, she has lots of trips behind her and many more in front of her. In addition to most of Europe, she has visited China, Cuba, Nepal, Australia, and more. Orsolya writes travel blogs about her trips, mostly in diary form. She wants to share her knowledge and experience as a travel writer. Harrach is an ITWPA member. ~TPM