How to Raise a Jojo: Why Jamil Agrees to Travel So Much with my Parents

I feel like I need to address this point because so many people would dread traveling with their in-laws under any circumstances. Add to that the fact that my dad’s back has gotten pretty bad, and he can’t make it on our long power walks anymore or navigate bumpy streets without giving us anxiety that he’s going to fall (glad we did Pompeii when we did!). Oh, and he’s also lost most of his hearing. Plus, my mom has a whole array of health problems. I won’t go into detail, but believe you me, it’s made her the best customer any foreign pharmacy could ever want. We literally have to stop 5-10 times a day at various pharmacies, and while it drives us a little nuts, it’s just part of the experience. The quirkiness is kind of awesome. 

My parents have always been adventurous travelers. Their honeymoon alone amazes me. No Cancun or Grand Canyon for them! Nope. Instead, they flew to El Paso and caught a second-class train to Mexico City, where they then hopped onto a second (or maybe third) class bus, filled with chickens and other small livestock, and rode through interior Mexico to reach a once-glamorous resort in the town of Tehuacan. Needless to say, the bloom of that hotel was off the rose — tennis courts overgrown with weeds, clotted tomato juice in the Bloody Marys, cracked bowling balls — so they ventured back to Mexico City, only to get turista (Montezuma’s Revenge) and spend the remainder of their trip praying for a breeze in an unairconditioned inn. 

Experiences like that make them, if not completely flexible, quite comfortable rolling with punches. My dad has a phrase we repeat to Josephine regularly when a flight is delayed or a line at a rental counter snakes for 50 feet: “These are just the abrasions of travel.” And we have to face them with a positive attitude if we want to enjoy ourselves and appreciate the opportunity to see the world together.

My parents’ perspective adds so much fun to our trips. There wasn’t anything cooler than seeing my dad and Josephine equally in awe over the paintings in Queen Nefertari’s tomb. And does it get any better than taking your tiny child with your mom to the church your mom’s great grandparents built in a village in northern Lebanon? It really doesn’t. These are pinnacles of happiness in life. I’m glad Josephine gets to be there and experience that joy. 

So, back to why Jamil agrees to take these trips… Although he sometimes serves as a pack mule, unloading 10 bags or so from the carousel at the airport, and performs a whole host of unsung tasks (running to buy water, seeing each of my parents safely down a flight of stairs, coordinating bellhops and porters, etc.), Jamil loves the hustle and bustle and the closeness. 

His parents didn’t do any traveling at all. His mom moved from Israel to the middle of Texas and never went abroad again, to my knowledge. His dad was not an interesting dude, either. I say this objectively; he really wasn’t. So they were essentially the polar opposites of my parents, who simply never have a dull moment. The travel is fun, and we want Josephine to absorb as much of that energy as she can. It’s making her more adaptable, interesting, and wise.

Author: Jessica Givens