It’s been a bit since I’ve written, but I’ve just returned stateside after an 11-day trip to Belgrade, Serbia. My husband’s home country, this was my fifth trip so the journey and all of the trimmings have become what feels like a second home to me. But, this trip was very, very different from any of the others I’ve taken. Why? Because I was accompanied by my parents, and it was their first time out of the country.
I know everyone’s parents, and relationships with their parents are different, so an overseas trip could mean a lot of different things for a lot of different people. For me and mine, this was a huge deal.
We have established that I am an obsessive people pleaser, and travel is kind of “my thing” since I have to do it alone so often, so bringing my parents into my husbands world while showing them the ropes of travel/ plenty-of-respect-for-them-as-my-parents put me on level 10 of “be crazy and over-obsess on everyone’s emotions.” Saving you the stories, we had an amazing time. Our families got along great, my husband is an absolute saint, and my parents can’t wait to go back.
Theatrics aside, I want to share with you the seven phases that I experienced traveling with my parents.
PHASE 1: What if I don’t like it?
This came more is discussions with my mom. A few weeks leading up to the trip, she expressed her concerns about plenty of mom stuff. What if she did like the food that was served and she didn’t want to be disrespectful? What if there were people over and she couldn’t go to bed when she got sleepy? What if the bathroom wasn’t accessible when she needed it to be?
(We talked about these things, made plans and code words and put the fears as much as ease as we could without being there. This is also where we discussed the “the flow.” That no matter what we were faced with, this was my husband home and the country that raised him, so “we” (they) were going to go with the flow.)
PHASE 2: What is that?
As soon as we were off the plane, the questions were ON. What is that building? How long as that been there? Why did the government do that? What does that word mean? What is that made of? What did she say? What does that taste like?
(Que Tour guide Ken/ my saint of a husband Milan. He answered every question, translated every dad joke, and gently encouraged them to try new things. Swoon.)
PHASE 3: Can you hear me now?
Obviously, when you’re in another country, and they don’t speak the same language as you, as long has you speak your own language slowly and increasingly loudly, it’s like you’re speaking the foreign language.
(It was cute, because I remember doing the same thing, but regardless of how many hand motions and loud English words you use they can’t understand you.)
PHASE 4: My pants won’t button.
Ok so this is a double brag and I apologize, but the food in Serbia is amazing. On top of that, my mother in law is an incredible cook. Like not normal incredible, but like everything she touches turns to delicious. She makes everything from scratch. Homemade soup, noodles, bread, ajvar, canned goods, everything. My parents figured that out pretty quickly, but they also realized that as people ask you if you would like something else, they are already putting it on your plate.
(Needless to say, we all gained some happy weight, and wore our stretchy pants home.)
PHASE 5: I now speak flawless Serbian.
Around day three, my parents had completely melded into the culture difference and decided they spoke Serbian, and they were now ready to move abroad because “they got this.” This was adorable to me, because I have been practicing the language for 5 years and I am still pretty pathetic on the delivery. However, I totally applaud the confidence.
(Omit the part where mom, who is a southern lady who doesn’t swear, read the subtitles on the tv and asked a room full of my in-laws what a particularly serious expletive meant. Other than that- flawless.)
PHASE 6: Seasoned historians.
11 days in Serbia, one trip to Tito’s museum, and a few conversations with my father in law and they were decided Serbian historians and ready to share the history of Serbia with anybody who would listen.
(The child in me stuck in a constant internal eye roll. But the wife of a Serbian in me was smiling and incredibly happy with their enthusiasm.)
PHASE 7: Jet Setters.
My parents are now officially jet setters, and on our return journey they were using words like “usually” and “the airline is supposed to” to describe our flights.
They are cute and I’m happy that the travel bug got them just as good as it has gotten me 🙂
Anybody have any funny stories from traveling overseas with their parents?
Cheers and happy travels!
Meredith F. Ristic