This I Believe: I Believe In Traveling With Grandma

Feb 16, 2017

Biyun Song and her grandma at Jungfrau in the Alps in Switzerland.
Credit Biyun Song

My grandma is 60 years older than me. But that doesn’t stop us from traveling together.

Our footprints cover many regions of the world -- from Sichuan, China to Taiwan, from Thailand to South Korea, from France to Italy. We have been traveling together for more than 15 years.

My grandma is not a traditional Chinese woman. She is a former engineer and Chinese national second-level table tennis athlete. She refuses to spend her life after retirement lying on the couch and watching sitcoms. My grandma loves traveling and adventures. She is curious and open-minded. She believes life is a series of experiences. She is my role model.

Like many teenagers, there was a time when I hated traveling with my family, simply because it was totally NOT COOL. Traveling with family means you are a little baby who needs care from adults. Traveling with family means you only have boring nights at a hotel watching TV. Traveling with family means you have to forget about unplanned fun and crazy ideas. I wanted to spend time with my friends, hanging out at night and exploring unknown cities. I wanted to post Facebook pictures of my exaggerated smile with funny gestures, like other cool kids.

I tried to persuade my family to travel without me. Mom was silent for a while, then she said, “I understand you, but you must realize one thing -- You are able to travel by yourself or with friends, but Grandma is not. You have plenty of time to spend with friends, but you may not have much time to spend with Grandma. She is not young and strong anymore, but she still wants to travel. She needs your help.”

For the first five years of our travels, Grandma took care of me, and she showed more courage and energy than me during the tiring trips.

But you cannot stop the hands of time. She has changed over the past ten years—Her steps became heavier. She got sleepy more often. Now the roles are reversed. I must be in charge, while she becomes the one who needs care and patience. But when she laughs like a kid at the snow view from the top of Europe, I realize it’s still the best way to travel, for both of us.

Many young people struggle with the generation gap, feeling awkward during the annual visit to their grandparents’ house. Traveling together means I always have something to chat about with my grandma.

I recently posted a new picture on my Facebook page with the description: “23-year-old and 83-year-old go hand in hand to see the wide and beautiful world.”

It’s my coolest picture, because I believe in traveling with Grandma.  

Biyun Song is a graduate student at Penn State majoring in international affairs.