What Does 9/11 Teach Us About Family Travel?

On this day each year, I reflect back to a time when family travel looked decidedly different. Back to open gate areas in airports, when arriving or departing meant loved ones in our midst. Back to an open, spontaneous travel lifestyle, and back to conversations with my children that didn’t involve terms like “TSA,” or “terrorist,” or 9/11. But that was then, this is right now, and our family still travels, like millions of other people.

This year’s 9/11 remembrance goes a little deeper, and I hope, slightly more focused on positive lessons we can teach our children rather than eyeing the darker reason of “why.” Not for a minute am I suggesting anyone ever forget what happened 11 years ago, but for 9/11/2012, I’m choosing to explore a different tone within myself, wondering if, and how, our Alaska family travel musings and adventures have changed us as post-9/11 Americans.

We stick together. AK Fam roams Alaska. Sometimes it works seamlessly, and the all is right with the world. Airplanes are on schedule, everyone remembered to pack their underwear, and the weather is bluebird-perfect. Sometimes, however, Alaska kicks us in the teeth, necessitating a need to huddle together and hold on tight. Be it a weather-hold that causes additional delays down the itinerary, or health crises far from home, we operate as one unit, stronger for our weaknesses. AK Kid has seen us at our best and our worst, and will undoubtedly glean his own sense of partnership for relationships years from now.

We look for moments to offer compassion. It’s easy to skim over the ugly parts of Alaska while traveling through popular tourist destinations. The glaring images of chronic inebriates stuffed into alleyways and along creekside trails, families living in hotel rooms because of a job loss. It’s also easy to walk past a confused elderly traveler, or young parents in the airport whose plane was just delayed five hours. Our family mantra is “Give from your heart wherever you are,” and we try, offering ourselves and our time, to whoever needs us. We volunteer, we promote family outdoor time, we offer our home to those who need one, and AK Dad and I practice what we preach. Compassion takes conviction.

We are aware. I’m not just talking about awareness of surroundings, but of an awareness of where we, AK Fam, fit in a more global perspective. AK Kid sees the world with sensitivity and curiosity today that might just morph into active stewardship tomorrow, and many people played an active role. From the Native Alaskan band whose dynamic storytelling and compelling music bring a joyous gleam to his eye, to the ship captain who surrendered his bridge to a pack of questioning, wiggling, but nonetheless fully engaged kids, this is how Alaska family travel should look. Every time. Our awareness translates into compassion, thus reinforcing a strong, loving family. Ours. Yours.

The world suddenly becomes awfully intimate, then, doesn’t it?


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