Our family spent the week between Christmas and New Year's traveling, as we try to do every year. This is partly because, since my mother died, we have no family nearby, and so have no fixed celebration ritual, and partly because it is cheaper to travel when no one else wants to.
This year, we got a great deal that took us farther afield than usual. We were based in Torremolinos, in southern Spain, and took side trips to Málaga, to Gibraltar, and to Tangier.
Each trip was an education in itself: in Málaga we explored an eleventh century castle and fortress, a Roman amphitheater, and Picasso's birthplace; in Gibraltar we toured a natural cave that is now used as a theater, took a bus ride up the Rock (we would have preferred to hike but that wasn't an option), and enjoyed the sensation of macaque monkeys climbing onto our shoulders (at least, Ben and I did; Bill, who is more cautious, served as photographer). In Tangier, we spoke with Moroccan musicians, rug makers and a traditional chemist; rode camels (again, Ben and me), and played with a cobra (just Ben; there are limits to my adventurousness).
It was good for us, as it always is, to get out of our comfort zone and experience other sights, other cultures, and other ways of living, even for such a brief period. We find that when we return home we look at our own lives from a different perspective.
Even more instructive, for me, is charting Ben's growth from one vacation to the next. Initially, of course, Bill and I planned the itineraries and propelled Ben to the various sights. Over the years, Ben has assumed increasing responsibility both for researching destinations of interest and for figuring out transportation (his sense of direction and ability to decode metro maps far surpasses ours), and gradually became a full partner in planning and executing our adventures.
We feel fortunate that he still enjoys traveling with us, and hope these trips continue even when he is the one who needs to propel us around.