We are in the season of Thanksgiving here in the states. While this holiday has changed over the years to include copious amounts of food, watching endless football games, and a frenzied shopping spree- at the heart of it has always been the reminder of being thankful for what we have. And for me one of the most profound lessons I learned about this attitude of gratitude came from a family trip and the first time I set foot in a country other than my own.
I was in my first year of college when we were invited to go with a family friend on a cruise to Mexico. The family friend, his wife, and their daughter were regular cruisers and had done just about every one available on this side of the world. For this cruise, they were thinking to do a shorter one that would stop in San Diego, Catalina Island, and then onto Ensenada Mexico and thought this would be perfect for us who were new to cruising. My mom said that we would need to pay our own way and so my brothers and I started putting money aside from our small jobs so that we could go.
The day arrived and we flew into California where we met the other family. Now to to figure out the best way to get 7 people from the airport to the port to get on the ship. After going through all the different options, it was finally decided that the most efficient and least expensive means was to rent a limo to take us to the port. That would allow the most space at the least cost for so many people. We felt like we were high rollers for that short drive. And as we pulled in, others stopped to look at the long black limo possibly wondering what important person would be pulling up to the port in such style. The look of disappointment was apparent as we tumbled out of the limo with a tangle of limbs between us.
For the next few days we lived the high life, at least we thought so. We loved the fancy dinners every night, the giant pool on board, and learning how to play high stakes bingo. The other family’s daughter had a running commentary about the sub- par ship and all the things that were wrong with it. Parts of the ship were under construction so there was scaffolding here and there, but for us cruise newbies it didn’t take away from the fanciness of it all.
Our first stop was in San Diego, California. While the other family took off to the mall because the daughter wanted to go shopping, we went to the old town to see the beautiful crafts and food that carried their Spanish heritage.
The next stop was to the beautiful island of Catalina which has an array of beautiful mansions, yacht filled harbors, and high end boutique shops along the waterfront. The people who live there did not care for the tourists coming to their little piece of paradise and gave the general feel of looking down their noses at us. At dinner that night we talked about our visit to the island and laughed off the snooty people we had met. The daughter rolled her eyes at us and talked about how she planned on having a home there someday.
The next day we came into port in Mexico, just a handful of miles south of the border. We had been told to not give money to anyone but if we wanted to give something, to give food. So we loaded up our packs with food from the buffet that morning. There was a band playing as we left the ship and it gave such a warm welcome that we were then surprised when we turned to the city.
Immediately we were met by a large group of kids wanting to sell us pieces of chicklets gum. We emptied our bags of the food we brought within minutes, wanting so badly to give them something but also remembering the admonishment to not give money as any money would probably not go to helping the kids but the adults that sent them out. There were women who would reach out and grab some of my hair and begin to braid it wanting me to then pay them for the braid. I had four women trying to braid my hair at once when my brother managed to pull me out of their reach. He was sporting some long hair in a whale spout fashion and the women then tried to reach for his hair to braid. But he was taller than they were so they unable to get a hold of him.
The friend we had come with rented a golf cart type vehicle and we drove around the city. Much of what we saw fell in line with the scene from the port. A few hours later, we went back to the ship for dinner. We were much more subdued at dinner that night. The friends daughter had not gone into the city, preferring to stay in their room and watch tv than go see what she called ‘ the downer part of the trip’. She was unabashedly rude in her comments about the people there and about us for wanting to see the city instead of stay on the boat too.
We made it back to California and were piling back into a limo heading for the airport. We were not sorry to see the back of the friend’s daughter and her talk of shopping and better ships that she had been on. There a general feel that this would be our first and last vacation with them if we had anything to say about it.
Our trip had left us with a deep feeling of gratitude for what we had and for who we were. On one side, we had far more than those we had seen in Mexico. We felt all the more grateful for our menial jobs that we had worked to have the money to go on vacation, for the comfortable home that we would be returning to, and for the opportunities that we had to make our life move forward in ways so different from others. On the other side, we also felt gratitude at not being so consumed with wealth yet still treat others so ungraciously as we had seen in Catalina.
Never was the place of being in-between the wealth and the wanting so apparent in our lives than on this trip. But because of that experience, we all felt a greater gratitude for the life we had, with all the highs and lows that come with that life of in-between the haves and the have nots.
29 thoughts on “Moments & Misadventures :: Between the Haves and Have Nots”
What a lovely story, Meg! I believe that we are more grateful for what we have if we have to work hard to have it. I hope you never had to travel with that family again, but I can’t help but wonder if the daughter ended up living on Catalina Island. I wish you and your a very happy Thanksgiving.
Thank you! I agree with you, working for something always makes it more valuable than if you are just given it. When it’s given, sometimes it is taken for granted. Thankfully, we never traveled with them again. She didn’t end up on Catalina but I think last I heard she had bought her own house back in Utah. I hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving as well 🙂
A great example of one of the benefits travel can bring – a true appreciation of how fortunate we are compared to many others in the world. They can never travel to meet us, so it’s important that when we travel to meet them we do so with humility and understanding. I think it’s just as well that girl didn’t get off the ship that day!
Thank you! I agree, I think had she come the experience would have been lost on her and it would have been distracting from the experience for us. Traveling with humility and understanding should be at the heart of any adventure because that is how you really see what a place and people have to teach you.
When I travel I often feel very grateful for my luck at being born in the family and country I was. My life would have been so different otherwise. Thanks for the great story Meg. Maggie
Thanks Maggie 🙂 It does bring your life and your values more into focus when you travel and see the lives of others. Not that their life is bad or worse, just different and there is something to learn from that difference.
Such a beautifully written piece Meg. Travel definitely broadens our outlook on life and different cultures but wherever we are it’s s important to treat everyone equally and to be thankful for what we’ve got. Happy thanksgiving to you and your family!
Thank you Marion 🙂 I agree with you, one of the best things about travel is how it broadens our understanding. I don’t know if you’ve heard the song by Tim McGraw that says ‘always stay humble and kind’. I think that would be good tagline for all travel. Wishing you all the best during this festive time of year!
Thanks for sharing this intimate moment of learning and appreciation. Have a wonderful Thanksgiving.
Thank you 🙂 I hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving as well!
The gulf of wealth is without doubt a recurring theme if world travel, and teaches us so much about how to conduct ourselves in foreign lands.
I love that idea of humility teaching us how to behave in other places but also at home. Everyone should travel to gain that perspective and understanding.
Thanks Meg for sharing your experience. The sharp contrast between Catalina Island and Ensenada must have been quite a shock. I remember visiting Mexico in college, and seeing the intense poverty for the first time; it’s difficult to process. I hope you never had to see the family’s daughter again!
that contrast between the two places really was a shock, especially because they are not that far apart distance wise. To see the poverty changed me and humbled me for sure. Thankfully, we never traveled with the daughter again- she was not my kind of travel companion. 🙂
Love this…. The idea of being in between and balanced. Beautifully said. Thanks for sharing a beloved memory.
Thanks Mom 🙂 in between and balanced is the best place to be.
This was a very moving piece, Meg. I love the memories you describe from this trip, the retro photos and tying it all back to the sentiments of Thanksgiving. Was the guy with the blond hair your brother? Hiring the limo must have been a blast, I have only done that once in my life and remember feeling like a king cruising through Manhattan. The daughter sounded like a real cow, did you have any contact at all with her after the trip? Wishing you the warmest thanksgiving on Thursday and still hoping to hear good passport news.
Thanks Leighton 🙂 The daughter was a real piece of work. Thankfully no other travel experiences with her. Riding in the limo was fun, but still not enough space for all of us to fit comfortably. But the looks on everyone’s faces as we pulled up, cameras ready for a celebrity only to see us was priceless! That was my brother Micah, before he cut his hair for a sharp crew cut. Sadly, it’s looking like there will be no Paris for Christmas. We went to our court date but we were one of 80 and so we’ve been rescheduled for December 1- only 13 days before we are suppose to leave. But who knows, maybe there will be a Christmas miracle like in all the movies. Wish you and Sladja all the best during this festive, thankful, time of year 🙂
Oh no, this is just ludicrous. Hope you get that Christmas miracle, Meg.
Thanks, me too 🙂
Isn’t it amazing how travelling can help provide perspective and make you feel more grateful? Even though the friend’s daughter sounds snobby and miserable, I’m glad to hear that her negative attitude didn’t impact your trip. Hopefully you never had to travel with her again!
Nothing puts your life more in focus than seeing different parts of the world and the lives of the people there. She was a real snob, but thankfully we never had to travel with her again 🙂
Wow that daughter was a piece of work!! I agree with other comments above that travel really puts life in to perspective – lovely piece and Happy Thanksgiving Meg 🙂
Thanks Hannah 🙂 That is why everyone should venture out and see other parts of the country and other parts of the world because it really gives a greater depth to your own perspective.
Great story Meg, it was nice the friends invited you and you saw how the other side lived in both directions. I wonder what happened to the daughter, did she end up on Catalina. It’s good to always count your blessings
Thanks Ali 🙂 It’s always good to see things from both sides and feel happy to be the middle of them. Last I knew the daughter had not ended up in Catalina but bought a small house there in Utah. I don’t think she ever married.
That’s too bad that her attitude was so poor and unwelcoming; I’ve never understood people who travel but don’t really want to go new places or see/learn/experience new things. Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours!
I agree- why bother going somewhere if all you want to see is the mall. She may as well stayed home. Her loss though. Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours as well! 🙂