Written on August 7, 2013 at 5:57 pm , by jtaylor
I recently traveled to meet my girlfriends for a weekend birthday celebration on a magnificent New England island. Free-flowing cocktails, jokes, hugs and loads of fun soon replaced the stresses of everyday life. I truly love my friends. However, while sitting on the sand observing the people around me, I noticed a pattern that was heartwarming. Families. Multigenerational families, actually, that were walking, standing in line and just lounging together.
My fascination grew with every conversation I overheard. Proud grandparents, for example, would pronounce how far away their progeny had traveled, literally dropping everything for F.T.: Family Time. Watching the joyous interaction of families catching up with each other, window-shopping and making memories together made me nostalgic for the few family reunions that I’ve been to. My own family is small and our meet-ups ended long ago.
I was reminded of the importance of bringing young and old family together. The learning, helping and love reflected becomes irreplaceable after losing a family member. I thought of my four daughters and made a commitment to getting all of us together soon. Sharing experiences and making memories with family—from all generations—does not have to occur on an island, though. Finding time for family is important and can be achieved with an invitation and simple desire to see one another.
Watching the slow but attentive pace of grandparents and the amusing antics of grandchildren was a reminder of the timeline of life. As I turned to my girlfriends to toast a birthday wish, I was thankful for the wisdom and presence of our elders who gave me hope and inspiration for the years to come.
What’s your favorite multigenerational get-together memory? Post a comment below and tell me.
Written on July 25, 2013 at 11:00 am , by Christina Tynan-Wood
My daughter recently attended an ID Tech Camp at MIT in Cambridge. These technology camps for teens and tweens are offered on university campuses around the country and offer a high-caliber of fun learning on geeky topics. We don’t live in the Boston area but the camp she was eager to attend – one that focused on photography and Web design — wasn’t offered at any colleges near us. And, as it happened, my son had expressed an interest in touring colleges in Boston. So we decided to turn it all into an education-focused summer vacation.
So while she got an impressive education in tech skills and met some like-minded nerds to add to her social networks, the rest of us toured colleges, museums, and sites. We had a blast, he fell in love with at least one school, and she ambitiously set her sights on a future at MIT. So that went well. I know that the tech world needs more women. And a woman with her out-of-the box thinking and creative mindset would probably enjoy working in high tech. So I’m happy to see her acquiring the technical skills she will need for that – and embracing her inner geek.
A Tour Guide in My Purse
This trip was about education in other ways, too, though. In fact, my husband and I make a habit of making our tourism as educational as possible. We went to science and art museums and famous historical sites, which was, of course, educational. But Boston itself is full of history, not all of it widely known. And historical events in the real world aren’t always explained in a plaque the way they are in museums. So before we left, I installed the Field Trip app (free; Android or iPhone) on my phone. As we traveled, it buzzed my phone whenever we went near something it knew something about. And, when it was convenient, I read what it had to say.
So when we were waiting for an Amtrak train at Union Station in Washington, DC, my phone buzzed to tell me the history of that building and show us some photos of the station during its construction and early days. When we sat down for a coffee in a café at MIT before Ava’s camp, it offered information about the building we were in (shown above), who built it, and what tech luminaries had offices in the building. When we walked down the street, it told us about movies that had been filmed near where we were, historical events that had happened around us, and even good restaurants nearby. The information was relevant and fascinating. It added so much to our travels, in fact, that whenever we rode the subway, my son sat next to me and waited for my phone to buzz so he could find out about the buildings and sites nearby – whether we could see them or not. I am already a fan of my smart phone as a travel tool but this transformed our vacation from one where my husband and I delivered a series of lectures based on information we had looked up, to one where we were learning together as we traveled. And the app will even net you free admission to participating museums if you are near those and using the app. Sweet! I left it running when we got home. And it has already told me a half-dozen interesting facts about where I work and live that I didn’t know before.
Written on July 20, 2012 at 4:17 pm , by Christina Tynan-Wood
I receive a lot of high-tech gear to try out. Some of it I like. Some of it I don’t. And some of it wheedles its way into our lives and becomes part of the family. It’s usually easy to predict what devices will do this: those that let us enjoy entertainment together or communicate better. But recently a goofy little doodad I expected to be useful only while traveling has become a device we will all miss–if my kids will let me send it back.
It started innocently enough. In advance of our recent road trip, I agreed to try out a Verizon Jetpack 4G LTE Mobile Hotspot MiFi 4620L ($50 with a contract). This pocket-sized device is a Wi-Fi hotspot. It connects to Verizon’s fast 4G LTE cellular network and allows you to connect up to 10 devices so everyone can surf the Net from their own device: Laptops, tablets, Kindles, cell phones that are reaching their data limit, whatever you have. (The plans are explained here.) I thought it would make our long drive to the mountains more pleasant if the teens could get online. And whoever wasn’t driving could get a little work done in the car. It certainly worked, the car trip was peaceful and productive for all of us. It even saved us when our hotel room didn’t have Wi-Fi.
What I didn’t expect was that this little device would be so wildly popular while we were at home.
Two weeks into this summer, I shut off the cable TV and Internet to our house. I was tired of arguing with my kids over screen time. I gave them two weeks to work out a reasonable schedule that didn’t involve spending all day in front of a screen. At the end of two weeks, they were both still “working on it” (or so they said) so I cancelled everything.
Of course, this left us all bereft of video entertainment. But this was fun for a while. We all read more. We went to the beach in the evenings. But then my sister recommended a British detective show I hadn’t seen. This genre is a particular weakness of my mine and husband’s and we wanted to see it. So he and I snuck off to our room, connected our Roku to the MiFi and watched. It worked beautifully! The show didn’t hiccup, stall, or pause at all. We were back online! But it was our little secret.
We got all the way through–over the course of a week or so–four episodes of our new favorite TV show before Ava stormed our room demanding to know how we were watching TV. We giggled like schoolchildren while she studied our rig and figured it out. Then she demanded the password, went back to her room, and logged on from her Kindle Fire.
Ever since, the MiFi has been at the center of a family game of Spy vs. Spy. I shut it off and put it in my purse when I leave the house so my teens can’t watch TV all and surf the Net all day. But when I get home, my little pickpockets go looking for it so they can log on. Then they hide it from me. When they aren’t looking, I steal it back. And then we do it all again. It has made getting onto the Net a game–so far mostly a good humored one.
But now, the loan agreement is over and I have to send the MiFi back to Verizon. And neither of my teens is talking. They don’t usually agree about anything. But on this, they have formed a pact of silence–refusing to relinquish its whereabouts. That’s okay. I’m up for the challenge. I’ll find it.
Written on July 13, 2012 at 3:10 pm , by Christina Tynan-Wood
Last year I persuaded my family to hike to the top of the Smoky Mountains and stay at LeConte Lodge. (That’s a photo my daughter Ava took from the top last year—over the clouds—pictured.) There are no roads going up to the lodge. The only way to the top is by foot. And this is no stroll. Depending on the trail you choose, it’s anywhere from a steep six hours to an almost-as-steep eight hours. All the food for the lodge is carried up by llamas. So we only have to carry our essentials and make it to the lodge, where food and shelter await us. My crew agreed, somewhat reluctantly, especially when they learned about the lack of technology—no power and our cell phones would likely get no service—at the lodge.
We used a lot of technology to get there, though. And last year I explained how we survive a long road trip with two bickering teens in my column. But when we arrive to our destination, we lock it all in the trunk and go completely off the grid.
When we got there last year, my teenage boy trotted to the top, taking the six-hour hike in about three. The rest of us staggered along after him, dragging ourselves into camp hours later. And there we found him changed. No longer bored or sullen, he was happy, helpful, chatting with strangers, and standing up straighter. He had checked us in and thoughtfully turned the heat on in our cabin. (There was still snow on the ground in March.) He even walked partway back down the trail when he got word we’d been sited to carry my pack the last mile for me.
While sprinting up that mountain, Cole had discovered something about himself: He is young, strong, likes a challenge, and is willing to rise to it. Finally all that male energy felt necessary.
The rest of us felt it, too, of course. But for him this was an important moment.
This year, when I asked my two teens if they wanted to go again, both of their hands shot up without hesitation. And when we all sat down to discuss which trail to take, Cole lobbied for the hardest one. “We choose to do this not because it is easy,” he said, paraphrasing JFK’s famous speech about the decision to go to the moon, when my husband suggested a trail that might be easier. “We do it because it is hard.”
There was no reluctance to leave the technology behind either this year. In fact, both kids told me that the complete vacation from all technology—texting, Facebook, video games, electricity—is part of what’s great about this trip.
So we are going again. This is a long road trip for us. So, rather ironically since this trip is about going off the grid for us, I plan to share here the technology we will use to find the best deal on accommodations along the way, capture and share memories, and some in-car tech for keeping two bickering teens from driving us insane on a long car trip.
So stay tuned!