It doesn’t quite seem real, but in a few days I’ll be waking up to views akin to something like this. Whenever I tell people that I’m going to Switzerland to do some backpacking in the Alps with my thirteen year old son, I’m not quite sure how to respond to the look on their faces. I think it is a mix of “you’re not serious-you’re doing what-how’s that possible-I’m happy for you-but I also sort of don’t like you” kind of look. So I stare back with a sort of sheepish grin and say something like, “yup, crazy huh?”
I wish I had a better response. It is honestly sort of awkward. I’m not really sure what makes it so, but it just is. The vibe I get is “who the &%^%&$ does he think he is?” I mean really! Who takes their thirteen year old to the flippin’ Swiss Alps for a little one-on-one time?
I guess the only answer to that is “I do.” For a few years now, Alison and I have had this dream of taking each of our children sometime during their thirteenth year to a place in the world (somewhat) of their choosing. She and I both love traveling. And we want share our love for that with our children, even at the tender age of thirteen.. We want them to see the world and to realize that North Little Rock, Arkansas (while wonderful) isn’t all there is.
Of course, this trip bears all the marks of a classically Chino-esque sort of trip. Heading to the mountains. Hiking. Eating great food. Seeing incredible sights. Lots of intentional time together. That’s the plan at least, but who knows.
At first, I started planning every step of the journey, but eventually gave up in favor of a more flexible itinerary. The basic plan is more or less intact. Fly into Zurich. Train to Luzern. A good friend will drive us to Engelberg. Stay a couple nights there. Then we’ll head out onto the open trail.
At this point, I should explain that backpacking in Europe is a different animal than in the good ole US of A. Euro-backpacking is often done walking from one mountain hut to the next. When you arrive, there is a meal waiting for you. And a bed. The next morning, there’s breakfast. Then you head out for another day of walking. All this means that you don’t carry much. No tent. No food. No sleeping pad. Maybe a light sleeping bag. Sort of feels like cheating.
Ok, so back to the itinerary. After a few days seeing some of the Maker’s handiwork, we’ll hop a train back to Engelberg, and eventually end up back in Luzern for a couple days of hanging in town, then back to Zurich and back home. Nutty, right?
And if all that weren’t crazy enough, there is also the small detail that that I’m returning to the very place my father and half-sister died about eight years ago. While I continue to be the “most well-adjusted person I know,” there is no doubt that there are issues surrounding my relationship with my father that are still unresolved. Not that a trip (even one as monumental as this one) is the cure-all for what ills, but I’m hoping that the adventure Cole and I have together in the mountains will in some way mirror our journey to wholeness. And I’m glad that he and I are getting to do that together.
Obviously, I won’t be showing up much around here over the next several days, but if I come across any internet out there, there may be a Twitter or two that comes flying to you from across the Atlantic. I’m tweeting at @taidochino.
See you on the other side.