Are We There Yet?
What traveling with my parents as an adult taught me This is an edition of The Atlantic Daily, a newsletter that guides you through the biggest stories of the day, helps you discover new ideas, and recommends the best in culture. Sign up for it here. A childs job is to be oblivious to their parents stress. On a recent trip, our roles were reversed. First, here are four new stories from The Atlantic : A Childs Job The most peaceful place at Chicago OHare is the tunnel linking Concourses B and C in Terminal 1. Its a long hallway with a ceiling covered in snaking neon lights that change color while piano melodies play from a speaker somewhere. As a kid, I spent hours in this tunnel during flight delays with my mom. While she figured out our next move, Id press my legs into the cold, shiny floor and watch the lights shift from pink to red to blue. Id have a soft pretzel. I was happy. My parents and I traveled a lot when I was young. Sometimes we flew across the country for American Camp Association conferencesMom worked for the Girl Scoutsand other times, we drove 12 hours from Iowa to Pennsylvania, where my grandparents lived. There were always logistical snags, but I dont remember them. What I remember is sitting cross-legged for hours on the airport floor playing Farkle, an obnoxious portable dice game that my mom always packed. I remember happily reading Harry Potter in the back seat during a blizzard that halted traffic for six hours outside Dayton, Ohio. I was unaware of the fact that, on a trip to Hungary for a family friends wedding, my parents were struggling to figure out forints. I was never anxious about any of itwhether our flight would be delayed a few more hours, what wed scrounge up for dinner, who would pick us up from the kiss-and-ride. A childs job is to be completely oblivious to their parents stress, and I was very good at my job. Then, this spring, I planned a trip to Europe. We hadnt traveled anywhere as a family for yearsdecades, maybeand my parents hadnt been abroad since 2002. I took photos of them against the beige walls of their living room and renewed their passports. I bought them the latest Rick Steves guide, booked our plane tickets, and planned a driving route across the Emerald Isle. I advised my parents against packing their money beltsfrankly, Id rather they get robbedbut they did anyway: Rick says its a must. In England and Ireland, my boyfriend and I downloaded eSIM cards to our phones and navigated our little posse toward sheep-covered overlooks and affordable Indian restaurants. I told everyone what time we were waking up and where wed catch the bus. Relax, I told the crew. Driving on the left side will be easy and fine. I was Captain von Trapp with his whistle, but my parents didnt seem to mind. Its nice, Mom said at one point, not to be in charge. Last month, the philosopher Agnes Callard made a lot of people mad online when she wrote an essay arguing that traveling doesnt actually change people in any special way. She wrote that tourism is nothing more than locomotion: The single most important fact about tourism is this: we already know what we will be like when we return. I think Callards essay has worthwhile points, but this is not one of them. Travel doesnt make you a fundamentally different person, but it does have a way of serving up lessons about yourselfand the people you love. For me, the Godfrey Familys International Locomotion was a useful, if not particularly original, reminder: To evolve from child to adult is to slowly become aware of the fact that your parents are just people; theyre working and cooking and arguing and budgeting and traveling, all while trying to give you steadiness and a good time. Then, I think, you spend the rest of your life trying to give it back. On the last day of our trip, I opened my inbox to an email from United: Our flight from Dublin had been canceled. Exasperated, I left my parents on an airport bench to negotiate with an airline associate, who gave us a new flight and three meal vouchers each. Wed have a lot of time to kill. It was okay: Mom and I had both packed Farkle. Related: Todays News Dispatches Explore all of our newsletters here. Evening Read What I Learned About Life at My 30th College Reunion By Deborah Copaken On the weekend before the opening gavel of whats being dubbed the Harvard affirmative-action trial, a record-breaking 597 of my fellow members of the class of 88 and I, along with alumni from other reunion classes, were seated in a large lecture hall, listening to the new president of Harvard, Lawrence Bacow, address the issue of diversity in the admissions process. What he saidand Im paraphrasing, because I didnt record itwas that he could fill five whole incoming classes with valedictorians whod received a perfect score on the SAT, but thats not what Harvard is or will ever be. Harvard triesand succeeds, to my mindto fill its limited spots with a diversity not only of race and class but also of geography, politics, interests, intellectual fields of study, and worldviews. I loved my four years at Harvard, largely because of the diversity of its student body. I dont love the factnow made public through the trial but previously understood by all of us to be truethat the kids whose parents donate buildings are given preferential treatment over those whose parents dont. Read the full article. More From The Atlantic Culture Break Read. Interpreter of Maladies , by Jhumpa Lahiri, is one of five books thatll fit right into your busy schedule. Watch. The fifth episode of And Just Like That , the Sex and the City reboot, finally addresses the problem of its most hated character . Play our daily crossword. P.S. If you know me at all, you know that, aside from being completely obsessed with the belly-jiggling antics of the Phillie Phanatic , I dont follow sports of any kind. Still, I appreciate great stories about the people who play them, which is why I devoured this article by The Washington Post s Sally Jenkins about the tennis stars Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova. The two players were polar opposites who, for decades, took turns playing nemesis and friend to each other. They kept getting mixed up in each others personal lives; they were confidantes. And eventually, near-simultaneous cancer diagnoses brought them closer than ever. Elaine Katherine Hu contributed to this newsletter.