anxiety · blogging · family · social anxiety · travel · writing

Traveling with Family

For the weekend before Memorial Day, I packed for a three-day trip to the Pocono Mountains where I stayed in a cabin at the Arrowhead Lake community. This was the first vacation I have taken with my parents in years, in addition to my brother plus his girlfriend, Bree. So much anxiety, ugh. Because it was only three days, I thought it would be a good way to test the waters of what I could handle in terms of being far away from home in an unfamiliar place and (possibly) having fun with my family. I was cautiously optimistic about it. What I got was a very mixed experience.

The Good 😄

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  • I got my own room – There were three bedrooms; one on the second floor with a queen-sized bed, two twin beds on the third floor, and a single bed on the first floor that also had a bunk bed for two additional beds. Guess which one was all mine? The one on the first floor. 🙂 It had been an initial fear of mine (prior to the trip) that I would be sharing a room with someone else. Thankfully that did not happen! The room was smaller than my room at home but I still loved getting my own personal space.
  • A lot of freebies – My brother had announced in advance that we might need to bring our own basic necessities. I knew that meant things like my toothbrush, toothpaste, clothes and undergarments (obviously), a towel, shampoo, soap, etc. But I also had to bring my own mattress fitted sheet and a pillowcase because the beds weren’t furnished with those. The beds did come with blankets, and I got a lot of blankets from the two unoccupied beds. More for me, haha, and good thing since there was one night that was a bit cold. I enjoyed the convenience of using electricity and water without having to think about the costs or how much I was wasting. That being said, it was nice to not have to feel distressed if I accidentally forgot to turn off the lights or if I took my sweet time in the shower. Also, free wifi. My dad went overboard by bringing some kitchen utensils from home and even a cooking pot because he was concerned that the home wouldn’t provide them for us. Turns out they did. The coffee maker was my loyal friend for those three days, though the taste of the hazelnut coffee was not a taste I could easily acquire. I still drank it because I enjoy coffee and they didn’t have any other flavors, but hazelnut is not what I typically drink. There was coffee powder brought from home though my dad made the mistake of putting it in a bottle that used to hold melatonin gummies. Since he did not wash the bottle beforehand and just chucked the powder in there for storage, the coffee ended up having a weird sweet tang to it. I only realized what was wrong with the powder AFTER the trip ended, too!
  • Pretty decor – The stuff on the walls really made the room pop and brightened things up.
  • Atmospheric silence – It was very quiet outside the cabin. I noticed this right when we got there by the late afternoon although there was the occasional passing car or person walking their dog, but by the evening after it got dark, I took a peek outside the balcony door and stepped out for a minute to see what it felt like to stand there. It was dead silent and nearly pitch black. Kinda scary, to be honest. But the next morning, I went onto the balcony again and it was super peaceful to sit at the lounge table to take in the chirping of birds and hardly any other noise. It was a refreshing change from some of the mornings I have had in New York where I’m woken up by the drilling at a construction site or someone’s continuous car alarm.
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The table I sat at.
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A picture I took on the balcony. Sorry if my face looks weird… I’m not very good at taking selfies. I wasn’t sure whether to smile or not either, lol.
  • Flea markets – By chance, my parents and I took a walk around the area during the first morning and we came across some of the residents having a flea market sale. Later I learned that this was a common occurrence in this community and flea markets were regularly advertised. I did not expect to find anything to my liking but one little embroidery really captured my heart so I had to have it. The owner was so nice and basically accepted any amount for whatever anyone bought. My only regret is that I didn’t think to ask who stitched the embroidery. One of the people helping with the flea market mentioned the house belonged to her mother, so maybe some of the things being sold were once hers too? The owner gave us business cards for his tree trimming business, which was nice but no one had the heart to tell him that we were just visitors from New York and not residents of Arrowhead Lake.

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The Bad 😞

  • Too remote – After the first full day of experiencing what the environment was like at the cabin and around it, I was quickly losing interest in my surroundings. It was a normal sight during daylight hours to see people jogging or walking their dogs alongside the roads, or driving what looked like golf carts but I’m not sure if that was the correct term for those vehicles. But there were no nearby stores within walking distance. Everything was residential houses or cabins, and my brother had to drive just to get us to the community’s visitors center and also other places, like the swimming arenas.
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This is what the road outside the cabin looked like, and what virtually every other road next to a house/cabin looked like. After seeing this same sight for three days straight, I was ready to go home.
  • Too closed-in – By the second morning, a kind of restlessness found its way in me. Everything felt too close for comfort. Even the kitchen, which, on the first night, looked inviting and cozy to me, made me feel like I was being swallowed up in such a small space. The main room on the second floor where the only bathroom was right next to the stairs to go down a floor. Once someone comes up from the first floor, he/she would be standing in the living room at the left. Behind the couch was the dining table and from there the kitchen was at the right. I also hated that there wasn’t much going on outside. No nearby sights to see that I could walk to by myself. Even if I wanted to walk on my own outside, I either could not go very far because all the roads looked the same and I would have gotten lost.
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The kitchen area.
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A view of the main room on the second floor.
  • Family time isn’t all its cracked up to be – Being stuck with my family for three days and having very little actual time where I was completely alone (except when I was showering, dressing, sleeping, or sorting through my things in my bedroom) was terrible. But so was being with family and realizing that, in fact, we barely spoke to each other about anything. I didn’t find this to be that unusual because of the personality differences. Everyone, including me, used their phones as a distraction. My brother’s default was to sit on the couch and turn on the tv, but half the time I saw he wasn’t even watching and instead texting on his phone while the tv was on. My dad was just as bad during the nights there were basketball games he wanted to watch where he would start by actively watching the game, but then this would tamper off into him texting people on his phone while the other “boring” parts of the game were going on. Bree would use her earphones and microphone to chat with friends or use her iPad to watch new episodes of this dancing show she was obsessed with. My mom seemed to be fine entertaining herself with mobile games for the whole evening and not saying anything to anyone. At the time I too was using mobile games but if you’ve read my RIP to Mobile Games post, you know that I went cold turkey with them (after the trip was over) partially because I realized I was using them as an unhealthy crutch for my mental health. Another thing I would like to point out is the reality that every family has its own set of problems. I just feel bitter about the fact the photos from this trip make us look all happy with a sense of togetherness but behind the scenes, there was a lot of tension and arguments. I talked about one of these tensions here on the Wake-Up Call post.
  • Auntie Flow strikes again – Ugh. Just UGH. My period came a day or two before the trip so that meant I didn’t have to pack a bathing suit because I wouldn’t be able to go into the swimming pool anyway. I didn’t mind bringing along pads since my travel bag was big enough to store a lot of things. The awkward part was informing my brother that I wouldn’t be able to go in the water. I’m not ashamed of my body but I have never had a real discussion with him about my time of the month. I was relieved to be spared the discomfort of being in a bathing suit which I don’t like wearing at all, plus I can’t swim. There were lifeguards at the pool and as weird as it sounds, it was anxiety-inducing for me to watch them regularly inform people in the pool to move away from the side ladders if someone was preparing to use the diving board (so the diver could swim to the ladder after the dive and not have anyone block him/her from reaching it). I kept thinking how put on the spot I might’ve felt if I was just floating in the less deep part of the pool and being called out by the lifeguard like that. At the same time, I felt envious of not being able to chill in the pool with everyone else. I put on sunscreen and made it a point not to dab any on my face because that stuff usually gives me an allergic reaction if I do. Yet somehow it still got in my eyes (probably from touching my face with my hands) and for a few minutes they stung and burned so badly. I couldn’t really keep my eyes open but managed to use a wet tissue to wipe it away.
  • Fallen plans – Many activities fell through or just didn’t work out as planned because of one reason or another. Bree had bought each of us passes to the community’s activity center but the location itself was seriously lackluster, which was not her fault at all. One of their pool areas actually looked a lot bigger in pictures than in reality. We went to a beach area that turned out to nothing but muddy water for kids to play in. There was a kayaking center but we got there too late so they were closed for the day. We would have tried again the next day except it was raining. That day, my brother drove all of us to New Jersey to visit my dad’s sister and her husband since we had no real plans because of the rain and how cold it was. That also put a dent in our barbecuing plans. Early into the trip, my brother had even talked about one of his friends coming to the Poconos to visit his sister and how we could go over their house to have a barbecue. I am glad we didn’t go; both because I don’t think I could have handled being around strangers in someone else’s house, let alone having the stomach to hold down my anxiety and eat in front of them. Yikes! My brother probably also had second thoughts as later I overheard him tell Bree that it would be a bit weird to visit his friend and bring all of his family just for that too. Over in Jersey, we had a buffet lunch and went to Short Hills mall to browse around for about an hour. My style of shopping is that I literally need the whole day just to try on outfits and figure out what I like. Part of me felt frustrated that there was so little time so I bought nothing. The last day of the trip (Memorial Day), we had plans to pack everything up to leave the Poconos for good, drive to the Woodbury shopping outlet in Central Valley, NY and then actually go home to NY. However, because the car trunk was now full from everything we bought so far, there would be no room to store whatever was bought from Woodbury. So we just went back to NY on Memorial Day.
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The one thing that lightened my mood slightly at the mall. The fountain water was running down the crystal ball and people were throwing coins into it. It was hilarious to watch some of them aim their coins at the flat top part of the crystal ball.

The Ugly 😡

  • My parents’ attitude – This is gonna sound like one really long b*tchy rant because I have a lot to b*tch about here. I do not say this with malice in my heart, but I must be honest. My parents were the two hardest people to travel with. Ever. From their wishy-washiness to their worries about this and that or their expressed negative opinions about other people, I just about had it with them. First of all, let’s talk about how my parents never seem to make up their minds. So many times my brother asked them if they want to go there or here and either of them would not even give a clear yes or no and instead say, “Whatever is fine”, or “Do you want to go?” Sure, in some cultures maybe it’s polite to give the pretense that you are okay with anything or it’s just a part of a person’s character trait that he/she actually is fine with doing whatever. But I perceive their behavior as indecisiveness and I do not like it one bit. For someone to ask them a question and they follow it up with a question of their own, they’re basically not giving a straight answer. The same sh*t happened when we ate out at the Jubilee restaurant. My dad didn’t even ask to see the menu first and simply said he was “fine with whatever” as if he expected someone else would order for him. I get that he might have wanted another person to make the decision for him because he wasn’t familiar with the type of dishes that were being served but it’s really off-putting.
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The restaurant we dined at.
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Part of the menu. I was most surprised to see a dish called “The Chalet”. Hehe.
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I had blueberry pancakes. 🙂 They were quite filling and really did have a lot of blueberries. It was enough sweetness without the syrup.

Secondly, I was not happy about the number of gossipy remarks that my parents made about Bree. Either they would start talking in “code”, which, to them, meant they switched to using a different Chinese dialect so only the both of them could fully understand the conversation. And they would do this while Bree was in the room. So rude. I could barely comprehend the dialect they used but I definitely knew they were talking about her in an unflattering way. Then at Short Hills mall, when they saw that she bought stuff and my brother was the one holding her shopping bags plus her strap bag, they spoke (out of her earshot) about how high-maintenance she was for walking without holding a thing and making my brother hold everything. I think they were making a bigger deal than they should have. For all they knew, my brother wanted to hold the bags for her. Even if Bree had handed over the bags for him to take, who are they to judge? On Memorial Day when we got back to NY, we had a dim sum lunch. Long after my brother and Bree had gone home back to Queens afterward, my parents hmmed and hawwed at their leisure about how impolite Bree was during the lunch to not encourage them to order whatever they wanted to eat. I really don’t know what their problem is. They seem to have some traditional cultural view of how their “future daughter-in-law” (that’s how they see her as, even though my brother has not even talked about marriage) is supposed to act in front of them. My mom was like, “Her parents obviously didn’t teach her well at all.” What the hell does parental guidance have anything to do with it?? Has it ever occurred to them that Bree doesn’t take the initiative as often to approach my parents because she hardly knows them? From a modern perspective like mine, that is normal and Bree shouldn’t be considered rude because of it. I really don’t like whatever cultural lenses my parents have on where they expect her to behave warm and friendly to them as if she is close to them when she is not. The last straw was my mom complaining about a comment Bree had made to my brother about how much she “hates kids”. I admit I thought at the time that this sounded a bit harsh coming from Bree but then I remembered she is a full-time teacher and basically has to deal with little kids all day long. My mom bemoaned the idea of my brother not having kids if he decided to stay with Bree in the long run. While I had done nothing but keep my mouth shut for the last two times my parents criticized Bree, I guess even I reached my limit, so I told her, “He might not actually want kids.” And anyway, whether my brother and Bree have a future where the kid discussion comes up, it is most definitely NOT a place for my parents to have a say in the situation. It’s honestly none of their business because my brother doesn’t owe them grandkids, and neither do I if it ever end up in a serious relationship with someone.

Third on this rant is the squabbling I saw between my parents. My mom made my dad wear this matching shirt with her and I heard her say to him, “I’m not gonna argue with you about this”, which seemed to imply she knew she was pushing him to do something he didn’t actually want to do. Later on, she had me take a photo of them with the shirts and then a retake after the first photo was “not good”. When we ate at the Jubilee, my mom couldn’t finish one of her sandwiches and asked my dad to finish for her. He instead took something off my plate that I couldn’t finish. I didn’t ask him to take it for me, either, but he did. As he reached over and took it onto his plate, my mom actually lightly slapped his hand and said, “I told you to eat mine and you don’t even listen to me!” Ugh. I’m not going to get into the discussion about how crappy I think their relationship is. It is uncomfortable to be a witness to it but I’m old enough to not want to get involved because I don’t want to be burdened by their problems. At home, my tactic is to just stay out of their business and worry about my own instead.

  • Uneasy sleep – While I had an abundance of blankets to keep from getting too cold (because the A.C. was on for two out of the three days), I regrettably forgot to bring my earplugs. I usually wear them for bed though I don’t know if they would have helped drown out the noise. It was great to have a whole room to myself but the downside of being on the first floor is that I could hear people’s footsteps upstairs anytime someone was walking or moving. The pipes also made a gushing sound near my room whenever someone flushed the toilet or turned on the sink. I regularly woke up at 6 or 7-ish to the sound of people’s footsteps and couldn’t fall back asleep. It’s a miracle I didn’t get a headache from lack of sleep during those three days. The single bed was not the comfiest either. I don’t know how to describe it other than the springs in the mattress curved into my body at an uncomfortable angle until I gave up trying to sleep in it and switched to the lower bunk bed, which wasn’t as bad but the pillow was too flat for me.

In summary, the trip wasn’t exceedingly terrible but it wasn’t that great either. I got to have the experience of a different environment in a different state. Most of all, I survived.

2 thoughts on “Traveling with Family

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