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The Passenger Seat: A Self-Reflection On My Family’s Trip to Yellowstone

My grandmother has wanted to see Old Faithful for years. She’s read countless articles and watched an inordinate amount of Yellowstone specials about the famed geyser, but she had yet to see it in person herself. But, as grandmas do, she aged and traveling became harder.

While my other set of grandparents were visiting America this summer, we wanted to take them somewhere outside of our little suburb, but we weren’t quite sure where. They were fairly well-traveled themselves, and we didn’t want to spend time and money revisiting an old destination, so when I suggested that we invite both sets to head to Yellowstone National Park, we decided that it would work perfectly. Except for one thing: my visiting grandparents weren’t exactly nature people. Many Asian cultures associate light skin with wealth, so they avoided the sun at all costs. However, fulfilling a life dream was worth it. We bought our plane tickets to Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Park.

While we were there, we decided to rent a full-size van to transport our family and luggage. Typically, I get carsick easily. However, this time I was lucky enough to get the coveted passenger seat. I was also the designated navigator since it had been my task to plan out the vacation itinerary, vista points included. Since we were trying to minimize sun exposure, I planned lots of scenic drives with spots in iconic locations and I was armed with maps galore.

The trip was stressful. I found myself worrying about who was liking which destinations, and every time that someone wasn’t blown away by one of the beautiful landscapes, part of me took it as a personal offense. I had worked so hard to plan everything, and my ego needed recognition. I wanted to be appreciated, applauded for my skills.

But as the trip continued, after my many instructions to pull over here or to stop over there or to follow that road, I realized that I, too, was being incredibly unappreciative. Here I was, surrounded by some of the most beautiful scenes in the world (a once in a lifetime opportunity in itself), and I was pulling my hair out worrying about other people. I was complaining about how they weren’t truly grasping the full implications of their surroundings, but I was being a massive hypocrite. Why was I fixating on this instead of the blessings around me?

My mind had created an “I” and “them” divide that made me the star of the show once again. But one thing is for certain. I won’t forget the tears in my grandmother’s eyes after we watched Old Faithful erupt.

Written by Giovanna Lomanto

My name is Giovanna, and I am 18 years old. I recently graduated from a high school in Californian suburbia, and I'm excited to further my education at U.C. Berkeley. Since I was a kid, I've always loved writing short stories for my friends and family, and I can't wait to share my love for the arts.

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