I called up my Millennial son and asked with eagerness, “So what do you want to do? I can search for things for us... restaurants, tours?” We were a month away from a trip to San Francisco, California. I carried on like a child giddy going her first big-girl trip only to get cut off with his response, “Mom, I don’t plan when I travel. I decide once I get there.” I responded, “You are kidding right? Where did you learn that from? Your Dad?” I could hear his shoulder shrug thru the phone and I’m certain the sheer horror of the prospect of going without real plans came across loud and clear in my tone. However, to my surprise, I didn’t hate making arrangements on the go. In fact, I experienced daily adventure on the steep streets of the City by the Bay. Here are the 5 reasons this generational trip was a success and I believe Millennials make great travel companions.
Upon arrival to our boutique hotel, The Marker San Francisco I became drawn to the exterior decor. It stood out as luxurious yet unassuming on a diverse street of eateries and stores. He pointed out the contemporary “feel” and the huge piece of art that sits in the corridor when you enter. From the welcoming smile we received from the concierge to the knowledgeable and friendly front desk attendants my anxiety lessened. Unbeknownst to him I was harboring doubts I’d picked a hotel that would satisfy both our travel styles. We both admired the brilliantly hued and modernly furnished room. It had more than sufficient space and was equipped to fit our individual technology demands. The free morning coffee and tea in the hotel’s living room space was likewise a welcomed gift.
While looking at the view from the huge window my son announced our initial venture. He purchased tickets via Eventbrite to a comedy performance at Bar Fluxus within reasonable walking distance from The Marker San Francisco. He further indicated we would finish the night dancing in Oakland, Ca at a Silent Disco party. When I questioned how we were getting to Oakland he said, “we’ll just take an Uber and split costs on the App!” It was so much fun! During the show, the comedian asked the audience who had kids. I raised my hand. She inquired from the stage how old my kid was. I gestured to the guy sitting beside me at pointed at him and said, “He’s 23!” The place exploded with laughter. I would have not selected either event or staying up beyond my bedtime but having an open mind to the plan-as-you-go concept paid off.
We agreed to stay away from chain restaurants and eat within walking distance of our hotel. One restaurant we selected was Tratto, an Italian restaurant described as “a modern Trattoria with a rustic soul.” The restaurant and bar were full of couples, families, and solo diners. Deciding on what to order included a discussion on ingredients, weight loss goals, hunger ratings, and what looked appealing as it passed by our table. The craft cocktails menu bore the same approach and listed ingredients like house-made amaretto, cinnamon apple-infused Rittenhouse rye, and house-made limoncello. We ordered a crisp thin pizza blanketed with salami, peepers, ricotta, and oregano and a small plate composed of bruschetta, prosciutto, goat cheese and Mostarda. We learned that Mostarda is a Northern Italian sauce composed of candied fruit and spicy mustard flavored syrup.
As we were taking in the beautiful murals on the walls of San Francisco skyline, my son commented that this would be the restaurant he would want to come to after work or with friends. He commented that he liked the upscale look, the menu choices that ranged from small plates to the family style, and the down to earth feel. It astonished me when he summed up his earlier observations by stating it's not pretentious. We finished with Italian donuts smeared in Bourbon-caramel sauce. The energy in the restaurant was infectious. We left stuffed and content with the bar set for the next places to eat we would try.
We signed up to transport meals across the San Francisco area. My millennial travel partner was on board from the start. It was not a hard sell to include a volunteer activity during our trip. When I brought the idea up in one of our pre-trip conversations he responded, “Sure! That sounds like fun. Besides, I’ve heard homelessness is terrible there.” Through Volunteer Match we found an opportunity with the Salvation Army’s meals on wheels program. We signed up to deliver meals across the San Francisco. area. Volunteering added the component of meaningfulness to our vacation.
During our trip to the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market, in between sampling seasoned walnuts my son asks, “Mom, do you want to go to the Museum of the African Diaspora? It’s 5 minutes away from here.” So, off we went! For a $10 general admission cost and $5 student admission fee we explored 3 levels of contemporary art and exhibits centered on African American culture and traditions. The MoAD was 3 levels of thought-provoking paintings, hand crafted exhibits, modern still art, educational films, and hands-on opportunities to display your own artistic abilities. The elevator themselves served as points of interest with its walls dressed in a collage of photographs of African Americans spanning several decades. The exhibits sparked a dialogue between us that one would describe as friendly debate by two intellects subscribed to two different schools of thought based on age and experience. We agreed, we disagreed, we agreed to disagree, and we learned new ideas and information together. The cost for this colossal adventure $15 the reward-priceless.
Our trip ended with and impromptu visit to see Cirque du Soleil Volta. My son had not seen a Cirque du Soleil show and I discovered it at the last minute using his plan-as-you-go methods. We both flashed back to the times when we would sit under the big top of the Ringling Brothers and Barnum Bailey Circus; me buying cotton candy, purchasing him whatever shiny, glowing, or noisy thing he asked for.
What started out as a vacation to San Francisco, California riddled with feelings of uncertainty turned into the best vacation my child and I have been on since he’s become an adult. In years past I made all of the arrangements, planned all activities, and paid all expenses. Not this time! Pre-planning did not occur, and we shared costs. (Yes, that is a big smile you imagine on my face). Traveling with this millennial reminded me I didn’t need to control everything- I can focus on having a good time. Millennials make wonderful travel partners and if you get the chance to tag along with one-go for it!
Top photo image credit: Unsplash / Joseph Barrientos