LOCKED UP ABROAD PART 1

By Alexandra Osetek

When my Dad retired last fall after a remarkable 40-year career as an oral surgeon, I struggled to come up with a gift worthy of commemorating his lifetime of hard work and dedication.  I googled “retirement gifts for dad”, but everything I found fell short of what the occasion merited.  Then, when I thought about what my Dad would cherish most and would be the most meaningful to him, the answer became clear–time with his family.  After all, all those years of work went to support us, my 3 older brothers, my Mom, and me.  

Family Photo with custom Ecuadorian T-shirts

So I threw together a Whatsapp group for my brothers and sisters-in-law, and proposed that we give the gift of time in the form of a family “retirement trip”.  To my surprise, everyone thought that it was a good idea.  So everyone, my 3 brothers and their wives and children (we are a family of 13) committed to a week-long family trip.  I immediately suggested that we go to Poland.  My Dad’s family is Polish, he has always wanted to go, and I love Poland and would love to return and spend more time exploring.  I was quickly shot down with multiple responses of “Why don’t we just go to Ecuador?”.

Yes, Ecuador was a logical destination.  I live here; it is inexpensive and easy to travel to from the States; I am a professional tour operator here; plus I had been trying to get my brothers to visit me for the past 5 years with no success.  So, Ecuador it was.  My hesitation with the family retirement trip to Ecuador is that it put an enormous amount of pressure on me….or rather, I put an enormous amount of pressure on myself.  Some things you should know about me: 

  1. I am an obsessive, self-critical perfectionist to an unhealthy degree.
  2. I am the youngest child of 4 and the only girl–a tough combo that has resulted in a lifetime of trying to prove my value and win the praise, approval, and admiration of my male family members.  I’ll leave it at that and spare you the therapy session. 
  3. My career is operating group trips in Ecuador–it’s my job!  
Alex and her amazing ,perfect , birthday cake.

Those three points accumulate to mean: THIS TRIP MUST BE ABSOLUTELY PERFECT AND AMAZING AND MAGICAL AND NOT EVEN ONE LITTLE HICCUP CAN GO WRONG!  MUST. BE. PERFECT.   I cannot emphasize that enough.  Perfection.  It was completely on me to design and execute an amazing, flawless international family vacation for a group of 13 people ranging in age from 1 year old to 69 years old.  This was no small task, but if ever there were someone up for a challenge, it would be me.  Thus, the planning began….

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