By Rita McKinney, 2-time traveler, Auburndale, Florida
I love traveling with my grandchildren. There’s something really special about sharing new experiences and the history of another place with them. I’ve already explored England and Paris with two of my grandchildren, so when I decided I was ready to travel again, I knew I’d bring my 13-year-old grandson, Kaleb.
I’d always wanted to go to China, so I asked Kaleb if he’d like to go with me—and he didn’t hesitate in saying yes. I also gave my friend, Mark (whom I met on a previous Grand Circle trip to Egypt), a call and asked if he’d like to come along, too. He quickly agreed to travel to China with us.
Rita and Kaleb rest near a tree at the Ming Dynasty Tombs and Sacred Way.
To be honest, I was a little worried about our group’s reaction to Kaleb. I thought they’d be annoyed to have a young boy along for the trip, but from the first moment we introduced ourselves, the entire group embraced him. You could even say Kaleb truly bonded with our group members. Many of the men in our group gravitated towards him and began to act like children themselves. One day, we visited Small Wild Goose Pagoda, where visitors can find a large gong in one of the towers. Kaleb decided to climb the Pagoda, and was soon followed by a group of gentlemen in our group. Many of the wives of these men approached me later to share that if it weren’t for Kaleb, they would never have done that.
Grandmother and grandson experience a special taxi ride through one of Beijing’s hutongs (neighborhoods).
I truly enjoyed watching China come alive for Kaleb. He’s a very sensitive person, and as we interacted with the local Chinese, and Kaleb saw how they lived, he wanted to help them however he could. He was taken by how sincerely gracious they were—and always smiling! We especially enjoyed our visit to the Grand Circle Foundation sponsored school. I think it was really important for Kaleb to learn about the education system for children living in China. And how the young Chinese girls loved him! They gave Kaleb photos and vied for his attention during our entire visit. I think he even had a little crush on one of the girls!
And Kaleb truly embraced the people of China. During our visit to the Big Wild Goose Pagoda, we had the opportunity to experience the Olympic torch ceremony. The locals were handing us flags and celebrating in the streets. There were many fountains spouting water along to music around us. Young Chinese children were running through the fountains without shirts and shoes. All of a sudden, I turned my head and there was Kaleb—sans shoes and shirt—running through the fountain alongside the children! It was such a fun experience for both of us.
Kaleb explores the wonders of China’s Great Wall.
Everything about our trip to China was special for Kaleb and I. I’d always wanted to walk on the Great Wall, so that was especially memorable for me. I knew I wouldn’t be able to travel as far as Kaleb, so I encouraged him to head higher up the Wall with Mark—who he had grown quite close to. And as we traveled through the Three Gorges Dam, I simply couldn’t stay up any later and went to bed. But Kaleb stayed up the entire night so he wouldn’t miss a thing.
Kaleb and I are very close, and I’m so glad we were able to experience China together. I was not only able to see our group members embrace Kaleb, but I also watched in awe as Kaleb embraced everything about China.
Meet the friendly people of China—and explore the country’s magnificent treasures—on our China & the Yangtze River CruiseTour.