What R Family Vacations Offers...
Hint: It’s not what you think!
Monica Mapa and friends
“Keep expectations low,” I had told myself as I packed for my first rFamily vacation. I was no stranger to traveling alone—alone, alone in cities around the globe: Paris, Barcelona, New York, Rome. I am the most at home when far, far away without a soul to answer to. But this was going to be something new: traveling to a family vacation without a spouse, significant other, or children. Basically, going to a family-friendly resort without a family. What the heck was I about to do with my precious seven days of vacation?
I framed it thusly: Rosé all day! Seven days on a tropical beach with flirty umbrella drinks replenished at regular intervals. I looked forward to a tan, gourmet meals sun up to the wee hours, an open bar, live entertainment at night, and quality time with a few books—the real kind, with a spine and paper pages.
But I was in for some unexpected surprises.
World-class dining, endless cocktails, a variety of entertainment, fantastic service, and a swoon-worthy beach: rFamily definitely delivered. Then there were the connections, the personal touchstones that brought these individuals and families together year after year to form a very special tribe, one that had no qualms adopting a professional curmudgeon into the fold.
I met families from across the country and abroad. Straight parents, gay parents, straight kids, gay kids, biological and adopted kids, and every combination therein. The road to becoming a family was not always easy for these parents: lawyers, court dates, background checks, the added travel, legal, and healthcare expenses just to make a family! These families did not come about accidentally. I met families with special needs children whose disabilities or traumas were visible and just as many that were not. I heard story after story of the various challenges the two moms or two dads had to go through before they could become family.
Gay dads who chose a surrogate to start their family; middle-of-the-night phone calls to pick up an infant or toddler right now; forgotten or abandoned children given second chances by their two mommies or daddies; the straight mom who sought out rFamily so that her young gay son could be with other families where being gay was no big deal.
I met former circuit queens who traded tea dances for tea parties with their daughter, moms who drove countless hours to take their children to soccer games, dance classes, college tours, and doctor’s appointments—you know, normal parenting stuff. These moms and dads were as doting, strict, and as fascinated by their children as any parent out there straight or gay.
By the way, I discovered there are plenty of single people who repeatedly vacation with rFamily – and here is why: acceptance. Regardless of age, race, marital status, child or no child, size, orientation, income or ability, everyone is welcome. This isn’t just lip service, either. Like all great “summer camps,” this one ended with performances featuring the rFamily guests. There is a place for everyone at the table, on stage, on the dance floor, or the activity of one’s choosing. (There are also designated adults-only shows so that we could get grown-up time, too.) But my favorite was the rock ‘n roll karaoke show where two brothers, Ruben and Fernando, both with developmental disabilities, lip-synched in costume and performed dance moves to Lady Gaga. Their bit lasted less than a minute but they had the crowd in the palm of their hands, each of us infected by the pure joy radiating from the brothers as well as every other child or adult that crossed that stage. Ruben and Fernando brought tears to their mama’s eyes. The pride was that palpable.
Somewhere in the middle of the week, I floated in the warm surf with new friends from Boston, Chicago, San Diego and parts in-between. Someone remarked how wonderful this trip is and that maybe we should organize another getaway soon. Then one mom said aloud, “You know that sounds like fun but for one week out of the year it’s nice to not be the freak family.”
Apparently, their children field silly questions as a matter of course, every day: “How were you born?” “Who’s the man, who’s the woman?” “Why is your mommy white..?” Here, family is just family. I felt lucky to be adopted by this tribe, a community of regular people just trying to do good in the world, one child at a time. And please add a side of fries and a glass of rosé with that.
My limited notions of an LGBT family vacation were replaced by something unexpected, powerful, and more lasting than seven days on a beach. I fell in love with the experience rFamily strives for: inclusion, acceptance, and love.
At the end of the day, isn’t that the kind of world we all want to live in?
For more information about R Family Vacations, and to view their 2017 and 2018 itineraries, go here.
About the author:
Monica Mapa lives in San Francisco and took her first rFamily trip July 2017, in Ixtapa, Mexico.