The 13 Year Trip

When our oldest daughter, Emily, was 8-years-old, my husband and I came up with an idea. Since our family traditions didn’t include a big rite of passage event, like a bat mitzvah or fiesta de quinceañera, we thought we should do something for each of our daughters when they became teenagers. We wanted to give them an experience that would serve as a momentous, coming-of-age event to look back on as they got older. After some discussion, we settled on The 13 Year Trip. The year each of our three girls turned 13, Brian and I would take her (alone, without her sisters) on a trip anywhere  in the world she wanted to go…with some caveats.

For one, she’d have to stick to a budget, which would probably rule out faraway places halfway around the globe. She’d also have to do all the planning for the trip’s airfare and lodging (with a little parental supervision, of course). Learning some of the local language would be a prerequisite for this adventure, and she’d have to intellectually prepare for it by doing a research project on the history and culture of the region. Finally, to bring in the creative element of the learning process, upon returning from the trip she’d have to write a fictional short story set in the country of her visit.

Yes, I’ll admit, this was a bit of a selfish gift  since Brian and I would be exploring new places and only paying for 3 people to go, but what can I say? I think we parents earn the right to be a little selfish now and then, don’t we?

When we came up with this idea it seemed like a very distant concept. Half a decade would pass before our eldest child entered her teenage years and embarked on this proposed coming-of-age journey with us. And yet, here we are already. Those five years went by fast. Emily turned thirteen in December, and she’s been planning her trip ever since. In ten days we’ll be leaving with her for the much-anticipated 13 Year Trip. Where is she taking us, you ask? I’ll let her tell you about it.

Emily in snow

My 13 Year Trip
by Emily Carisch

When my parents offered us this deal, I had no idea where I wanted to go. Ali’s immediate response, of course, was “Ponyland!” I have to admit, it did sound a little interesting, but it turns out Ponyland doesn’t exist. Bummer.  🙂

After our family’s journey around the world, I thought I might like to return Ireland or Ethiopia, my two favorite places from our trip. However, after a lot of time staring at a map, considering all the options and ultimately putting some countries into a hat, my destination is…………..drum roll, please…………….

CUBA! Yes, mom, dad and I will be flying into Havana in less than two weeks. I can’t believe our trip is almost here. I’ve learned a lot about Cuba’s history these past months, and it’s a fascinating country. I already take Spanish at school, so I got to cheat on mom and dad’s language requirement a little. I’ve notified all my teachers that I will be missing a few days before spring break (and, bonus, two days of PARCC testing!) Everything is in place.
Flights. Check!
Lodging. Check!
List of thing to see. Check!
I’m really excited about seeing Cuba during this unique time in its historical relationship with our country. I’ve heard right now is THE time to go, before American tourism sets up camp and slowly takes over the economy. That’s one thing I really enjoy about traveling – seeing natural, off-the-beaten-path places and meeting extraordinary people from cultures totally different than my own. Despite all of my planning and research, I really have no idea what to expect. As always, my mind is open to the new experiences that await. I’m so grateful my parents have given me this opportunity. I love my sisters, but I know this solo trip with mom and dad will be a time in my life that I will never forget.

Get ready for some blog posts and amazing photos from Cuba in just a couple weeks! Adios, amigos! Viva Cuba Libre!



  1. This could be a new tradition for the young generation. A solo trip with parent(s), whether overseas or simply camping at a nearby state park, would be an event they’ll remember into adulthood.

  2. Emily, this is so well written! What an exciting opportunity! Have a great time, Tracey, Brian, and Emily! I’ll look forward to hearing about your adventures!!

  3. This is such a great idea! I have a friend whose family did a similar thing when their children turned 16, but they did not have to take so much ownership in planning and executing the trip. I love that you are giving your girls so much responsibility and allowing them to create the trip they want to do most. Have a wonderful time, and I cannot wait to read about it soon!

  4. Fantastic idea. We also did a 13 year trip but having your girls take so much ownership of it all is brilliant!! I want to have my time again to do the same :-). Have a gorgeous time together – as I know you will and I very much look forward to reading about it.

  5. Emily, I am so dissapointed in myself for being such a busy teacher and not taking the time to fully sit down and get to know you. I am going to change that. I would like to sit down with all STUCO kids and interview them, to understand passions, triumphs, and vision. Please hold me to that.

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