I Lived Like a Millennial for Two Weeks

Lori Danuff McKean

Lori Danuff McKean

I lived like a millennial for two weeks. Full disclosure, it wasn't a day-to-day real-life experience. However, I did have an opportunity to travel with my 20-something daughters and got a glimpse at how they live, communicate, relax and unwind, flirt, prioritize, and sustain their well-being. 
While this may sound rather mundane, it was an eye-opener for me! 
The trip was a long-planned and anticipated celebratory trip. We had decided on Greece and Italy but other than that I had no preconceived ideas. Usually the planner and architect of such family adventures, I gladly gave up my role and handed the planning over to them.
I had an inkling that I would be in good hands when they assigned themselves job titles, such as "head of food and beverage" and "director of lodging and entertainment." I was assigned the title of "director of finance," meaning I would pay with my credit card whenever possible.
This was my first glimpse of millennial society and culture: even on vacation they utilized a work/corporate framework to get the job done! And it worked! With duties doled out according to interest/skill level, they knew who was choosing the dinner spot and who was arranging the Airbnb. They knew which one was researching our museum options and who would be figuring out the transport. And of course, they hinted strongly at who would be paying.
Don't get me wrong...this was not dictatorial and there were lots of discussions, but having someone take the lead each time eliminated any wishy-washy unknowns. Decisions were made efficiently and fairly with options weighed and an air of authority that was also comforting and somewhat freeing. And since I had already told them I was good with whatever they decided, they ran with it.
They ate when they were hungry. They stopped for cocktails or coffee in the middle of the day. They stayed connected with their friends, no matter where they were located. They thought nothing of meeting a friend from the States for lunch at a café near the train station in Rome. Whaaatt? How did that happen? Where did she come from? How did they know?
Perhaps the most rattling for me was what I perceived as the new umbilical cord of the times....their phones. At first, in my ignorance, I was annoyed that they spent so much time glued to their hand-held devices. I felt left out of imaginary conversations. Were they bitching about me? Were they texting each other, even if they were sitting next to each other? Who else were they texting? What were they looking at? Why were they leaving me out? 
When I moved past my paranoia, I looked around me and EVERY young person had a phone-in-hand, walking, talking, standing on the street corner. Finally, I realized...this was how they were getting around! They weren't checking their Instagram likes, they were mapping our next move. Turn here. Cross here. Halfway there. I followed along like a dutiful puppy dog, marveling at how they knew just where to go in these foreign lands. Smart. Efficient. Direct.
When it was time to eat, out came the phones and the decision-making parameters became apparent. How hungry are you because this one is on the next corner? Do we want street food (aka cheap and consumed on a bench on a park) or sit down, nice? Outdoor café or A/C? And how to decide? Over 5,000 reviews! Slow service! Order the bruschetta. Noisy but fun! Julia Roberts filmed a movie here. Great music. Every single determining factor was addressed by some unknown person in whom they put their trust and faith. Surprisingly, it worked out to our liking just about every time.
Timing was my next millennial lesson. I'm of the boomer generation school of thought that you arrive early, line up first, buy your ticket way in advance. Not these kiddos. A 15-minute window would mean get up and go to me....to them it meant they could fit in a quick workout. No ticket for the train yet? No worries the track isn't posted yet and see, we can buy it out of that machine. Does the tour start in a half hour? Great! We have time for a cappuccino! While I paced around with a worried/anxious look on my face, they seemed relaxed, in control, and confident in their decisions. And guess what, we were actually on time every time and never missed a thing!
Wanting to impart some of my years of travel wisdom to them, I sometimes had the opportunity to make a suggestion. This usually occurred on the rare occasion that their GPS directions were unclear, or we were met with a language barrier, or something just didn't appear right. "Why don't we
ask someone?" was my usual go-to, met with intense eye-rolling, huffing/puffing, not-going-to-happen response. Leave a little bit early was another of my motherly suggestions. More eye-rolling. Print out boarding passes...LOLOLOL!!!!
All in all, it worked out just fine. After a few days I found myself relaxing, loosening my grip on needing to control our every move and decision. What was happening? How were the tables turning? And was this a good thing? What I learned about the girls was that I had raised smart, confident adventurous women. What I learned about myself was that I also was a confident and adventurous woman. And smart enough to know when to step aside so the next generation could teach me a thing or two about life in the 21st century.

Lori Danuff McKean recently retired from the US Forest Service and splits her time between Pennsylvania and Boynton Beach. When she isn’t visiting her children and grandchildren, she enjoys hiking, kayaking, and relaxing on the beach.

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