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The Family Reunion I Needed

"Do you need my hand?" my little brother asked. We stood in the San Jacinto Mountains near Palm Springs in 108-degree weather, a steep slope of rocks and shrubs stretched in front of us. I'd always had a fear of walking down hills and narrow staircases. Sometimes my fear would be so overwhelming that I'd squat my bum firmly on the ground and refuse to move.

"I don't trust my feet," I said.

"I know," he answered. He held his hand out—his long outstretched arms and giant frame anything but little. Where was the toddler I hid under the blankets with because roaches would be flying around our room at night? The kid I helped clean off scrapes when my parents weren't home yet? The teen I tried to comfort after I watched him cry when we say goodbye to our dad?

He used to be afraid of everything. Instead here I was, gripping his hand and asking for his help because I was too scared to fall.

Above: Hike in the San Jacinto Mountains through the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway, which goes up to 8,516 feet!

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While my brother helped me down the mountain, I thought about the solo walk my mom had taken that morning around Renaissance Indian Wells Resort, where we reunited for the weekend to celebrate my brother's 21st birthday and my mom's 60th. She had come back to the room all excited with the biggest smile I had seen from her in a while.

Above: Room with two queen beds at Renaissance Indian Wells Resort and Spa overlooking the resort

"There was a guy with a hawk!" She said in Mandarin. She immediately pulled out her phone and told us to look (She just recently learned how to take selfies). Swiping through the photos, she recounted how the hawk was a great and intelligent listener.

"It's good to be out," she said. "It's good to be able to fly away and take a break."

Then, my 60-year-young mom started talking about backpacking trips she wanted to take and all the places she wanted us to go—my mom, who spent half of her life working in different travel agencies, was finally able to start traveling for herself, to take a break.

"Your dad was never really a fan of traveling. I wish we all traveled more together as a family when you were still kids. We can do that now."

"It'll cost so much," I said, the realist forever ingrained in me. I mean, I already only get to see my family a couple times a year.

"You've got to stop worrying sometimes. Relax. Let go. Take risks."

"You're starting to sound like a fortune cookie, mom." We laughed, but she was right.

Above: Whirlpool at Spa Esmeralda, which offers facials, massages and body treatments

What my mom said seemed to be a common theme that weekend. Even during my Thaiyurveda herbal massage, the massage therapist seemed to read me and said, "Don't hold everything in your stomach. Don't internalize everything. ... Let it go."

So I let it go. And I jumped in the pool (even though I can't swim). And I ate a ton of gelato (even though I'm lactose intolerant). And I said yes to walking down steep mountains more than 8,000 feet above sea level.

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Because all I had to do was look up and away from my feet to see my little brother's hand guiding mine.

All the Details

Hotel name: Renaissance Indian Wells Resort and Spa

Address: 44400 Indian Wells Ln, Indian Wells, CA 92210

Rates: Summer rates from $101; A two-room family package, "All About That Space," also offers a second room at a great rate, which is perfect for family travels

Indulgence: Thaiyurveda herbal massage at Spa Esmeralda, $215, 90 min. See a list of other spa services here.

Kid-Friendly: Renaissance Indian Wells Resort and Spa is one of the best kid-friendly resorts in the area—featuring Camp Oasis (a kids' activities day camp), movie nights and events like kids' dance parties!

(Disclosure: Renaissance Indian Wells Resort and Spa provided press accommodations for this trip. No other compensation was received. All opinions are my own.)

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