This Mother’s Day I am thinking about the unique role mothers play in travel.
Traveling As a Kid
When I was a child, my mother would organize a big trip every other year. Sometimes it was a road trip, like the time we drove across the midwest to Yellowstone National Park and Grand Teton in Jackson Hole, Wyoming stopping at Mount Rushmore, and every other tourist trap along the way. In her infinite wisdom, she tried to express that the “Pizza Ranch” somewhere in western South Dakota was not the good lunch spot my father had insisted it would be. She was right. We never forgot.
One trip to Disneyland and San Francisco included every theme park she could find (even Knotsberry Farm.) We didn’t grow up with money but my mother insisted on making travel a priority to show us the things the country had to offer. We never left the country as children, but she gave us a sense of excitement with a trip upcoming we had something to look forward to and something new to learn.
As a complete “av-geek” every chance to get on an airplane was a memorable opportunity. She found ways to work in visits to the Hemingway House in Key West, Florida because she knew I wanted to be a writer, amongst snorkeling in choppy seas (less fun than it sounds.)
She won an all-expenses-paid trip to Hawaii my freshman year of college but was sure to schedule a visit to the U.S.S. Arizona and reflect on Pearl Harbor. At the time, I didn’t have a level of respect and appreciation for what it was, but now, I’m incredibly grateful she included experiences like those in our trips.
My Turn to Show Her The World
When my wife and I moved to England shortly after we married, my parents came over for a visit. We were young and broke but had some of the best memories from that trip. In less than two weeks, as they’d never visited Europe before, we took them to three different cities in England, Paris, Florence, Rome and Milan-ish (Bergamo.) That trip was filled with shared bathroom hotels, refilling water bottles because we couldn’t afford much else, dangerously racing to the train station for a train that was ultimately 30 minutes late in leaving, and eating untold amounts of gelato.
That trip introduced me to my parents in a way I hadn’t known them before, more as friends and rather than authority figures. They played along as I convinced an unsuspecting tourist from New Jersey that I was an archeological tour guide at the Colesseum and that we had “recently just discovered” [leans in close] “the skeletal remains of the world’s only known unicorn.” The tourist was enthralled until we let him in on the joke. We took a bus ride to nowhere for an hour where the Italian driver pulled over and had his lunch in a park. With us on board – for another 30 minutes. We were amateurs figuring it out and it was great.
We stumbled into a random alley to see a dimly lit restaurant and had one of the most memorable meals of our lives. We saw the Eiffel Tower, the Leaning Tower of Pisa, and the cabins of many RyanAir 737s.
Later, I used my miles to bring her and my brother on a trip to Asia. We saw her politely struggle through a Sichuan tripe dish, endure a rainy day at Hong Kong’s Peak covered in fog, and went island-hopping in Thailand. I’ll never forget being treated like royalty at the Grand Hyatt Erawan in Bangkok, picked up in a Mercedes, and checked in from our suite. We introduced her to her first business class experience and Cathay Pacific’s The Pier and were able to show her the things she never knew thought she’d do.
It was an amazing experience to show her some of our favorite places in the world.
My Wife Is A Mom Travel Expert
Seeing my wife travel with our daughter has been an eye-opening experience. When Lucy was just eight weeks old we took her on her first international flight to Curaçao with her mother. Exhausted, Carly sat upright caring for our daughter as we flew for hours in the early morning. Later that year on the aforementioned trip to Asia with my mother, my wife took care of our 11-month-old daughter who fell terribly ill during a 16-hour flight to Hong Kong.
Somehow, she always managed to carry necessities like a bottle of water or a new toy for Lucy to discover when things like that completely evade me. She’s a traveler that became a mother and pulled them both off simultaneously. She did the research for strollers and entry requirements, she still carries all six of our passports (two each due to visas in old passports.) When I was selfishly absorbed in a movie or a meal, she was cutting our daughter’s food and watching Disney films.
It’s complicated to travel with children, but both motherhood and travel have always come naturally to her, as has the amalgamation of the two.
This year, I’m thinking of the Mother’s Day gifts I’d like to give them both. My mom loves beach vacations and I wish I was taking her on one of those this year instead of spending it apart. I’d rather treat my wife to a walking tour of the medina in Marrakech than a Hallmark card but we aren’t quite there yet. Until then, I enjoy reflecting on both of their travel journeys as mothers occupying a special and difficult role.
What do you think? Do you have any special traveling memories with your mother or the mother of your children?