“Oh, I could never travel with my mother!” I’ve heard this from many people when I tell them about the trips my Mom and I took together.
We traveled to Myrtle Beach.
We traveled to Wisconsin.
We traveled to Indianapolis.
We traveled to Ireland.
We traveled to Rio de Janeiro.
The trip to Rio was actually our first. I came over to my mom’s house one day and she said, “Guess where I’m going? Rio!”
“Rio, Brazil?” I asked.
“I guess so,” she said.
She wanted to take one of us girls with her and thought that, since my sister was older, she should get the first chance. My sister, Lucy, was unwilling to go through what she saw as the incredible hassle of acquiring a passport. I already had a passport, which was not that much trouble to get, so my sister ceded me the first opportunity. She took the next one.
After that we took turns traveling with our mother. Lucy accompanied her on domestic trips (including a cruise to Hawaii), and I went on the international ones, along with a few here in the States. Occasionally, mom would take both of us on a short trip to a nearby state, but these were not nearly as much fun.
I understand why some people would not enjoy traveling with their mothers, but I have no such problem. I once had an awful trip to and from San Francisco with my mother-in-law, but that was because of cancelled flights, rerouting, and lightning visible outside the plane window. It was the trip from hell. To hell. Changing in hell. With a layover in hell. None of that was due to my mother-in-law, however.
There were certain aspects of traveling with my mother that I found especially engaging. One was her willingness to try new things. New foods, new beverages, new means of travel, new destinations – new experiences in general. She didn’t always like them, but by God she tried them. She took a sip of her caipirinha, made a face, and handed it to me. (So did several other ladies on the trip. I got soused, but not so much that I couldn’t translate their money for them.)
Another was her sheer delight in whatever was happening. One time in Rio we had to get up early for a tour and didn’t have time to go to the buffet, so we ordered in breakfast. When it came my mother started exclaiming over the tiny pots of jam and the carafe of hot chocolate – how cute and convenient they were.
“Mom, haven’t you ever had room service before?” I asked. She had not. I had traveled on business and was quite used to the service, but it was all new to her.
She also didn’t mind that I arranged things, and took over planning for some of our free time. Of course I factored in her likes and dislikes and made sure to work in the scenic tours or landmarks she particularly wanted to see. But if I wanted to start a shopping expedition in the local gem shops, or thought spending a few hours on the beach would be nice, that was fine with her.
We also had similar tastes in scheduling. Neither of us was able to fit in with the Brazilian custom of having dinner after 9 o’clock p.m. By that time we were both ready to settle in for the evening and get ready for bed after a long day of running around and sightseeing. And if my activities proved too strenuous or lengthy for her, I would find a cafe where we could stop and have a cold drink, rest our feet, and relax until we were both ready to carry on.
I liked the guided tours she booked through AAA. While they did allow some free time for individually chosen activities, for the most part they provided a bus, a driver, a tour guide, scenic and historic destinations, and times and places to eat. I know this is considered a drawback by many people. But it was much easier on both of us to have these details already arranged. I was not ready to handle the details of renting a car, driving a car in an unfamiliar country, planning an itinerary, dealing with the luggage, making hotel or bed and breakfast reservations, and all the other details that the tour company took such good care of. Mom was adventuresome, but not a seasoned traveler, and I was more than willing to let someone else do the heavy lifting – literally and figuratively. It left more time and attention for enjoying ourselves.
Sometimes Mom’s innocence was touching. In Ireland we stayed a couple of nights in a bed and breakfast. Mom never quite got the idea that, although we were staying in someone’s home, it was a business arrangement. When we left, she gave the proprietors the world’s ugliest hand-crocheted pillow, waved at them, and promised, “I’ll write!” But then, she was used to having international crocheting penpals, and once one of them came to stay with us for a visit. She probably thought that was how it always worked.
Even the domestic trips were fun. In Wisconsin we bought assorted local cheeses and the bus driver had a cooler to pack them so the whole bus didn’t smell like garlic cheddar. In Myrtle Beach, Mom wanted to fish off the pier. She caught one fish, at most five inches long, but her smile was wide and her eyes were bright. She let another fisher on the pier have her prize catch – after I took a picture of her with it.
Eventually, Mom’s health declined and she wasn’t able to travel anymore. She told me once that when she was a little girl, she used to watch the planes fly over and think that she would never get to go on one to some exotic place.
I’m so glad I was with her when she finally did.