In less than 9 days, my mom will be stepping on a plane and finding herself in another country surrounded by a different language to come hang out and travel with me in Spain. It may be unbeknownst to her but it’s been essentially ten years in the making for this opportunity to come!
When I first studied abroad in London, I remember fellow mates sharing their excitement of their parents visiting and I felt like the lone wolf. It hadn’t even dawned on me that it was a great opportunity for my mom to come. I had worked hard to save money but my parents didn’t have time off work to come and visit, let alone a travel fund big enough to fully appreciate London- The city is bloody expensive.
When I took off to Africa six years later, my mom and I briefly chatted about visiting me somewhere on the continent but we’d wait and see when and where. On long, cross country bus rides, we’d often chat via text despite being continents apart and balancing day vs. night time zones. I distinctly remember on one such trip: I pressed my head against the cold window as rain pounded against the bus, feeling lonely until I chatted with my mom via text on my basic of basics mobile phone about the possibility of meeting me in South Africa. Our text messages felt heaven sent, a connection to my mom and my homeland, while I was often in the middle of nowhere, unsure of myself, what I was doing or why. Our brief conversations always uplifted me, encouraged me, inspired me and I wondered just what I’d do without this piece of technology, something I had resisted when I initially landed on the continent!
I had been to South Africa before and it was where I was inspired to return and traverse the continent. I wanted to at least share Cape town with her at the very least and I’d be ending my trip there if all went well. My mom was keen. A first step in creating a plan! We exchanged ideas about dates and flights but as things happened I was feeling burnt out and was going to be arriving to Cape town in May just as winter begins. Did it make sense for her to spend 2 weeks in Cape town with the possibility of being rained on the whole time? And hang out with me when I wasn’t feeling the travel spirit? In hindsight, who cares about rain?! You can still appreciate a place but the timing wasn’t right!
Then I returned home, focused on myself, my “career” and creating community. I had no idea when I’d go on an adventure again, and I wondered if the travel bug had left me for someone else because I didn’t feel the itch… for three years.
So now the moment we’ve both waited for is upon us and now I don’t know how to feel. I don’t know what I feel.
I am: Excited. Happy. Elated.
But it still feels so damn surreal.
Everyone around me knows my mom is coming because it definitely is something to talk about and look forward to! Teachers at my school, private students, and friends ask about her visit and our plans and despite planning since December- from what is the best hotel or airbnb apartment to day trips, cafés to try and must-sees- it doesn’t feel real.I recite our plans from memory and they graciously give their two cents on los sitios que merecen la pena, Basque spots that are worth seeing, how long is too long to stay in a place (which is all relative and subjective) and foods to try. I quickly jot recommendations down, make a mental note to spend even more time on the computer looking up info and thanking them, because as much as I like knowing information, I tend to NOT be a big planner when it comes to travel.
Planning has it’s place but I tend to be the more “pick up and go” type of traveler; let’s see who we met and what we find, which serves me well most of the time. On occasion, I kick myself in the bum when I realize I could have done X or Y, if I had only known.
My mom is the planner. She wants to know what is possible. She likes to be informed. I’ve appreciated her curiosity because it’s forced me to read and learn about the very place I’m living and discover places to see that are practically in my neighborhood yet I haven’t seen yet. I’m learning a lot and I know our trip will be much more fulfilling because of all or our research and knowing our possibilities.
I’m also learning a lot about myself and how far I’ve come.
My mom has insisted from the beginning that she wants to stay in a hotel. She knows my laid-back ways of travel an my open-ness to staying in various types of accommodation. Despite constantly reassuring her I’ve outgrown hostels and we WON’T couch surf, I have sensed her anxiousness at finding a good place to stay. A place we’ll like. A place where we will rest comfortably and is close to the center of the city. I’ve accommodated her requests and have flinched on occasion when I realize we may be spending 100 US dollars a night when I’m used to staying in cheaper places; however, I also know this is a once in a lifetime chance to share with mom where I live and where I’ve been calling home for almost two years and discover new places together.
To travel together in Europe.
Wow. Yes, it’s happening! Crazy.
I’ve been thinking about my very own experience and just when did I become the care-free, easy-going relaxed traveler? I can’t pinpoint the moment but experience gives you comfort and confidence. Though my mom has been to Europe, it’s been almost four decades. Things have changed. She has changed. It makes perfect sense she wants to plan and that she’s become Rick Steves new best friend (He never appealed to me but he’s so successful because he KNOWS his audience). It’s a BIG deal to get on a 10 hour plane ride, hear a different language on the daily, eat new foods and adapt to a different eating schedule, deal with public transport, and a distinct culture. Things I no longer think about or realize are different but are huge if you’re not used to it.
I’m blessed to have had plenty of opportunities to travel and no longer think about all the details that go in to it. Travel has become normal, a part of my life. I forget that ten years ago, I stepped on a plane for the first time without my parents for a 3 month adventure studying abroad in London. I had worries, fears, and uncertainties but my curiosity won and one opportunity lead to another. I’ve overcome those fears simply by traveling and gaining experience. Travel comes easy and I hope after my mom’s two week visit exploring Basque country and eating pintxos and txakoli, taking public transit and roaming around new cities, she’ll feel even more confident about traveling abroad.
Mom, I can’t wait to hug you at the airport, discover things together, hang out with you, roam the streets, eat our heart’s out and chat. The countdown has officially begun! We’re going to have an amazing time!