Sunday, May 12, 2013

Suitcase Stories: Traveling with Mom

In honor of Mother's Day, here's a story of another one of my favorite road trips from a few years ago...


So once upon a time I bought a plane ticket to a friend’s wedding in Greece, but I couldn’t find anyone to travel with me, so I decided to swallow a change fee and travel elsewhere the following spring. (Clearly this was before I realized solo travel was something that 1) existed and 2) I was capable of.) Sure enough, the following spring, I wound up with a friend in Spain for a period of time to perform with a trapeze troupe who invited me to come visit (no, I’m not making this up). Unfortunately, about 3 weeks before I was to visit, the troupe’s tourist visas expired, the circus failed to ever get them work visas, and they were essentially deported and not allowed to return for a short period of time (no, I’m not making this up either). Since I didn’t want to change my ticket *again*, and since I didn’t want to travel alone, I sought out a willing travel partner. After asking a few friends, I mentioned the idea to my mom on a whim, and surprisingly, she said yes. So, a week before my departure, my mom was cashing in Delta points for a plane ticket, and the entire course of my trip changed. Or rather, the course I planned to take remained the same – arrive in Madrid, rent a car, drive west to Portugal, south through AndalucĂ­a, then back up to Madrid via Toledo – it’s just that now, the feel of the trip, the goals, the experiences, would take on a much different feel.

Me & Mom in Sintra, Portugal, circa 2010

We agreed on a few rules to start… I would essentially guide our travels, both driving and navigating, I would cover the costs of our hotel stays (while avoiding the dorm-style bunk rooms that I would have likely sought with friends), and she would cover most of our big meals (since we both like to eat often and well). We mapped out a few major stops that we wanted to shoot for – major sights and cities – and we left a few days open for whatever we happened upon.

Madrid was our first stop. I cashed in the last of my Starwood points for a couple of nights at the (incredible, gorgeous, perfectly-located) Westin, and as soon as we arrived we sought out a snack (a common theme). We stopped at Estado Puro, right next to our hotel with an incredible menu, where, in the midst of translation challenges and menu deciphering with the host, we met another mother-daughter pair just finishing a two-week tour of Spain. After chatting with Stephanie and Bea over lunch, exchanging stories and soaking up recommendations, we were certain it had been an omen of good fortune. Madrid proved to be just as beautiful as we could have hoped, full of incredible food and amazing art.

El Botin, Madrid, Spain

The trip would take us winding through Spain and Portugal, exploring big cities and beautiful, artful towns. We ate deliciously, slept well (mostly), and made sure we took time each day to write our own journals of our experiences. She did encourage me to “get out” one night, as I had an opportunity to meet with a friend of a friend, a local in Lisbon who took me out to dinner with friends (at midnight), and the open street drinking (around 2am), and the dance club (until I begged to leave at 6am)… but mostly we got up early, took in the day, and enjoyed late dinners and quiet restful nights. And I have to admit, it was pretty nice.

It was an experience I wouldn’t trade for the world. While simply seeing and exploring this new part of the world would have been incredible all on its own, it was made that much more special by not just sharing it with my mom, but introducing her to the adventure. We did have some squabbles (primarily involving me driving, navigating, being lost, being hungry, and refusing to ask for directions because 1. I’m stubborn, and 2. I don’t speak Spanish), but we worked through the challenges, and we learned quite a bit about each other in the process. And as a result, grew closer not just as mother and daughter, but as friends, and as adults.

Granada, Spain


  1. This is awesome, and I would love to do something similar with my mom. Also, I know how you are when you're cranky from lack of food, so that part was hilarious for me :)

    1. Traveling with mom happened a bit by accident, but it was such a wonderful experience!! Would she be up for seeing Scotland with you?? And yes, it's no secret that no food = hangry me :) I'd better stock up on snacks during this trip!!