By Natalie Preddie (Adapted by Ensemble Travel) · February 2021
Traveling with my mother has not only taught me the importance of quality time and creating priceless memories, but how to be a better mother. And, the lessons I’ve learned from her while traveling have stuck with me, and they continue to be the very reasons why I travel.
I inherited the travel bug from my mother. Her need to explore and create new experiences was contagious. Partially fuelled by her own desire to see the world while simultaneously encouraging us kids to learn more, dig deeper, and push boundaries led us across Europe, through Asia, and into Africa. Celebrating wanderlust was a big part of our lives and superseded other family purchases like new cars, kitchen renovations, or a new deck.
Now I am a mother, traveling with two little boys (and another baby on the way), and hoping to provide my sons with the same mindset. Unfortunately, these childhood lessons can easily get lost in stroller struggles at the airport, wondering if I packed enough diapers, and praying my teething baby isn’t the one wailing throughout the flight. It is easy to get flustered and buried in the details instead of appreciating the bigger picture.
As a family travel writer, I often travel with my kids. My husband, a traditional nine-to-fiver, isn’t always available, so my mother, newly retired, comes with the kids and me. This time that we spend traveling together has made me a better traveler and definitely a better mum. From highlighting the importance of priceless memories, experiencing a destination in a new way, and just the calming powers that grandmother/mum provides, I truly believe that traveling with my mother has made me a better parent.
Perhaps because she is a step removed from the chaos, it is easier for her to notice when beautiful memories are being created. Sometimes I need a reminder to stop and appreciate what is happening in that moment – I need to mentally capture the look on my son’s face as he discovers something new, embrace the opportunity to have meaningful interactions, or even just watch my mother share a loving look, a hug, or a kiss with my children.
At some point, family adventures will be less of a priority for the kids. They will have less time for me, let alone grandma. And at the risk of sounding morbid, my mother won’t be around forever – we both know that – so the importance of creating and enjoying these moments is key. Having raised three children and watched them leave the nest, my mother appreciates that time flies by faster than one thinks it will and having her with me forces me to slow down and truly enjoy our time together as a family.
One of the reasons I love traveling with the kids is watching their faces discover something new. The look on my son’s face when he sees a peacock wandering by or when we are soaring over city lights at night is pure awe and joy. Many experiences that I take for granted are completely original for not only my kids, but also my mother. On a recent trip, we saw Il Divo perform while we ate sushi; on another, we spent time in a sea turtle hospital; and another time, we were upgraded to a suite on one of the most beautiful beaches in the world. I love that I can share these unique experiences with my mum. There are things that she hasn’t yet enjoyed and places she didn’t even know she wanted to explore. I am happy that I can be part of this new phase of her life, bringing her back to travel while simultaneously taking her someplace new. Between my mother and my kids, I get to rediscover the world from these unique vantage points.
There is something about being with my mother that instills a therapeutic sense of security. Whether it’s a cuddle or a reassuring word, it is especially comforting when it comes from mum. I remember connecting flights with two screaming children, standing in an endless customs line, dealing with a very rude airline staff member and, finally, bursting into tears. Having my mother there to offer a sense of calm amidst a flurry of chaos was the only reason I made it through that moment. I was able to pull strength from her and, in turn, pass that energy onto my kids. Her presence and patience (that she seemed to lack with me as a kid!) can calm a fussy baby (or mother), stop a tantrum in its tracks, and steer a sticky situation into something seemingly less overwhelming.
My mother is generally an open book when it comes to her adventure-filled existence. On a recent trip, however, there was a moment when the boys were napping, and it was just the two of us lying in the sun. We started chatting, somehow landing on the topic of ex-boyfriends, and she spilled all about a major relationship in her life that I had never heard of before. Long-distance love, broken hearts, misunderstandings, unanswered questions – it was a relationship that had shaped her and gave me insight into some of her major decisions in life. She was relatable and reflective. We connected not only as mother/daughter but as women who have shared and grown from a similar experience.
It is conversations like these that seem to arise only when we are traveling. At times when we are both away from home, in new surroundings, sharing a new experience, a certain vulnerability unmasks itself and we can truly learn and connect with one another.
Aside from the practical benefits of having an extra pair of hands to help with luggage or change a diaper, arms to carry a child or push a stroller, traveling with my mother is one of my favorite adventures. Learning about the woman who raised me in a new light, surrounded by her maternal energy while creating priceless family memories is an experience in love and gratitude that I feel more people should enjoy.