Before I begin, I should start with a little brief on the kind of woman and the kind of traveller my mom is. She’s fierce, she has an open-minded heart, and she has an independence and an attitude we all wish we had. Oh, and she’s a major PLANNER.
Earlier this year I tell her that Intrepid is letting her come on a trip with me to the Galapagos Islands for 9 days and she doesn’t have to plan a single thing. She’s elated. And she secretly Googles every single detail of the itinerary on the website.
So, off we go.
We get to the Galapagos Islands and it turns out we are actually on a 9-day boat tour, and not the land tour that Akiko so diligently studied the details of. There’s a glimmer of panic on mom’s face but she laughs with a little quiver and says, “I hope I packed enough Gravol”.
I’m having a full-on meltdown by the time we get on the boat but when we get to our sleeping quarters, mom starts bouncing up and down on the bottom bunk. She has a cheeky grin and says, “I’ve never slept in a cabin like this before! My first boat experience! It will be such an adventure.” I sit down beside her, we both start giggling and I finally stop sweating.
We’re not even a day in and mom has managed to remind me of the most important travel rule: laugh it off and stay open minded to sudden changes. Because it’s true when they say that moms know best.
As each of us may know from our own experiences travelling, the more we leave our comfort zones, the more experiential and authentic our adventures abroad become. Neither my mom nor I had been to the Galapagos Islands but we both yearned to go there. I never imagined it’d be together, but here we were.
I’m a photographer by nature and not a writer, and while I could show you hundreds of photos of all of the experiences we shared, here are my written thoughts on watching my mom leap fully out of her comfort zone. She woke up with a smile, she ate breakfast and lunch with a smile, she hiked with a smile, and she snorkeled with the most zeal I’ve ever seen. It was empowering, it was exciting and it simply made me happy.
Her enthusiasm radiated out to her surroundings, and because she has one of those smiles that just make your heart feel warm, everyone around us felt welcome. Mom was not only naturally ‘popular’ amongst the team, I myself was stoked to be around her positivity.
Here’s another travel fact about Akiko: she is used to staying in inclusive accommodations with people she’s comfortable with. Seldom has she been grouped with a handful of new and colorful personalities – let alone in a small living space where everyone shares their meals and daily activities together.
Our Galapagos tour had a group of 12, excluding the boat crew. This included a pair of honeymooning dentists from Nova Scotia, a youth worker from the UK, an investor with his two university student kids, a solo Swiss wanderluster, an adorable couple from New Zealand, a couple from Down Under, and a semi-pro photographer from London (who gave me a good run for my money).
The youth worker, John, stole the humor boat on the first day, along with uni student Ollie. Neither of them had a problem giving us all healthy ab workouts for the next 8 days.
Now we all know what moms can be like when you swear and make inappropriate jokes, so you can imagine that it was quite possibly the best experience of my life to see her laughing SO hard and even joining in with John and Ollie’s endless jokes. Everyone had something unique to bring to our lively team and we became a sort of family in no time at all.
It was refreshing to see mom’s openness. She connected with types of people she had no previous experience with and listened to their stories with an open heart.
Our days in the Galapagos are packed to the brim with activities and experiences. Seeing as that’s generally the way most of my trips go, I was ready. Mom, however, was two steps ahead of me and was up at 5am every morning without fail – prepped, ready to go and already fueled by coffee by the time I even blinked my eyes open.
Our days always included an adventure on land as well as one at sea. We’d travel by boat to all different isles in the Galapagos, and were never short of walks and hikes. Along with these walks, snorkeling was a daily occurrence.
Imagine BBC’s Blue Planet AND Planet Earth series in real life but 5 times BETTER, because, it’s right there, right in front of you and it’s happening in real life and the animals that you saw on your screen are living and breathing with you.
Digging into my mom’s life a little deeper – she’ll likely cringe reading this about herself because she’s so humble it’s laughable – she’s hard working and has been a ferocious female role model since I was in my early teens. She’s bold and she believes in boundless learning and is continuously creating opportunities for herself in her personal and professional life. That said, a woman with this much willpower seldom lets loose and does things just for herself.
This trip was the first one in a long time where she actually didn’t have to worry about a single thing, and she got to wake up and play outside and laugh with her new friends for over a week. This kind of bliss will start showing on anyone’s face after a day in the Galapagos and I think it might have been the reason the islands became my favorite destination I’ve ever travelled to (and likely why I cried when I came home because I just wanted to stay forever).
I got to see her giggle and feel wonder everyday. Like the rest of my 20-something counterparts, we are trying our best to save money, network and grow into adults. Moments with your parents enjoying simple pleasures abroad together are rare, or don’t exist at all.
This experience we shared together will likely never be repeated. That’s just one reason why it’s possibly the best gift we’ve been given to date.
Want to experience the trip that Mirae and her mom went on? Check out our 8-day Pure Galapagos tour.
For more trips to the Galapagos Islands, check out Intrepid’s range of small group adventures there.