Let me preface this article with the following: I am an adult. I don’t live at home. I do my own laundry and have even learned to iron a shirt (sort of – the sleeves still give me grief). I ask my parents for financial help, but only rarely, only when it’s been a particularly boozy month or if there’s an emergency, like I want something. I’m pretty normal.
Recently this normality was put to the test when I agreed to travel for two weeks on a group trip with my mother.
‘Aren’t you taking your girlfriend?’ my mates/co-workers/concerned strangers asked.
‘Nup, just me and ma.’
There was so much judgement in that ‘oh’, so many questions unasked. Okay, mostly just one question: ‘Why?’
For a lot of people, travelling with their mother isn’t seen as a particularly cool thing to do. But there are a hundred and one benefits if you know where to look; from the practical (shouting you the odd meal) to the poignant (seeing the world’s most amazing sights with the world’s most amazing person).
So for all those about to embark on a trip with their moms here are a few things you can look forward to.
1. Massive kudos
This was a lesson I learned on the first day of our trip. I introduced myself to the group, and then announced, ‘And this is my mom.’ A chorus of ‘nawwwwwws’ ran around the room. It was like the most adorable thing I could have declared that didn’t involve rescuing orphaned puppies. It turns out travelling with your mom generates massive kudos from fellow travellers. For the rest of the trip we were ‘James and mom’, the endearing super team. Any embarrassing mom jokes were worn with honour.
2. Memories that actually matter
Posing with your mom next to a monument or a temple doesn’t feel particularly cool at the time, but you learn to appreciate it later. I often don’t feature in my own travel photos (I’m pretty vain and my forehead always looks weird), but this trip mom insisted on lots of shots together. Mother and son in front of the Golden Pavilion. Mother and son eating miso soup in matching jumpers. It was nice, when we got back, to browse through those awkward photos. You realise how few of them you actually have, and how precious they’ll be one day.
3. A ready-made team
On our trip there were a few activities (like cooking classes) where people had to divide off into pairs. In these situations, always go with mom. For starters, her cooking game is probably strong after looking after you for so long. But more importantly, the activities become a lot more memorable if you’re doing them with mom, rather than a stranger. In years to come you can look back and say things like ‘Remember when we made those funny-shaped soba noodles? Yeah, good times…’
4. A few… practical benefits
Okay, I’ll admit it: I don’t really know how to use washing machines. Mom helped me navigate the shady world of coin laundries, taught me to pack a suitcase properly and was an expert in the fine art of not losing train tickets. When it comes to organisation, moms really do know best. And organisation on a trip can mean the difference between a breezy stroll through customs and a frantic (and very public) rummage for your passport.
5. Giving something back
One thing I learned is that often trips like this will feel more significant to mom than they do to you. And that’s okay. My mom is more sentimental than me by nature, and the idea of travelling with her firstborn probably brought back memories of family trips to Gippsland and Tasmania in the 90s; memories that are hazy to me at best. It was nice to be able to give something back, to do something that (although small to me) was a big deal for mom.
6. Time to really catch up
Travelling with your mom is a chance to actually talk. Even though I drop in for dinners when I can back home, they’re always rushed, brief, work-focused. It was nice, for once, to have the time to just sit and chat. In the humdrum bustle of everyday life, those moments are few and far between; but when you’re stuck on a three-hour train journey, or waiting in an airport lounge, there isn’t a lot else to do. I reckon I learned more about my mom in two weeks of travel than I had in the last two years.