Why I travel with my mother

written by Taylor Au May 17, 2017
Taylor Au and her mother

Twenty-one years ago, my mom flew halfway across the world to adopt me from China, and we have continued to travel ever since. Together, we have reached all seven continents together and have learned to cherish the gift of travel.

For me and my mom, travelling has always been an integral part of our identities. We are a team that loves to expand our horizon and mindset. She takes care of me, and I try my best to do the same. Our travel style is very indicative of both our mother-daughter relationship and also our approach to living a happy and intentional life.

We travel simply.

You will find us referencing local maps, matching symbols, and using a physical compass for reference. We walk for miles each day and enjoy hopping on the local buses or trains. For us, navigating the public transportation system is both a challenge and serendipitous adventure. It gives us one of the best snapshots of the place we are experiencing.

My mom grew up in the age of typewriters and black-and-white TVs so we do some things the old-fashioned way.

For instance, we print out information on everything we anticipate needing beforehand – where we are staying, sightseeing spots, etc… We even bring physical copies of the weather forecast! There’s a bit of adventure and mystery that comes with embracing the spontaneous weather changes that come our way.

Taylor's mother takes instruction from Maasai warriors

Taylor’s mother takes instruction from Maasai warriors

We minimise our usage of electronics, except for emergencies. This means no smartphones, no laptops, and no social media. Turning off virtual distractions allows us to tune into the world around us.

Inter-generational travel is unusual, although it is becoming more common. I asked my mom why she has always travelled with me and her initial response was brief and light-hearted: “I wasn’t leaving you at home when you were a baby… I didn’t want to pay the single rate!” I waited patiently for her to elaborate.

She eventually explained: “I have money to spend, I have time to spare, and most importantly, I have you. If I should depart this life early, I want you to make sure we share experiences together. I love you.”

My mom adopted me later in life, and we have learned to acknowledge our limited time on this Earth and enjoy moments spent together. We have an understanding when it comes to unconditional love, our relationship is the benchmark for what it means to love with kindness, patience, and forgiveness.

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Because my mom is not easily swayed by expensive or glamorous excursions, we both agree that our greatest trinkets from a trip are the memories and experiences we make together.

One of the reasons we chose to travel with Intrepid was because of their commitment to sustainable tourism practices. It felt great to book a trip with a reputable company that actively respects the people, cultural, and local environments.

We chose their Kenya Wildlife Safari camping trip because in addition to learning about Kenyan culture, we wanted to try something different – camping –  while we were both physically healthy and able.

Taylor and her mother with Maasai warrioirs

Taylor and her mother with Maasai warrioirs

Although my mom is older, she prides herself in having twice the energy of anyone, regardless of their age. Maybe adopting me later in life knocked 20 years off her life, but she doesn’t identify as being old, afraid, or too set in her ways. She is quite the opposite: spunky, courageous, and independent. For one thing, she can hold a seven-minute plank!

So we thought to ourselves, what better way to immerse ourselves in a country than by camping?

Living simply with Intrepid Travel was a step outside of our comfort zone, but it was also an exhilarating and enriching experience. Each morning we rose to a powerful sunrise, and each night we fell asleep underneath the vibrant stars of the Milky Way. Overall, there was something really special about spending time in the wild… knowing that rain or shine, nature continues to exist.

Taylor with Maasai warriors

Taylor with Maasai warriors

The entire trip was rich with one-on-one personal interactions. One of my favourite memories was spending an evening sitting at a campfire creating an English-Swahili-Maasai dictionary of words with Maasai warriors.

As a part of a one-day tour with Urban Adventures, we also spent a day with Cecilia, an optimistic female entrepreneur. We walked the streets of her neighbourhood and learned about her aspirations for herself and her community.

Taylor's mother makes chapatti with Cecilia

Taylor’s mother makes chapatti with Cecilia

The trip was an illustration of one of the things I have taught my mom through travel: how we, as tourists, have the power to make smarter and better choices with how we travel. In turn, my mom has taught me how to live simply and simply live in the present. Together, we help each other challenge preconceived notions, try to better understand our local and global impact, and make the most of the limited time we have together on this planet.

She is my preferred roommate (partly because I can sleep through her loud snores). I am her go-to travel buddy.

Editor’s note: Taylor and her mother travelled on Intrepid’s Kenya Wildlife Safari. Watch a video about the trip below – and look out for cameos from Taylor at 1 min 30 secs and 2 min 10 secs!

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