I’ve been back almost a week. I finally manage to call my mother and have our regular catch up, except this time the hours flow and the natter does not stop. In many ways, it’s good to be back.
We joked our usual jokes, ‘Where did you get all this from?’. We laughed at her calling me the Ugly Duckling (this is a new favourite of ours) and she jests, ‘It wasn’t hard enough for you was it?’. No, not like the Himalayas. Not even close. How do mothers always know?
‘Are there any mountains left to climb?’ Yes, hundreds and hundreds! ‘Oh, okay…’ When will this craziness stop? – she is thinking.
When I returned, I emailed my parents a few pictures of my trip. Machu Picchu and I being one of them (you’ve seen it already). She comments, ‘I like the one with the construction’. Now, bearing in mind that she is a civil engineer, this is actually a rather clever comment. It did make me chuckle however, ‘You mean…Machu Picchu?!’
Mum loves this kind of stuff though. How people a long long time ago managed to make roads and buildings which lasted hundreds of thousands of years. She has a lot of respect for it. It’s the civil engineer in her, she just can’t help herself from being awe-struck. And why should she?
A friend of mine sent me a link recently, 8 questions solo female travellers are sick of hearing, saying ‘I’d bet this applies to you’. It did. And it got me thinking.
One of my favourite travel companions is actually my mother.
That might sound like madness and anyone who knows us both will definitely be questioning it, but still it’s true. I’ve taken her on a few trips with me, Geneva, Bruges, and we’ve talked about a couple more places that she would love to go to-Morocco, the Alps (she has a specific desire to ride a train in the Alps-don’t ask) but I swear to god these have been some of the most enjoyable holidays I have ever been on.
In Geneva, I slept in the bath tub because her snoring drove me to insanity. I also diagnosed her with sleep apnoea and ordered her to get sorted as soon as we got home. It took two years of NHS back and forth, but she now has a CPAP machine which she dutifully carries back and forth between the UK and India, leaving various parts of it behind in respective continents. Helpful.
She humoured me to go visit the World Health Organisation and take the tour. She humoured me my rubbish French and random wanderings.
And in Bruges, land of chocolate chocolate and more chocolate, our hearts met. It’s a very manageable city, even for her who struggles to walk much. And I distinctly remember us grating on each other (her wanting to stay in the hotel and rest a bit longer, me wanting to get out and explore) when she says, ‘You go, I’ll catch you somewhere later’. And that’s exactly what happened. I went one way and she went the other, no plans made at all about when or where we would meet again (there was always the hotel after all). And just when I was getting bored exploring by myself and wanting to know if she was ok and feeling guilty for leaving her, who should I bump into but my dear madre dandering along some old Clock Tower. Perhaps we weren’t that different after all?
And had she been idle? No way! She’d already purchased some linen souvenirs and sampled her own chocolates and had wanted to go and eat in a specific restaurant she’d found en route.
So you see, really, I don’t think I’m that much of an Ugly Duckling. In fact, I think I know exactly where I get it from. You take a notion, you run with it. When the doubters try and put you off, you dig your heels in deeper. After going to one place, you immediately start planning the next one. You go travelling on your own because there is solace in doing exactly what you want to do, when you want to do it. You please no one but your own conscience. You pander to no one but your own sense of self. And most of all, though we love to be sociable and meet people and feel like we are connected, underneath it all we really actually just want a quiet place to rest our heads and be at peace with our own happy thoughts. No white noise, no external stimulation. Just peace, quiet and serenity.
So you see, we are not so different after all.
‘Hmm why don’t you go to the Alps?! You’ve not been there yet!’
Why not indeed?