Weeks ago, I bought a ticket to Portugal and Spain. When I returned from Italy in August, I had already a promise to myself I made last year: I would always have a trip ahead of me.
I knew there would be another trip, but it wasn’t scheduled and I wasn’t sure where it would be. After a month of anxiety, a deal popped up to fly into Lisbon and out of Madrid. A few quick searches and consultations with friends who had been to these places, I dropped the $463 and danced. I was going back to Europe!
What I didn’t do was tell my mom.
My mom has never adjusted to my spontaneous travel schemes. For years I spoke of desires to live abroad, to see the world, to be the very person I’ve become, but my parents must not have believed me. Their problem, not mine. When I finally leaped off the diving board two years ago, I called my mom immediately the next morning because I was excited. I knew she’d be shocked and withdraw to caution, but the shock sorta kept that at bay. And it was a first for both of us: my first time abroad, her first time having a son traveling outside the country.
And then I did it again.
“But you just went,” my mom said.
Which was true. I bought my ticket for Amsterdam twelve hours after returning from Copenhagen.
And then I did it again. I grabbed a flight to Germany in March. This time I withheld the news for a few months, but broke it still several months before I left.
“Why do you have to go alone?” she demanded.
A week later, I bought a ticket to Italy - nine months in advance. While traveling was the lifelong dream, Italy was *the* dream. So euphoric was I, I bought the ticket while sitting in my night class and called my mom on my walk home. I neglected to predict her reaction: outrage and annoyance.
“Again?” she demanded. “Alone?”
Yes, again and alone. “This is the number two country on my bucket list,” I tried to reason. As if that reason would help her process.
Her outrage scared me enough that I convinced my friends, including Sara, to tag along. When I went to Costa Rica, I didn’t “tell” her. I just sorta indicated I was going and acted like I had already told her. This went better than you would expect.
“You’re going to Costa Rica? You never told me you were going to Costa Rica.”
“Yes, I did! I told you,” I lied.
Me internally: See, this is what you make me do when you get angry. I lie!
My parents are not my gatekeepers. They pay for my cell phone and my car insurance (which I’ve suggested they can stop paying for and I just won’t visit). They can’t stop me from going abroad (though I may need to pay for a rental car). Their opinion really shouldn’t matter. But you sorta want your parents’ approval. We do a lot of things of to avoid people's disapproval, especially our parents'. I don’t want my mom to be angry that I’m doing what I want to do.
That’s also what I don’t get. For years I told my mom this is what I want to do. I made no small secret that I wanted to travel, that I would travel, and then I did travel - and I loved it. And I have kept doing it. Why would I stop? Perhaps she did think it would be one and done. But after Copenhagen, Amsterdam, Qatar, Germany, Costa Rica, and Italy... really? I’m just done like that? It’s out of my system?
Last night I broke the news to her about Portugal. I probably shouldn’t have done it at 9 at night, but she asked about my winter break plans.
Me: "Actually...I'm going to Portugal in three weeks."
“You’re going to Europe again?” she began.
“Yeah, I’m going to Portugal and Spain,” I said.
“You’re going alone?” she broke in.
I almost said, “I didn’t say that - yet,” but then figured she either guessed correctly or she registered the singular personal pronoun usage.
“Yes, I am.”
Shrilly, “Why?” Her tone sounded both annoyed and weary.
“Why not?” I countered.
“It’s not safe, you know nothing about the place, you’re going alone,” she started. She said this all from her couch without a single Google search or consultation like all the research I had done.
I shut her down by explaining I do look into these things, I am not as haphazard as I appear, it is my life and I don’t mean that in a “it is my life, butt out” way; I mean that it is my life so it’s even more on me to want to protect it and stay alive - and have the best life. And this is what I enjoy. This is what makes me happy. I am a millennial. Why wouldn’t I go?!
Of course that’s never going to appease a Baby Boomer mother who hasn’t been on a plane since Nixon was president. And fear and caution are the second and third most pressing emotions after love for a mother.
She told me I was trolling for opportunities, but you can say that about any opportunity. She told me she just watched a Dateline episode where some guy went to Chicago and disappeared as if that would be me next. She asked why can’t I wait, which just irks me because what the heck am I supposed to be waiting for that I haven’t waited for? Anyone? (My dissertation?! Ha!)
We got off the phone with a simple agreement that we would talk more. When I went to Italy, I made some concessionary lie that I could still cancel my ticket. I considered making this lie again. But no. I’m not going to cancel.
The irony is that last Christmas, a month after railing at me for buying a flight to Italy, my mom called me her world traveler and bought me a book on a thousand and one places to see in the world (from Santa, of course, who gets to see the world every year). I’m hoping for a similar outcome this year.
After all, I have 997 places left to see on that list so she better get used to it. And I haven’t even told her about France yet.
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