An Open Letter to My Mom
I don’t know how you have inspired me to travel when you don’t even have a passport, but you’ve definitely managed to do it. Actually, I do know how, but that’s for the second half of the letter. You don’t even really like traveling. I know you’d rather stay at home, in a bubble bath for hours with People magazine and a glass of wine, and yet you are the first person to tell me to “go for it” when I come to you with a new place in mind and wanderlust in my eyes. (Which is a good thing because you have always been the first person I go to when I do have a new place in mind, whether it’s Belize, Switzerland, or Wales.)
My favorite note from you – and I have kept all of you notes – is one I keep tucked in my wallet, from October 30, 2011:
Both daddy and I are your number one fan and we will always be there for you no matter where life takes you. Even if you end up on a remote island teaching poor children, I will come visit (for a little bit). Love, Mommy.
I’ve always loved that note because the fact that you would even entertain the possibility of visiting me in the middle of nowhere 1) made me laugh and 2) was another reminder of your constant support.
Yes, I know you’re not a huge fan of travel, but you are the reason I am as independent as I am when it comes to how I travel. You inspired in me a sense of fearlessness that I didn’t know I had for the longest time, especially because I was always clinging to your leg or fighting back my fear of airplanes. But you inspired me because you let me pursue the adventures I wanted to pursue, and allowed me to learn along the way, without instilling a preconceived notion in me that the world was an awful place with awful people. You have always let me figure it out for myself, which led me to my own belief that the world is actually a beautiful place with beautiful people.
More importantly, there has never been a single time that you have ever made me feel crazy, unsure, or foolish for wanting to travel, especially solo. Not when I decided to volunteer in a Peruvian shantytown at fifteen years old. Or study abroad for four months. Or trapeze around Nicaragua for two weeks.
Instead of stomping out my initial flicker of interest in travel, you fueled my passion for it and let it grow. You have always empowered me to make my own decisions, which has influenced how I have traveled from the very beginning and it’s shaped who I am today.
I have so many favorite memories about you when it comes to travel – and you weren’t even with me!
- Like that time I got really sick my first time abroad in Wales and the program coordinator gave me a handwritten letter from you that you had written beforehand to make me feel better.
- Or that time I backpacked solo for the first time when I was twenty years old and I sent you a meticulous itinerary of every hostel, train stop, and city. And I didn’t hear from you once! Not once! I was calling you!
- Or that time I called you from Thailand in a panic because I thought I got rabies from a dog and I was trying to FaceTime you to show you the scratch on the back of my leg so you could diagnose it.
- Or that time I emailed you while I was Guatemala, pouring my heart out about all the amazing people I had met and how I knew one day I would want to chase my dream of travelling the world.
- Or that time I shipped my entire suitcase – wrapped in duct tape – home after Spain and you had to be the one to tell me that Emily had torn through all the tape to open the suitcase to see if there were any new European clothes she could borrow (steal).
- Or that time I spent hours at the kitchen counter crafting a budget and plan for how to backpack South America for six months and then I showed it to you, asked you what you thought, and you said, “Do it. If you don’t do it now, when will you?”
And the one time you did question my travels, it was dead on. You asked if I was still heartbroken. Of course I was. You asked if I was running away. Probably. You asked if it was something I really wanted. Not really. So I passed up an opportunity to teach English in Spain for a year so that I could take the job at Saint Mary’s. And it was the right decision.
You have listened to me go on and on and on about every single one of my travel stories and escapades. You have dropped me off at and picked me up (75% of the time late, but that’s totally okay) from O’Hare at 7am, midnight, and rush hour. You have answered every call no matter where I was on the planet. You have just always been there for me, period.
I think back to every trip I’ve ever taken and you have been a part of every single one of them. You are the reason I even had the courage to go. To book the ticket and get on the plane. I can’t wait for the moment when I have children of my own (who hopefully share my love for travel!) and when they ask me, “’Should I go?” I can tell them, “Yes!” Because that is what you always did for me. And it meant the world to me.
Happy Mother's Day.
P.S. I fully intend to teach poor children on a remote island one day just so you can fulfill your promise!