Monday, 9 April 2012

What is it like to have a mother up a mountain?

A couple of months ago, when we were talking about her latest trip, mother slipped a request into the conversation.  Would I, she said, write a guest post for the blog whilst she was away, talking about what it is like to have a mother who travels.  Of course, no problem, I replied, taking another sip of my coffee.  And promptly thought out a post in my head.  Which I have now forgotten completely of course.  So all I can do is try to answer the question - what is it like to have a mother up a mountain?

It is harder than it sounds.  All my life I have known my mother was somewhat unconventional.  She looked and dressed differently from my friend's mothers, and seemed to have a different outlook on life to them.  (Although my one close friend who remains from schooldays also now has a mother who travels a bit - so maybe she wasn't as different as I imagined.)

The itchy feet thing was always there as well.  We might not have gone abroad until I was nine, but summer holidays were seen as essential, and we travelled all over the UK, seeing lots of different places (including one very wet summer studying the inside of a caravan in Swanage, which we still managed to make an adventure).  After that first trip abroad - to visit friends in Sweden - several more followed - to France, Italy and Ireland.  I still have many memories from those holidays - swimming in the sea fully-clothed in Pembrokeshire, the family of artists we met in Ireland, getting badly bitten in Venice and having to hobble painfully back to the campsite, and as an adult following my stepdad's death, the barman in the pub outside Killarney who knew our drinks order so well it was on the bar before we got there.  However, these were holidays, made brief by the necessities of life, the need to earn a living and get an education.  They calmed the itchy feet but never entirely satiated them.

All this is a long-winded way of explaining that when mother first told me she was retiring and going travelling I was not really that surprised.  In fact I was relieved she seemed to be being sensible about the whole thing - starting in Australia and New Zealand, and travelling with Tika initially in India and Nepal (I've since read the book - and now I pay much more attention to what she is not saying!)

Throughout her trip we were in occasional phone contact, but mostly I heard from her through her blog - which I now realise was a sanitised version of events!  I was mostly excited by her stories, and keen to keep in touch by any means necessary.  And even though the phone call that precipitated the end of her trip was one of the worst I have ever received, I could hear in her voice a determination to carry on travelling - whether on that trip or on others.

And carry on she has, to America, Vietnam and Cambodia, and now back to Nepal.  I was worried about her initially when she first started going away again - but I could see that she was looking after herself (probably better than she does at home, truth be told).  Technology has got better, and she has got less of a Luddite - so we can keep in closer touch than ever.  She even managed to log into iChat the other day to wish us 'Happy Easter' face to face - or rather face to pixelated image - the bandwidth in your average Nepali internet cafe is not great I am told!  Every time she goes away she has new stories to tell of the adventures that befall her - I just try and close my ears to the scary ones!

Not that I am in any position to judge.  I travelled a lot in my late teens and early twenties, and lived in Greece for a while, although I am now settled back in the UK.  I have some idea of what it means to travel - to immerse oneself in a new culture, with all the excitements that entails. Any attempts to suggest to mother that she might like to be 'sensible' for a minute are met with an entirely appropriate 'pot, kettle' response.  Mostly she listens quietly for a minute or two to what I think she should do - then ignores me and goes along with her plan anyway.

So in answer to the question, in my case it is like life. Sometimes exciting and sometimes horrific, but mostly just part of everyday living.  Keep travelling mother, just try and stay out of trouble please.



  1. Nice post! My mother did a lot of exciting travelling and rather dangerous things when she was young, before I was born. I only knew her as a rather unadventurous person who didn't particularly like to travel. I knew she'd been to these places but - well, i don't know what I'd thought she was doing there, really.

    She has now started to talk about now my dad is dead and she is getting older. She doesn't think it's that interesting but I keep on being amazed. The other day she let slip she'd been a DJ in Iraq. "It wasn't really very exciting, though" she explained. Oh well that's okay then. :)

  2. Thank you, Anna - I will look after myself, honest!!

  3. Great post! My Grammie Kirkby started travelling lots in her 60s and although she is now 89 and mostly housebound due to a broken hip, she has those wonderful memories to keep her company!

  4. Good one Anna :-)
    From the other one beginning with 'A'

  5. What a lovely post. I love it when the roles are reversed :-)
    How nice that she knows she has your support. I bet she travels with a lighter heart because of it.

  6. This is lovely Anna! Really enjoyed reading your post in your mother's absence. Love that your mum managed iChat - well done Jo! I had / have a rather unconventional mother too - in fact, my parents were hippies and have lived on a boat for the last few years. I think it may have rubbed off a little, as I now have the travelling bug and have been gadding off quite a bit - only in this country at the moment, but bigger trips planned. I hope it rubs off on my daughter too!

  7. I love this post and it's a real eye-opener to hear your view of your mother's way of life. She's far braver than I've ever been or ever will be and I admire her very much.

  8. Love your post Anna. Your mum has reason to be very proud of her four daughters and you of her. How lovely that she has your support.