I’ve always felt that the love of and an appetite for international travel is more nature than nurture: that it’s innate to an individual vs. handed down by others. I’ve thought that because I did not grow up in a family that traveled internationally — both my parents never left the USA.
But me, on the other hand… I had a desire to roam, and I’ve been flexing my international travel muscle ever since (my first trip out of the USA was at age 17, almost 20 years ago, to Mexico!).
That being said, I think the only way to know if something is in your nature is to first be exposed to it and see how you feel. To sample, self-teach, and practice. How do you know whether you like something if you don’t first give it a taste?
Upon the urging of her children last year, my mom got her first passport… and in 2022, my 73-year-old mother had a few firsts: her first trip to Mexico, first time flying internationally by herself, and first time visiting a non-English speaking country… and I’m so proud of her. She’s proof that you can try something new at any age — and you should.
A mother-daughter travel tradition
Ever since 2017, my mom and I have taken a mother-daughter trip once a year. We’ve gone to Sonoma and Napa, California, Maui, Hawaii, Charleston, South Carolina, Fayetteville, Arkansas, Richmond, Virginia, and now in 2022, Oaxaca, Mexico!!
It took a lot of convincing to get Mom to come to Mexico to visit me. She told me no several times, but I finally got on the phone with her to talk it through, booked her flight, and assured her that somebody would speak English on the way over and she wouldn’t be totally lost (I was right).
Still, I could tell my mom felt out of her element when she first arrived. But then I heard a Mexican man greet her on the street, I heard her reflexive reply of “hola”, and I saw the small smile that appeared on her face. I knew she was feeling what I feel when I travel internationally: triumph. Triumph at figuring it out, at being able to learn one more thing, at feeling self-sufficient… triumph at discovering the magic trick.
I don’t know if she noticed, but I gave my mom other small tasks while she was in Mexico: because I wanted her to feel the accomplishment that I feel every time I conquer one more thing.
How’d it go in Oaxaca? An interview with Mom
Me: This was your first visit to Mexico. How was it? What was the most memorable part?
Mom: Most enjoyable: the people were gracious and willing to help, wonderful things to see, flavorful, unique food to eat and many and varied experiences to be had… not to mention balmy weather. I vastly enjoyed visiting the archaeological site Monte Alban and meandering the small villages to see authentic and traditional textile weaving on a loom, and visiting an artist studio to see how beautiful and intricate native art items were produced.
Me: How would you describe Oaxaca to someone who’s never been?
Mom: Oaxaca was a mix of quaint, vibrant, colorful and definitely in need of a lot of infrastructural upkeep: I experienced small villages with cobbled or dirt roads, wall upon wall of vibrant and dynamic murals, multiple city centers teeming with people selling their handcrafted wares, and lots of city traffic.
Me: What surprised you the most about the place or the Mexican people?
Mom: What surprised me… seeing a Sam’s Club and Home Depot, movie theaters, such a mix of the contemporary and traditional society, intermixed… was not expecting that!
Me: What did you have difficulty with?
Mom: I did have difficulty when seeing the obvious signs of poverty and need… many individuals of every age asking you to buy this, that and anything; the old and infirm camped outside of the crumbling churches looking imploringly for alms. Also, my heart broke for the street dogs, skinny and some maimed, so skittish and hungry. We tried to feed them any leftover food we had.
Me: Is there anything you wish you would’ve known or done before your trip?
Mom: If I could rewind and do this trip over I would bone up on my Spanish, do some research on the area and bring along more pesos to distribute where needed. I would also try and carry some dog treats/food in my carry bag. Note to self… bring most comfortable shoes possible!
Me: What do you think the U.S. government or media has gotten wrong about Mexico?
Mom: Perhaps the U.S. government and media could focus more on the all the positive cultural, historical, and human connections the two countries have and provide more in-depth education to our school children and our population at large. It also could be mutually beneficial if we could assist their economy is some equitable way.
Me: Would you go back, and to where?
Me: What do you think of your daughter traveling around Mexico by herself by car?
Mom: Julie is quite the modern woman, brave, adventurous, knows her own mind… and definitely a strong advocate for Mexico and its beautiful people, history, and land. I am so proud of her.