Going Against the Grain: Lessons from Travelling with my Mother
For two whole weeks, my mother came to visit me in Europe. She stayed with me in my place in Barcelona. She accompanied me to Amsterdam where I was reuniting with a bunch of old travel friends. I snuck in my work as she slept, We went full tourist - from selfie sticks to the hop on hop off buses. I played tour guide, making up historical stories I actually knew nothing about, organising flights, transfers, hotels and everything in between.
And it was an intense fortnight – to say the least.
Over the past six months, this had been the longest I’d spent with anybody. No less, the person I was spending all this time with was my mother. My mother and I had never spent that much uninterrupted time together for quite some years.
We also have a tendency to not see eye-to-eye on many issues. We don’t have a particularly close relationship – I’ve never really spoken to her about my relationships or anything too intimate; even a hug is an awkward interaction. Our relationship as I was growing up was fraught with arguments - we are both stubborn to a tee. She’s only travelled with organised tours and I have a tendency to constantly get lost and revel in the fact that I have no plan.
But all in all - even with all the odds stacked up against us - it was a great trip.
I was excited to see my mum again and help facilitate her second trip in Europe - a continent she loves. I thought it'd be an exciting adventure that would create great memories for us in the future. It also helped that with her, she was bringing a good supply of Tim Tams to satisfy my cravings.
Of course, it wasn’t easy.
Being in each other’s spaces for such an extended period of time, we would get quickly irritated. We bickered; fought a little. I'd get annoyed that even after seeing that I had clearly survived in living alone on a different continent for so long, she would still nag me about moisturising or some other mundane thing.
I was frustrated by the responsibility of playing tour guide, operator, dutiful daughter and more. I've struggled a lot over the past few months to feel comfortable making my own decisions. I was just getting used to listening to myself in these situations - but then was confronted with also having to consider her feelings and needs in the day.
Read more about being mindful for the two of us on Yoga With Bow.
But more than that, I felt the pressure of looking like I had all my shit together. I wanted my mum to rest assured that I was capable of taking care of myself. I wanted her to see why I felt it was necessary to take this trip; and that I was thriving. I wanted her to understand and maybe even approve of my choices.
It felt as though if my mother was able to approve of this lifestyle, it would somehow legitimise it for me.
There's a lot about this 'digital nomad' lifestyle that my mum does not understand. I think she still thinks this is a phase; that at the end of this, I'll settle down, get a full-time job, probably not in Australia but at least out of my backpack. It's a much safer option - not just because I wouldn't be jumping around on a whim but also because of the safety of its convention.
It's not that travelling or moving overseas is a completely foreign concept to my mum. She herself was an immigrant to Australia, moving to find better opportunities for herself and her eventual family.
My love of travel has very much been instilled with me from a young age through the great fortune that she also loved to travel and took us to America, Europe, Hong Kong and more as young children.
But it feels strangely paradoxical that for my mother, she left Asia in search of better opportunities. For me, as a product of those opportunities, the most progressive and exciting option for me is to now pursue this crazy lifestyle that sees me returning to Asia - and beyond.
The fact is that we're now faced with a world of countless opportunities, many that don't even exist yet.
While the idea of settling seems safe and comfortable, it's the thing I fear the most. I wanted to throw myself off the deep end so I could get used to the discomfort and uncertainty of the future. I didn't want to wake up in ten years and realise I had made no conscious decisions about how I ended up there. I wanted ownership over where my path went and pursuing this lifestyle has definitely left all of that at my feet.
The idea that this could end scares me. On the one hand, I know that I can't do this forever. I do crave some comforts of having a home. I am starting to weary of meeting new people on the road and I'm missing the sense of community from having friends and family close by.
But even I was to choose to stay in a place for longer - for a month or maybe even a year - I'd hate to think that this would be settling. No choice cannot be undone, no mind cannot be unmade up.
I want to see my life continue as a constant adventure; as a constant journey to figure out what's best for me at the time and continuously learn and grow with each new development.
At this time, it took a big, grand gesture to turn my life around.
I took the dramatic exit, quitting my job to fly off to the other side of the world, just to be able to shake off the feelings of complacency and expectation that had held me back. I couldn't imagine doing anything else right now - even though it still doesn't feel real that I've done this.
I have no idea what's coming up next for me, this weekend let alone the rest of the year. But I'm excited to keep exploring and listening to myself to see just where she may want to go. So, thanks for visiting Mum, but no, I'm still #NotHomeYetMum.