I was thirteen when I took my first vacation alone with my Mom. We spent a week having fun in the sun in Freeport, Bahamas. On our way to dinner, I remember the fast moving cab ride along a winding road and the cabby blasting Jeffrey Osborne’s “Stay With Me Tonight.” Tucked away in my jewelry box, I still have a souvenir key chain with a beaming photo of us snapped that night.
My Dad is a homebody content to recline with remote control in hand watching Westerns, tinkering in the garden, and cooking and baking in the kitchen (although his pound cakes are out of this world).
So after our Bahama Mama fling, me and Ma became frequent flyer buddies, often accompanied by my Aunt -- passing the poi at a luau in Honolulu; breaking a sweat on Bourbon Street in hot and hazy summertime New Orleans; celebrity spotting in Hollywood; sharing rum raisin ice cream and taste buds burning ginger beer in Bermuda; shopping for flea market finds at the Plaka in Athens; and feasting on pasta and flirting with handsome Italian waiters in Rome.
As the years have gone by and we’ve both grown older, our joyful jaunts have become few and far between. These days, I mostly travel with my husband, occasionally with a close girlfriend or sometimes solo (perks of being a freelance journalist). But I miss traveling with my original best friend -- how she’d act as my personal photographer for impromptu glamour shots in the hotel room and how we’d laugh and chat like schoolgirls into the wee hours. And I’ll never find a travel buddy who is as unconditionally accepting of my ever-changing moods.
According to research, family bonding is good for your health and can help relieve stress, improve immune responses and decrease the chances of heart disease. Times are different now and we can't travel with Mom at the moment. But when we emerge from our self-isolating COVID-19 cocoons, I can’t think of a better way to destress and reconnect than to plan a getaway with Mom or with another cherished female member of your tribe. Until then, we can all daydream, reminisce, watch virtual travel videos and cut and paste vision boards packed with photos of exotic locales.
Here, several women share fond memories and what they learned from their mother-daughter travels.
Get to know each other as girlfriends. “[Mother-daughter trips] really help our bond because we get to remove ourselves from the everyday stressors and be totally present with one another without distractions. We enjoy local cuisine and sightseeing. We also use that time to talk about what’s going on in our lives. The first [trip] was to Atlanta. It was just a couple of days, but it was so nice to hang out without the guys. And we realized that we were on to something!” says Traci Baxley, a mother with four sons and one daughter.
Step outside of your comfort zone. “[My Mom and I] went to China for ten days. I had been before, but she had never been to Asia and really wanted to see the Great Wall. We had very busy days of sightseeing and she was a trouper. Well, except for actually going up the Great Wall. At first she refused to walk, but after some prodding from me she did and she got this amazing picture that she absolutely loves,” says fashion blogger Lorna Solano.
Similarly, stylist and entrepreneur Shaunya Hartley took her first trip abroad with her mother a few years ago when they went to Paris. What did she enjoy most about that experience? “Immersing ourselves in another culture and I made sure we really did that -- museums, vineyards, not eating anything we could get in the States.”
During that trip to the City of Lights, Hartley says her Mom “upped her wine consumption” and was particularly fond of their bubbly tasting excursion to the Champagne region. The pair had so much fun in France they were inspired to launch the natural bath and beauty product line Shaun Leon (https://shaunleon.com).
“We started researching suppliers and coming up with formulas during our vacation!”
Get a little closer. Baxley, a professor in Boca Raton, Florida, recalls, “Earlier this year, [my 19-year-old daughter] and I went to Chicago for five days and we were able to bond in new ways. I think it really was the start of a new relationship between us, a friendship that a Mom can only share with an adult daughter. She and I presented at a conference together for the first time -- we did a workshop on Black girlhood called From Mammy to Magic. It was so rewarding for me to see her blossom during the presentation in front of about 50 Black women. I was so proud.
Learn to compromise. “I think the biggest challenge for us is the amount of time that my daughter spends on the phone recording and taking pictures of the memories. I think it’s a generation thing! I am a bit old school -- I want to take a few pictures, but mostly I like to use the time actually bonding,” says Baxley.
As a compromise, “I let her take pictures of all the places we eat and then she puts the phone away for us to talk and connect. At the end of the evening, I like to read and she likes to be on social media.”
Meanwhile, Hartley says her biggest sacrifice traveling with her Mom is skipping the nightlife. “My Mom is not into clubs or anything like that, so we would have a jam packed daytime itinerary and just dinner in the evening."
Give each other space when needed. An only child from Brooklyn, New York, Solano says she and her Mom share rooms when they travel together. “But depending on the trips, sometimes I will take a separate mini trip to see things I want to see and my mother might stay with friends or family. Or [if I need a break], I go to the hotel bar for a drink, go for a walk or grab dinner [solo].”
Be patient. “It’s been lovely to see my mother [discover] the world and different cultures -- it has opened her mind,” says Solano. “That said, sometimes it has been a challenge because she gets really anxious about getting lost and making a flight. So she always wants to get places super early, which I don’t like to do. But we have managed it, along the way.”