What I Learned From Traveling With My Mother


In honor of Mother’s Day, I wanted to reflect on what I have learned from travelling with my mother.

Travel is in my DNA.

My mom is American, and my Dad is Lebanese. From the first moment I could get a passport, my mother made sure I had one—at the ripe age of 3 weeks old. Although I don’t remember taking that passport photo, some of my earliest memories are from traveling.

I remember asking my mother if I could live on a plane when I was 5 years old. I vividly recall looking out of a plane window and seeing camels run along the desert as we flew into Saudi Arabia. I remember getting lost in souks, scanning a sea of women all cloaked in black and trying to find my mother. Only by seeking out her signature red nail polish and light features was I finally able to find her. I even remember traveling solo for the first time, on an international flight no less… at 7 years old.

As an adult, I look back and realize how incredibly fortunate and unique my upbringing was. To me, travel was just part of life. The world was my backyard, my playground in which I could interact, engage, and learn. I was exposed to people of different backgrounds, languages, religions—for me, the world was always colorful. I’ve also been lucky enough to meet many people that enjoy traveling too. I’ve heard that they often enjoy 4WD camper rentals when they decide to go traveling around Australia.

Travel was how my mother and I related to the world.

We flew to visit family, took road trips, and even trains. It allowed us to be close to each other and bond in ways that made us more than mother and daughter—we were and are best friends. We would shop, eat sorbet, and discover all the gems of the world. First sharing these experiences together, then she encouraged me to explore them solo as a young adult.

She let me travel to Australia when I was 15 to hone my photography skills on a student ambassador program. The following years she encouraged me to study in Paris for a few months over the summer. If education was involved, she was always in support. From the outside, it may have seemed glamorous, but there was always significant substance behind every excursion.

As with everything, relationships change over time. When we travel now, it is different. Our relationship has evolved as any mother-daughter relationship would. From being a wide-eyed child soaking up the world like a sponge to being thoroughly embarrassed by every action as a teenager, we now travel as two adults seeking to live in the moment and enjoy ourselves outside of our usual comfort zones.

I remember vividly when our relationship changed.

I was attending a conference in Dubai and invited my mother along as my plus one. I knew how special the region was to her, and I wanted to treat her. As soon as we got off the plane, my mother was speaking Arabic to everyone and anything that could possibly reply to her.  She would talk to the guys helping us with our bags, the drivers, the front desk agent at the hotel. I think I even caught her speaking to a camel! My response was typically childlike—I was embarrassed.

Now keep in mind, she speaks Arabic pretty well. Even though she was raised in the States, she lived for over 12 years in the Middle East. Since she doesn’t live in the Middle East anymore, she was taking full advantage of her time in Dubai to practice.

Towards the end of the trip, we were at a store. She started to speak in Arabic to the guy behind the counter, and his jaw just dropped. He simply could not fathom how a woman from the States could speak Arabic so fluently. He looked at her, and she explained that I was half-Lebanese. Then he looked at me. I shrugged, “I got nothing.” My Arabic skills were and are minimal. He looked at her again and his mind was blown. He called other people in the store over to meet her.

She was having her moment.

In was then that I saw her eyes widen like a child. It all seemed so cyclical, as I imagined she had done the same with me years before. She was owning her abilities in a completely foreign environment. And I, instead of being embarrassed, was so proud. In fact, right then, she reminded me of why we travel.

We travel to connect with strangers, to explore cultural differences, and to break down stereotypes. We travel to create memories, open our minds, develop our taste buds. We travel for exposure, to re-wire our thinking, and to breathe a little differently. We travel to view the world as our home and not to be scared at the thought of unique destinations, unusual foods, and cultural differences. We travel so we may learn to be bold, accepting, and understanding.

The biggest lesson I learned from my mother is that travel really is the best gift you can give yourself and your loved ones. Travel inspires a two-way exchange where we not only educate ourselves, but we educate those we encounter. Not only are we exploring the world, but we are bringing a piece of the world in ourselves to others. It opens our minds, our hearts, and leaves us a little bit changed—for the better—when we return home.

As my mother always said…

to travel is to live.

Share with me if you’ve had any special travel moments with your mother.

This post is sponsored by Allianz Global Assistance as part of their #ITravelBecause campaign. I also use them as my travel insurance provider. Check them out prior to your next trip to ensure that you #TravelHappy.

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