We as travelers thrive on inspiration. Inspiration leads us to the next destination and prompts us to extend a stay in a particularly special place. Inspiration takes us to the places we might never have visited and along routes we may never have considered. Inspiration can come like a thump to the head but, more often than not, it manifests as that sweet little voice inside that whispers, “Go. Just try it. You’ll love it, and if you don’t, there will always be more.”
My own personal inspiration is also multi-faceted. I look, I listen, I smell, I taste and I am inspired. I watch the films and read the books and I am inspired. I talk with people and read their personal accounts and I am inspired. However, I have one incredible and seemingly endless source of inspiration and motivation, and that is my mother.
My mother was my introduction to the art of travel. Before I was born, she left her home in 1960’s America to study Spanish in Mexico City. After she married my father and took on the traditional roles the 1970’s asked for, travel was still an integral part of her, and thus my, life. Our bookshelves overflowed with issues of National Geographic. Large, heavy bound atlases begged for rainy day pore-overs. The framed bullfight poster hung on the wall, its colors and typeface simple and exotic.
Later, as my brother and I grew older, my mother eased herself back into the waters of travel. She worked a second job to buy her first ticket to the UK when I was about 8 years old. I remember those two weeks being endless, but she returned with stories and photos and strange “head collars” for our horses.
My mother soon decided to make travel her career, and became a travel agent. This lead to trips across the United States and more trips across the oceans. But there were always the postcards, the T-shirts, the photos and one very memorable ship-to-shore phone call (sorry Mom!) that continued to stoke the growing desire that I had to see the world and learn how vital my own place could be in it.
My mother has walked on the Great Wall of China. She has gone for a swim with stingrays in the Caribbean. She has lain on a bench to better appreciate the view of the Sistine Chapel. She has seen the whales from the coast of Maui. She has seen Edinburgh Castle, the Alhambra, the Forbidden City and the Eiffel Tower. She has ridden a camel at the Pyramids of Giza. On her travel bucket list are a balloon ride over the Serengeti, which will take place this fall, and a trip on the Trans-Siberian Railroad, scheduled for next year. As well traveled as I think myself to be, I have done two of those things.
When I asked my mother to tell me a bit about her thoughts on travel, one of her responses was, “How could you not travel? There are places to go, things to see and people to meet.” I wholeheartedly agree with that. If you want to travel, you will, and the people, places, and things become a part of your identity and the identity that you share with those around you.
I have realized that my mother and I share a similar world view. I had to come about mine on my own, but her experiences shaped my choices, which resulted in my own experiences. Would I have chosen my winding path has she not chosen hers? I don’t know, but, frankly, it doesn’t matter. I am grateful beyond description for the inspiration.
Last year, I had the opportunity to spend a very critical and important time with my mother. It was the time when I needed to say all the things I could, and I think I did, the most important being how thankful I am, and that I am doing all of this for the two of us. Just as, in some way, she has been doing the same for me all along.