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Fall colors in Japan

A guest post mini-series following the experiences of my teen, Missy JJ, as her mother fell into a travel craze.  

Since I’m a teenager, most people will say that I’m being melodramatic when I state that my mom is the biggest tribulation in my life.

But I’m not exaggerating.

When I was in preschool, she forced me to stop playing with my favorite pink cubes and instead learn how to write my numbers.

When I was in 1st grade, she made me redo my homework five times because she didn’t like my handwriting.

When I was in 2nd grade, she got mad at me for not realizing on a science test that butter melts in the heat.

When I was in 4th grade, she yelled at me for taking all the brownies and not leaving any for my little brother.

When I was in 6th grade, she started forcing me to travel the world.

I specifically remember the day she discovered points and miles. During our family time, sitting at the kitchen table, drinking coffee with her laptop in front of her, Mom went off on a long, thirty minute tangent explaining the treasures she’d found through her investigations and deep research on the internet. My mom is nothing, if not thorough, in case you can’t tell from her blog.

A trend soon became apparent. Every day for the next year, at the same time, at the same place. Around that circular wooden table the three of us would sit, watching Mom’s eyes light up and mouth run like a cheetah catching its prey; an energy with such excitement and passion like I’d never seen in her before.

Of course, there were the jokes. As soon as mom would finish explaining the new deal she had found with British  or AA Advantage, dad, as usual, would crack a witty line, or make eye contact with me and we’d burst out laughing.

We didn’t realize how deep this love for travel had blossomed.

A few months later, Mom had lined up various trips for us, ranging from a two-week trip to Australia to a week traveling Peru.

When I told all my friends at school, they thought I had the coolest mom around. They told me I was so lucky. They asked me to bring them all souvenirs.

But I didn’t get it. I didn’t want to spend a week in Argentina getting up early in the morning and walking in the heat, especially when I could be sleeping in and bingeing on Netflix and chocolates.

Sure, the beaches are great, and the resorts are fantastic, and who doesn’t love slides and lazy rivers? Definitely my thing. Laying low, doing nothing, that’s my vibe.

Walking around old ruins, hiking mountains, and canoeing over a river? Oh, no thank you.

This difference between Mom and I is something that will always remain; she, the avid traveler, and I, the couch potato. And since my brother relates more to Mom in that he likes tourist-y trips and adventuring, of course I stick out like a sore thumb.

Each trip begins with an early morning flight, a little bit of last-minute packing, Mom yelling at us for not helping Dad put the suitcases in car, Dad putting the suitcases in the car, sleeping on the car ride to the airport, finally reaching the airport in one piece, and finding out something has gone wrong with our flight(s).

After a lot of scrambling/changing flights and running around the airport, we board and take off. By the time we land, I’m already tired from the long flight, but Mom is staring out the window, mesmerised, capturing pictures on her phone rapidly.

The first day is a slow-paced, take-it-easy day, which of course, my sleepy self appreciates. But I just know what’s coming for me.

The next however-many days are truly trying. From getting up at the crack of dawn, to sleeping late, to being jet lagged and exhausted, it doesn’t take much for us to fall asleep shortly after we hit the beds.

Finally, after the exotic excursion, it’s time to head home; Mom sadly looks through her photos and says her last goodbyes to the gorgeous country, but I feel a small bit of glee because I would be reunited with my bed soon.

Don’t get me wrong! I’ve had a lot of fun on our trips, made tons of memories, had unforgettable experiences, and spent quality time with the people I love. I’m thankful to Mom for having the passion to bring our family together through fun vacation experiences.

But it’s not something I’ve always wanted to do. And how can I fight that?

I know what you’re thinking: I’m the most ungrateful person on the face of the earth.

And that’s what I used to think of myself too. I asked myself how I could be so unhappy when I had a mom so unlike any other? Who was willing to take me across every inch of the globe at such a young age. Who wanted me to explore and experience firsthand different traditions and cultures.

I didn’t realize the answer for a long time. A couple of months ago, my mom was on the phone with my grandmother. They were talking , sharing recipes and catching up. My mother hung up the phone shortly afterwards and turned towards Dad and I. She was talking about how my grandparents were so different. Her father was so interested in travel, but her mother wasn’t.

A “homebody”, as my mom called it. She turned to me and said, “Maybe that’s where you get it from.”

And then I realized. I wasn’t ungrateful. I was simply a homebody. In other words, I preferred staying at home. I wasn’t the kind of person who would be motivated and self driven to plan a touristy vacation to Brazil, but I would definitely be the type who could passionately plan a staycation at home.

Simply put, my mom and I are so different. Since I was a little girl we’ve argued and quarrelled and roughed it out. And travel is a topic that is no different.

In some weird way, Mom and I bond over arguing and then making up & laughing about our arguments. She’s my best friend and my biggest inspiration, in one. She may not be easy to deal with 24/7 (especially when we have such different ideas of vacation), but she’s worth the effort.

In a tribute to her and her dedication, I’ve decided to start a mini-series here, talking about my travel experiences where we butted heads over many a matter, but ultimately Mom won (and ended up being right).

For mother-daughter arguments, petty fights, and drama galore, stick around!

I’ll see you in Chapter 2!