How many times have you said, “I really want to go to [some location]”? But then you just never seem to muster the get up and go, and that statement, that dream travel destination, just hangs in the confines of pleasant conversation, destined to be nothing but a wistful musing during a delightful Sunday brunch.
There’s always a reason not to go: finances, timing, vacation days, kids, you name it. But studies, like this one, have shown that not traveling when you’re physically able can be one of life’s biggest regrets.
My mom retired over a year ago, and since then, I’ve heard her make that statement, heard her list the places she’d like to travel to, numerous times. There’s been the ongoing saga of the attempt to plan an Alaskan cruise. There’s been dreamy speculation about a tour of England. There’s been a lot of reminiscing about the time she and my Aunt Jonnie visited the Isle of Capri (but that could be because my husband loves to hear her tell Isle of Capri stories). And the big obstacle, her excuse, that keeps her from taking a trip? My dad.
I should mention here that my dad is not a big traveler. Sure, he’ll jump in the car and drive 15 hours to fix a blown electrical circuit, but getting him on an airplane takes monumental effort. Off the top of my head, I can only think of three, count ‘em three, times that my dad has gotten on a plane in my lifetime, and two of those times he physically could not drive to the destination (school trip to Iceland; meet the in-laws in South Africa).
So while in Kentucky for Thanksgiving, when my mom was lamenting the fact that Dad wouldn’t go anywhere with her (again), I said, “Ok. Well, let’s go somewhere for your birthday. We can do a cruise and invite everyone, or it can be just you and me. You decide.”
I still remember the stunned look my mom gave me from across the room. She was sitting on the big burgundy chair in the living room, a white blanket draped over her knees, the light from the chandelier in the dining room behind her illuminating the back of her head like a slightly off-kilter halo, and her mouth, hanging wide open as if an alien had popped out of my nose and was doing the polka on the coffee table in front of her. She couldn’t believe someone had agreed to travel with her.
She slowly closed her mouth, looked at me solemnly, and then very quietly said, “I think I just want you and me.”
I shrugged. “Fine. You pick where you want to go. We’ll do it.”
Four months later, my mother had yet to make any decisions about the trip. There was a lot of hemming and hawing and promises that she really was researching a trip, but nothing. Absolutely nothing. And at this point, her birthday was just three months away.
So when my mom came to Florida in March to visit the South Africans, I cornered her. Me and the nose-popping alien, who was beginning to look like Noah from The Notebook.
“Where do you want to go, Mom?” I asked.
“Tell me what you want,” said nose-popping, polka-dancing alien Noah.
She looked scared. She didn’t want anyone to hear our conversation. She didn’t want anyone to know about this trip, and then I realized, she probably hadn’t told anyone. It was a secret, our secret baby we had been nursing for months, and like Lady Edith, we somehow needed to sneak the kid in the house and get people on board with its existence.
She leaned in, and I could see her pulse quickening behind her eyes as she revealed the baby’s name in a hushed voice.
“Ireland,” she whispered.