“So are you nervous about traveling with your father?” I asked Molly, knowing that no matter how much I loved my dear old deceased dad, I would never in a million years have been able to travel alone with him to Thailand.
“No,” she answered in a ‘Duh, like, why would I be nervous about traveling with my father?’ tone.
“How would you feel if you were going with me?”
“Mom. That would absolutely never happen. So I don’t even have to answer that question.”
I love my daughter. And I know that she loves me. But she’s right. It would absolutely never happen.
Molly started talking about going to Thailand last fall. And as soon as she did, I knew a plane ticket would be a perfect Christmas present.
“I want to do this alone,” Molly said.
Molly is very brave. When I was her age, I too went on a trip alone. I crossed the country on a Trailways bus. Like her, I didn’t have an itinerary, but, unlike her, I knew that when I got off the bus in Flagstaff, Arizona I’d be enveloped into the warm and welcoming arms of my very able and adventurous friend, Ann, who would make sure nothing more evil happened to me than happened to her.
But even Molly knew that four-and-a-half weeks in Thailand might get a bit lonely, so once she cashed in her airline voucher, she started campaigning for a companion to join her for the first two weeks of the trip. It made my heart swell that she chose her father and I wasn’t even the slightest bit green with envy.
After all, she and her father have an awful lot in common. They can both identify Bangkok on a blank world map, know that Cambodia and Laos are border countries and even understand what goes on in Myanmar. They both like museums and music. They keep up with current events and discuss things like social conditions and water-crises in third-world countries. Harsh as it sounds, I am way more interested in what my kids’ friends are up to than what’s going down clear across the world. And that makes them both roll their eyes.
But we could get around those things. I could spend the day shopping in open-air markets for funky earrings and sip exotic drinks with the locals while my daughter toured a temple in Chiang Mai. I could do a little of her this and a little of her that and she could placate me the same way. I have no doubt that we could make a vacation work.
But it’s the getting there that would kill us both.
In the middle of June I am going to southern Maine for a three-night rendezvous with my college roommates. We are staying in my friend Betsy’s oceanfront house where I have been probably a dozen times. My roommates are all unpretentious, kind-hearted, ex-hippies who wouldn’t notice, or care, if I wore the same outfit every single day. I know what bedroom I will sleep in. I know where I will walk in the morning and I know how much water pressure to expect in the shower. There will be no great surprises. And yet, I have had a running List of Things to Bring going for a good week-and-a-half. My clothes will be completely packed, along with my portable fan at least three days before I leave. I will not forget anything because I will bring the largest suitcase I own, filled with clothing choices for every conceivable weather condition, despite tracking conditions on weather.com and knowing exactly what to expect.
For months I’d been slipping travel planning suggestions into my daily conversations with Molly.
“Maybe you should go shopping for a backpack.”
“Buy new sneakers now so you don’t get blisters.”
“Make sure you find out if you need a typhoid shot.”
“Mail order some quick-dry shorts from that discount camping website.”
And even though all those suggestions were met with “Mmm Hmm” or just plain silence, I went for the gusto.
“Where are you going to stay?”
“Mom. There are millions of places to stay. Don’t worry about it.”
But still, I went for Double Jeopardy. “What’s your plan for after your father leaves?”
And that’s when I got the hand.
When I was her age, I too could sleep anywhere. My friend Penny, aka Patty, and I would hop in her Corvair and drive to the Jersey shore for the weekend with no plan. If we didn’t meet any friends or lovers in Somers Point, we’d rent a room in a boarding house. And maybe even share a bathroom with other guests.
And though I certainly get it – cause I did it – at my advanced age, I would rather stay home than do it again.
But, my spouse is different. He does not need to plan, nor does he need to obsess, like I do.
I tried to remain hands-off. Friends even remarked that I was way cooler than they’d be about their child traveling to the other side of the world. And I am cool. About the big things. I have absolutely no fear of her being sold into slavery or abducted by aliens or bit by mosquitos. But, for me, the devil’s in the details.
Molly came home from New Orleans five days before her trip since they were flying out of Newark. Every single minute of every single day I thought about the fact that neither she nor her father had checked buttons on shirts, zippers on shorts, caps on toothpastes, let alone secured luggage tags on suitcases (or backpacks, as the case may be). Every bone in my anxious body cringed as the days got nearer to departure and there were no visible signs of packing progress.
I tried to let it go. To deep-breathe. To go on long bike rides. Hours-long walks. Dinner with friends. If I wasn’t around, they wouldn’t feel my angst. It didn’t work. I heard them snickering behind my back about how anxious Mom was and she wasn’t even going. They were right. I lost a good three days of work because I couldn’t concentrate. And they didn’t lose a single minute.
I thought I had died and gone to heaven when 15 hours before they were leaving for the airport, my spouse started looking for hotels and talking about how they might spend their two weeks together. I gleefully participated in the search for the perfect palaces and then called my sister at Travel Finesse to seal the deal.
“Oh, I assumed they had booked their rooms themselves when I hadn’t heard from them,” she said, validating my time frame concerns. However, in their defense, they had no problem making reservations and perhaps even saved a few bucks by booking last minute.But for me, peace of mind doesn’t carry a price tag.
They got off fine. The only thing they forgot was their Bangkok city map that I’m sure they replaced for free at the hotel. And of course, the non-forgotten malaria pills (see previous blog on Malaria: The least of my worries).
I got a selfie this morning and they were both still smiling.
And I smiled, thinking how nice it is to be so in sync with a travel companion.
And so I called Penny and strong-armed her into booking a cruise for the end of August. Penny and I travel well together. She has as many anxieties as I do, but in different categories. Together, we’ve got them just about all covered. But as long as I know I’ll wake up to an activities program slipped under the door telling me where to be and when to change my clothes, and as long as she can have her coffee on the balcony as the sun’s coming up and I’m still snoring away, we’re happy.
She may tease me for starting my List of Things to Bring three months early, and I’ll taunt her when she wonders if she left her iron plugged in. But since we live 1,000 miles apart, we don’t have to feel each other’s angst until we’re three drinks in on the Lido Deck. And, by then, it simply won’t matter.