Skip spring break in Mexico or Italy with bae, and go somewhere with your mom instead.

By Dominique Astorino
Dominique Michelle Astorino

Oftentimes the phrase "mother-daughter" calls to mind matching outfits: one for a young woman and one miniature version for her toddler offspring. Or perhaps it draws up images of a high tea, set up by a PTA committee at a suburban middle school.

For me, "mother-daughter" always calls to mind something a little more exciting: a girls trip.

I travel quite a bit for work and for leisure; I've been on family trips to Hawaii and Disney World, romantic getaways with a partner to the mountains or city escapes, absurdly luxurious bachelorette trips with over a dozen gals my age, road trips and music festivals with just one best friend, dozens and dozens of work trips, and solo adventures here and there. All of that said, I'd still rather a trip—to literally anywhere in the world—with my mom.

I'm very fortunate to already have a solid bedrock of adult friendship with my mother, but even if you're not in the same boat, I think a one-on-one escape could help take your relationship and friendship with your own mom to the next level.

Recently, these trips for my mom and I have become a little…um…creative. Think: running races through Disney World wearing tutus and going on a couple's retreat to Sandals in the Bahamas. Yes, someone thought we were an actual couple, and yes, I was mildly horrified before surrendering to the comedy of it all.

Neither of us had the opportunity to travel too much when we were younger. In fact, my mom hadn't been out of the country before we started traveling together. I didn't start going anywhere until I was in college and paying my own way. The fact that we now have the opportunity to go so many places together fills us both with immense gratitude.

Fast forward to now, and it feels like we always have a new crazy adventure to talk about: We've driven beaten-up stick shifts through the jungles of the Yucatán, sipped rosé while watching the Eiffel Tower light up at dusk, snorkeled in volcanic craters off the coast of Maui, and road tripped up to snowy mountains in Southern California just to get a specific beer at a very special brewery.

If we're not on a trip, we're planning our next one. You could say we're addicted—and you'd be totally right. It's for good reason: Not only have we been bitte by the travel bug, but traveling together has taken our relationship from "great" to "absolutely unshakable." (Related: Watching My Mom Become a Yoga Teacher Taught Me a New Meaning of Strength)

You'd think that once you already have a pretty solid relationship with your parent (or daughter, if you're the mom in this scenario) that you'd plateau at a certain point. Things are awesome, how could they get better? But just like with any other relationship, there's something different about travel—it's like a secret sauce—that helps uncover new pieces of your travel buddy's soul. It sounds sappy, but if you've experienced it yourself, you know just how true it is.

Away from the pressures of everyday life, away from the nitpicking and responsibilities and expectations, away from your other relationships and your job and your kids or dog or whatever else you have going on, you and your mother can escape for a short while to reconnect—or connect for the first time—in a vulnerable and honest way. (Related: Can a Wellness Retreat Fix All Your Problems?)

I found this to be especially accurate on the aforementioned couple's trip. Never did I ever think I'd end up at a Sandals honeymoon-style trip with my mom, getting couples massages, eating at romantic restaurants, and lounging on the beach side-by-side reading novels. But what surprised me the most was how an intimate setting intended to intensify romantic relationships actually allowed for more emotional development within a familial friendship, too. We were able to talk about things we hadn't brought up in decades. I got to see my mom, who I've known for literally my entire life, in a whole new light. I'm shook.

Then, of course, there are the life lessons. There's so much we, as children, can learn from our parents that we aren't even aware of—and sometimes you won't get those lessons until you're in unique (sometimes crazy) situations in brand-new places.

And to be honest, I think we have a lot to teach our moms, too. (Not just about Instagram, either!) I find that our generation of millennial women is much more gracious when it comes to talking about our bodies and appearance (though obviously we still have miles to go). There have been countless times when I've reminded my mom to celebrate how she looks in her bikini rather than berate herself for the natural wear and tear of age and childbearing.

And while my mom bequeaths her wisdom of proper wine pairings (not "literally any wine with literally any food," per millennial style) and how to drive a stick-shift in a foreign country, I've had fun teaching her about which iconic designer boutique we needed to visit in each destination, and how to say different—very crucial—phrases in French, like "nous voudrions plus de vin, s'il vous plaît" (translation: more wine).

The result of our shared travels has been enriching and enlightening, and it's such a joy to get to experience and learn new things together. And embracing the unexpected, weird, hilarious, and sometimes scary and challenging parts of traveling together has been a gift, both of self-discovery and of discovering each other. We've grown closer, grown up, stayed young, connected to the world around us and to our true selves, and created memories that are worth more than any single souvenir we've ever brought home. I wouldn't trade these "girls trips" for anything.

Call your mom. Pack your bags. It's time to bond like you've never bonded before.

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