By , March 9, 2012 8:38 pm

Before we ever left home, my mom and her boyfriend, Terry, told us they were planning to meet up with us for the month of February.  They had already booked the vacation time and were anxiously waiting to find out what their destination would be.  You see, they were willing to be super flexible and show up wherever we were at the time.  The problem with that, as anyone following our journey probably knows, is that we typically don’t know where we’ll be in a week, never mind a year.  We originally told them it would probably be Chile and Argentina.  Then we said Peru or Ecuador.  Then Panama.  Finally, as we were still in Utila, we settled on Nicaragua.  (Even with this plan, we ended up skipping the rest of Honduras and El Salvador to meet up with them on time, so we are currently backtracking a bit to see some of what we blew by).

As the date got closer and closer, I was more and more excited to see my mom.  Seven months of Skype conversations over sketchy internet connections are no replacement for seeing a loved one in person.  I expected that we would have an amazing month together.  And we did. But not without a little drama.

First night with my mom in Managua

You see, the truth about travelling with mom and Terry is that we simply have different travel styles.  While we are budget backpackers out to get great value for our money and willing to sacrifice a few creature comforts to save a buck, they would rather fork over a little more cash for some “necessary” items.  We are looking to immerse ourselves in the culture and food of smaller communities a little off the beaten track.  They are looking for – as Terry put it – a beach with a 7/11 around the corner.  And so be it.  This was their vacation too, and we wanted them to enjoy every minute of it.  We never expected them to travel like we did.  But we also coudn’t just sacrifice a month of our budget for their comfort.

Trying to make a plan that suits everyone

So we compromised.  Where possible, we tried to find accommodations which would fit everyone’s needs (typically dorm rooms for Mike and I and a private ensuite room for Mom and Terry).  When this wasn’t possible, we stayed in separate places, trying to keep them as close together as possible.

For food, we had one to two meals together a day and the others apart.   Mom has kidney disease and can’t eat much salt and Terry doesn’t like onions, peppers, or really much for veggies.  This made finding suitable restaurants difficult at times.  They wanted a lot of burgers and fries.  We stuck to local set plates and street food.  They went to Subway a few times.  We didn’t, having vowed never to eat at a multi-national North American chain outside of North America.  Terry liked meat and potatoes.  We tried to limit our meat consumption to one meal every day or two.

Our kind of lunch!

It’s hard to travel with a group.  As a couple, Mike and I have pretty much figured each other’s preferences out (and, thankfully, they’re remarkably similar), but it still becomes difficult to compromise day in and day out.  We share one plate for most of meals out, which makes every meal a compromise.  Just trying to decide what to order can be a challenge after eating out a few days in a row, nevermind deciding where to go next, how long to stay, and what to do when we get there.

Mike, Mom and Terry

Throw in another couple with different travel preferences and you’ve got a challenging situation. Communication is key.  We struggled with communication at the beginning… for example, Mom and Terry told us they all they needed for accommodations was a private room.  A private bathroom would be nice.  After a while, we realized that they actually wanted a private room with a private bathroom, at least a fan, and windows with good light; hot water and air conditioning strongly preferred, and a television would be nice.  There’s nothing wrong with this list, but knowing it from the start would have made searching for hostels/hotels a lot easier in the beginning.

Not exactly the type of place Mom & Terry wanted to stay at.  But at only $12 a night for a private room with wifi in San Juan del Sur, we couldn’t pass it up!

In the end, it was absolutely worth every challenge we had just to have my mom around.  I loved being able to sit down to breakfast with her, chat about things going on in our lives, share the experience of exploring new cities and foods (one of their favourite foods in the end was fried yucca in Granada), and playing cards while chatting the evenings away.  They treated us with a couple of meals that were beyond our price range and we were able to cook one of our favourite splurge meals of spaghetti bacon carbonara (complete with red wine) for them.  It was sort of a cheer-them-up after they were robbed at the beach (more on this later).  They were great sports about some of “challenges” of backpacking through Central America… I got to see my mom ride in a chicken bus with standing room only, complete with a chicken!

Mom and Terry treated us to an early 5th Anniversary dinner

Mom… I know you are reading this.   I love you and miss you and can’t wait for our next adventure together! I’m so proud of everything you tried and opened yourself up to on our trip (I still can’t believe you went ziplining with us.. awesome!). Enjoy every minute of every day and I’ll see you soon on Skype! And please wipe those tears away… we’ll be together again before you know it! (I wonder where?)

My mom

4 Responses to “The Truth About Travelling with Mom”

  1. Too awesome – I am just in the midst of writing a closure post about our time with ma & pa…. this is a great one. Our parents may have different travel styles than us, but any tiny compromises are more than worth it to have them with us.

    • Ashley Lenzen says:

      Absolutely! It was so cool to hang out with some dearly missed family in another country! Can’t wait to read about your experiences.

  2. Mica says:

    I think it’s awesome that you got to hang out with your ‘rents in another country. I tried to drag my mama to Thailand but she wasn’t having it, so I came home (currently at her house) before I leave to Australia. But I’ve warned her, she might have to visit me in Oz…

    • Ashley Lenzen says:

      Yep, it was definitely awesome. To steal the words out of Skott’s mouth (from Get Up & Globe) it was just good for the soul. It definitely gives you a new perspective on the places you’re travelling too. Good luck with getting your mama to join you… it’s worth it!

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