I credit my insatiable love of travel to my mom. One of my earliest memories is a motorcycle trip we took outside of Sofia. I couldn’t have been more than 4, but I remember the bike (of course!) and I remember a brook where my mom’s boyfriend helped me fish with a metal cup tied to a thread. In one of the villages we passed through, I had the best yogurt and cookies I’d ever eaten (that is to say in the couple of years I’d been conscious of such things). My taste has grown more sophisticated since then but I still love my yogurt and cookies.
I also have fond memories of riding the train with my mom on the way to and from my grandparents’ village in the mountains. We were still under Communism and there was a shortage of everything. Very few people owned cars and the trains were so crowded that the doors couldn’t close. My mother and I would sit on the steps, our feet dangling. She told me stories of witches who lived in the tunnels and each time we entered a tunnel, I would get excited hoping to see one, or at least her broom. To this day, when I take the Acela to Washington, DC, I feel a thrill while going through the tunnels outside Baltimore. It doesn’t help that I usually lose my Internet and phone connection.
The first time I traveled with my mom as an adult was in Paris. I had already been living in New York for about 7 years. The Americans wouldn’t give my mom a visa, not even to attend my college graduation, so I decided to take her to Paris instead. My ex at the time (we were still friends) thought I was crazy. “Your first trip to Paris shouldn’t be with your mom,” he told me. Hm, there was a reason why we were no longer together.
My mom and I were like kids in a candy store. I rented us a tiny room close to the Louvre and for the next 3 days we wandered around the city without a break. Blessed with a prematurely warm spring weather, one of the trip highlights was sun tanning on the grass at the foot of the Eifel tower after having climbed the stairs to the top. It was a major novelty for mom who hadn’t been anywhere else in the West. If there were grassy areas in Sofia’s parks and gardens back then, they were off limits.
We saw all of the tourist attractions, checked out every corner of the city mentioned in my guidebook. We fought the crowds in front of the Mona Lisa and snapped a selfie before there were selfies.
My mother remembers her first dinner in Paris the way I remember the yogurt and cookies on the bike trip.
My mom eventually was deemed safe by the American Immigration Authorities, and she now visits me in New York regularly. When she’s in town, I know I have a companion no matter what I’d like to do and see—from museums to punk concerts, dress-up events like the Governor’s Island retro party, or simply shopping.
On the Cape, my mom was again the perfect guest. She was up for anything and everything—a walk on the beach or in the woods, sailing, picking blueberries or cranberries for Thanksgiving, even a drive to the beach in a blizzard!
When I had a tough time one summer, all I had to do was pick up the phone and a few days later my mom was with me in New York. Instead of wallowing in misery, we decided to take a trip to Niagara Falls. Another friend joined and the three of us had a wonderful time.
When my mom turned 60 last summer, I took her to Barcelona. I’d been there years earlier but I wanted her to see as much as possible in the few days we had. As we’d done in Paris more than a decade earlier, we roamed the streets for hours on end. And when we stopped for a break, it was because I was tired, not mom.
We’re planning a trip to Washington, DC in October. I will make sure that we take the train but I doubt that we’ll be able to get to sit on the steps, dangling our feet in the tunnels.