My mom and dad celebrated birthdays in February and March respectively, so I’ve been thinking about them a little more than usual and am feeling pretty grateful for their presence in my life.
They have emerged as my biggest cheerleaders on my travels and I have so enjoyed them being armchair tourists along the way. The further along I get the more I realize just how much of my travel know-how and adventurousness comes from them. So for all these reasons, I think they deserve a little post in their honor.
Maybe it’s the dutiful Armenian daughter in me, but even when I’m traveling I talk to my parents almost every day. I let them know where I am or where I’m going. They always have the address of where I’m staying and my mom has even skyped with a few of my couch surfing hosts and travel friends (as proof that they really are sweet, normal people and not murderous thieves.)
I didn’t expect to stay so connected with home as I traveled, but I’ve come to look forward to the windows in each day when the time zones allow us to chat during normal waking hours. They seem endlessly interested in my stories, curious to hear about the new things I’m seeing and eating, and encourage me when my enthusiasm wanes. Two months in when I half jokingly-half seriously mentioned the possibility of coming home my mother’s response was, “But you just got going!”
They ask lots of questions, some of them expected: What do they eat for breakfast? What does the language sound like? Are you eating enough veggies? Some of them a bit more unusual: Are there car dealerships? How much is a utility bill for one month? My trip has made them more familiar with global geography. I’m pretty sure they didn’t know where Chiang Mai or Chengdu were before this year (but then again neither did I). My dad’s learned how to use a webcam and they’ve become avid youtubers, going on to watch clips of whatever place I am at the moment.
In many ways I have them to thank for where I am today. They got me traveling young and by example instilled in me a healthy appetite for trying new things. They passed on a go-with-the-flow travel attitude and easy acceptance of different cultures and people. One of my trademark phrases when traveling is, “What’s that? Let’s try it!” which I have my dad to thank for. He was also notorious for piling us into the car on weekends and driving without a set destination in mind. He taught me how to confidently trespass walk into a fancy hotel to use the bathroom. Together we explored alleyways, drove down new streets to see what was at the end of them, and tried new foods even if they’d give us a stomach ache afterwards.
My mother’s adventurousness hasn’t always been so obvious, but she’s journeyed devotedly alongside my dad for years with a cooler packed with sandwiches and surrendered admirably to her fate as the mother of an even more adventurous daughter. She’s had unwavering faith in my skills as a traveler since we backpacked the Scottish isles together in 1998. She’s listened like a saint to hours of my rambling and venting these few months, given advice and encouragemnt, and has tasked her whole Bible study group with praying for my safety.
Talking to other travelers and expats, I know my experience isn’t the norm. A lot of parents aren’t as supportive as mine. They don’t understand their offspring’s wanderlust and definitely don’t have the eagerness or open-mindedness to hear every detail like mine do.
So, to my parents, a big happy birthday! I love you both. Thank you for understanding why I’m out here doing what I’m doing, even when I don’t. You are the weirdest and most wonderful parents a traveling daughter could wish for.