Now that you’ve heard all about my first travel companion (if not click here to take a look) on to my second buddy, my Mother.
My mum is obsessed with adventure, there is rarely a moment on our holidays when she cannot be found flicking through our latest guide book, circling destinations on a map or adding yet another post it note to every traveller’s best friend: The Lonely Planet guide to wherever-it-is-you-are. Whilst this thirst for ‘authentic’ cultural experience should in theory result in a wholly fulfilling stay, her ironic aversion to other tourists means we’ve often found ourselves in some rather unusual locations.
Perhaps my favourite of these obscure sites so far would be the Earthquake Preparation Centre in Tokyo. She set off with the best of intentions, leading our motley crew to what she had described that morning over breakfast as a ‘museum’, needless to say when we arrived, this was not the case at all. My dear mother had taken us to what was quite literally a training centre for Japanese residents in the event of a natural disaster (complete with smoke simulations, hard hats and alarm bells). It should go without saying that, being the only white people in sight, we received a few rather odd looks from the Japanese people around us. Nevertheless, never being one to admit she was wrong, my mother proceeded to lead my seven year old brother around the centre with nothing short of giddy enthusiasm as my father and I remained in the lobby, shifting uncomfortably under the scrutinising gaze of the men at the reception desk.
It should also be noted that despite the unforgettable moments she creates on all of our trips, she is also the most selfish traveller I know. Thinking about it now, I am struggling to identify the exact moment in which it became an unspoken rule that my mother would have first choice of, well everything, when on holiday. You arrived in the hotel room first and even started unpacking your case on the bed by the window? Tough luck my friend. You’re just eight years old, nervous and unsure in darkest Moscow and eager for the comfort of a real bed? Not today. Without exception and without any trace of guilt, my mum has decided that it is her right to assume whatever it is that takes her fancy, even if that does mean her partner and small child must endure the trials of sleeping on a horrific metal contraption (which the Russian bellboy assured us was a real bed) as she revels in the luxury of her Queensize.
Now, perhaps this is really quite a small ask. She plans most of the trip and takes us to a plethora of exciting (if unconventional) destinations, surely she deserves to end each evening in comfort? I would be inclined to agree with you if it were not for one particular instance, involving a very stressful evening on an overnight train from Singapore to Malaysia. Needless to say, when my mum first suggested that we further our adventure by spending the night on a genuine Asian form of transport, there were mixed responses. In the comfort of our English cottage, I was quite taken with the prospect of something so exciting but as the day approached (and we were confronted with what was quite possibly the grimiest, ricketiest and noisiest train we had ever encountered), expectations began to slip.
Now, most would probably assume that the individual responsible for this unpleasant experience would be eager to reassure and encourage those she had involved in such an unpopular situation, or at least make some attempt to apologise for her poor decision making – not my mother. As soon as we boarded the train from hell, she wasted no time securing herself in her sleeping bag liner (god forbid her skin actually touches the bed) hoisting her ridiculously large wooden souvenir onto her bunk (yet another of her endearing quirks, her tendency to burden our luggage with a whole host of huge and unnecessary souvenirs) and closing her curtains, only to resurface six hours later as our train finally pulled into the station.
Whether we’re trudging behind her on her hunt for Geishas in Kyoto, soothing her frazzled nerves after a very public and very loud encounter with a monkey (boy can she scream) or arguing with yet another flight attendant in the hope of convincing them to allow just one more of our bin bag wrapped Thai seats into the hold, when my Mum is around adventure is nothing short of inevitable.