When I was young, I learned a lot about travel from my mother. She taught me how and what to pack. She taught me to keep a travel diary. And most important, she taught me how to power-sightsee.
'You never know when you'll be back, ' my mother used to say as she and my dad pushed my sister, brother and me to yet another art museum, Gothic church or 18th-century cemetery.
Decades later, my mother and I still travel together, but now that she's in her mid-80s, our roles have changed. She's hearing-impaired and often uses a cane for balance, while I bring a notepad and pen to write down tour highlights. I also handle hotel accommodations, hail the cabs and make sure a wheelchair is waiting at the airport.
Some might think of traveling with an elderly parent as a burden, but my mom is invaluable to me. She's still vibrant and fiercely holds onto her love of travel. She's a globe-trotter and a wealth of knowledge - my personal version of a Frommer's app. I'm a journalist, perpetually time-strapped as I race to meet the next deadline, so I also depend on her to help me with the research for our trips.
When I was growing up, vacations were rarely about splashing in hotel pools or relaxing on beaches. Vacationing was a form of boot camp. Try touring Washington, D.C., in July where scorching temperatures wilt hair bows and drench summer shorts. Even a trip to Walt Disney World in Orlando, Fla., as a child was not as much fun as one might think. My mother made sure it was squeezed between educational sightseeing trips to Cape Canaveral, home of the Kennedy Space Center, and St. Augustine, where my sister, brother and I learned about 16th century explorer Ponce de Leon.
But as the decades have gone by, my mom's and my life's circumstances have made the mother-daughter travel combo a natural, practical and enjoyable experience.
To be sure, I have taken plenty of trips with friends to a variety of places - Puerto Rico, Miami's South Beach, San Francisco. And over the years, my mom has traveled with her own circle of friends. My mom lost her most dependable travel buddy when my dad died in 2002, and her aging friends are too frail to travel now.
As for me, most of my friends are married and often travel with their families. I don't particularly like to travel alone, and it's hard to synchronize my plans with my single friends' crazy work schedules. Even if my friends were more readily available, I worry that taking trips with them might put stress on our relationships.
What makes this mother-daughter travel team work is that we understand each other.
Unlike me, my mom is fearless. Turbulence on planes doesn't bother her, while I get a pit in my stomach anytime a plane lurches. At 80, she climbed the steep stone steps to the top of Ireland's Blarney Castle. I, on the other hand, get nervous when I see spiral staircases.
My mother is also more organized than I am. Weeks in advance of a trip, my mom folds her clothes neatly in her suitcase and wraps her shoes with layers of tissue paper as if she's wrapping a gift, while I often find myself packing the night before.
And even though I have adopted my mom's sightseeing approach of trying to cover a lot of ground, we have our own styles. We love to go to art museums, but I like to concentrate on the highlights of the exhibit. Mom studies every single painting for a few minutes before moving on to the next. So we compromise and meet at the end.
As I get older, I value more and more how my mother has used travel as a way to connect with our roots. As a family, we have been to Italy several times, where we visited relatives or tried to research our ancestors in small towns. I have also admired the way my mom used travel as a source of comfort. Two years after my brother died at age 23, my sister, mother and father went to Europe. My mother was key in the planning.
Friends tell me how lucky I am to have my mom as my travel companion.
I do feel lucky, but I'm already starting to feel nostalgic. A few weeks ago after being hospitalized with a severe case of the flu, my mother confided in me that perhaps her traveling days are over.
I refuse to believe it.
And so I'm planning our next trip. An Alaskan cruise maybe, or what about a trip to the South of France to visit her friend? If I have my way, the possibilities for more adventures with my mom remain endless.