Traveling with Mom: From South Korea to Mongolia
I like to tell friends and family that I am ‘the interesting Genter.’ As a negative side effect of travel, I have an inflated ego and I always tell people I would be an amazing dinner guest because of my wit and colorful travel stories. I mainly do this to piss off my older sister, who is incredibly interesting, but never caught the travel bug like I have.
When I’m off on one of my, ‘I’m so interesting everyone loves me’ kicks, the person who likes to brutally bring me back to Earth is my charming and also incredibly interesting mother. When I was planning on a weeklong academic trip to Cuba, a trip many of my family members thought was a huge mistake, I asked my mother if she would worry about me while I was traveling through a communist country.
“Oh please,” she said. “I traveled through Czechoslovakia in the 80s and they almost detained me. Travelling through Communist countries is old hat.”
Before I did anything, my mother did tons of things. She is a far more intrepid traveler than myself. When she first moved to Switzerland, she slept on park benches until she found an apartment. She moved to Spain with little to no Spanish knowledge and was fluent after only 6 weeks of living there. She volunteered around the Dominican Republic for a month after she was in Spain. My college travel experiences pale in comparison.
“I traveled through Czechoslovakia in the 80s and they almost detained me. Travelling through Communist countries is old hat.”
As a high school senior looking for colleges, a strong study abroad program was a necessity for me. My mother was thrilled I wanted to travel. She was equally excited when my brother decided to study abroad in Dublin for a semester. Despite her happiness at our choices, her job as a teacher did not permit mid-semester weeklong trips abroad, so my father visited me in London when I studied there, and two years later he visited my brother in Dublin.
Traveling with my father is great. We mesh together well. I have a generally more nervous disposition but he calms me down fairly well. Plus we love pubs so traveling the UK together was perfect for us.
After living in Korea for ten months, my Mom was coming to visit me and together, we would head to Mongolia for my summer vacation. I had never done a one-on-one trip with my mother for so long. So here I was, traveling to South Korea and Mongolia with my mom.
One friend asked me, “Do you think you guys will be okay together for so long?”
It’s great to see a woman you love so much still get excited about things like cool tents, camel rides, and beautiful rolling hills, even after she’s seen so much of the world.
“I hope so,” I answered. We would be spending three days in Seoul, a week in Mongolia, two days in the Korean island Jeju, and four days in my town. Going to Mongolia was my idea. I suggested going to Mongolia to see the Nadaam Festival, the country’s largest festival featuring wrestling, archery, and horseback racing.
When I brought this up during a skype conversation with her, my Dad interjected, “I’d love to go to Mongolia!”
“You’re not going!” My mother snapped, “I am. It’s my turn.” She gave me free reign to pick any country I wanted, pick any tour and activity. She was ready for anything.
“It’s your first time in Asia,” I kept saying. “What do YOU want to do?”
“I just want to see you!” She said with dollops of sincerity and sarcasm mixed together.
Once we got to Mongolia, it became obvious that it had been the right trip to do with her. We were in Ulaanbaatar to see the Presidential Inauguration and Nadaam Festival (both of which she loved). Then we headed out to the Mongolian countryside and stayed in gers (semi-permanent Mongolian tents that many people there live in). It’s great to see a woman you love so much still get excited about things like cool tents, camel rides, and beautiful rolling hills, even after she’s seen so much of the world.
I had never done a one-on-one trip with my mother for so long.
One night we were each having a drink and playing cards on a deck of a restaurant, watching the sunset over the Mongolian steppes. She smiled and said to me, “This is something I’ll always remember.”
Like an obnoxious teenager I answered, “Unless you get dementia and forget. That’s possible too.”
My mother gave me the same look I give to my students when they’re being little smartasses. “Well, until that time,” she said. “I’ll remember how great this trip was.”
As I sit here now at a coffee shop in my town in Korea, typing this and watching my Mom read a book in my new home, I couldn’t be happier that she came, even if I did get mad at her this morning when she couldn’t figure out how to turn on my Korean fan.