It’s no secret that so much of my life is changing this year. And it’s got me thinking a lot about people I’ve known, and how they’ve helped shape me and prepare me for what’s next- a U.S./Canada RV adventure and then a huge solo trip around the world. And the person who’s influenced me most in that and every regard is my Mom.

I don’t really know how my Mom got so gutsy. She grew up in a beautiful tiny town called Hemmingford, forty-five minutes south of Montreal, where she graduated with six students in her class- a point my brother and I learned after she’d told us repeatedly how she graduated 2nd in her class and we finally thought to inquire further. ;)   But more importantly she was really sheltered- couldn’t ride a bike until she was eleven, couldn’t go anywhere without her brothers, and went to a small all girls college, all at the insistence of my Grandpa. And her family didn’t travel, except to rent a summer camp at nearby Lake Champlain. By all accounts she was raised to be afraid to do a lot of things on her own, even in her small corner of the world, and to fear people who were different from her family.

But my Mom had wanderlust, and at twenty years old eloped with my Dad and moved nearly 3,000 miles away to Los Angeles. And she didn’t subscribe to the shoulds and shouldn’ts- by the time I was two months old, we were on a plane from L.A. to Montreal to meet my family.

Within six years, my Mom was divorced with full custody and financial responsibility for my younger brother and I. Living in New England allowed us to remain in the States, but be closer to family. We lived in diverse Portland, Maine neighborhoods where my Mom, and also we, made an equally diverse group of friends. The open-mindedness my Mom modeled was in stark contrast to my Grandpa’s opinions…and I don’t think by accident.

Each Christmas she would pack up my brother and I and all the family presents, and make the often harrowing 5-7 hour drive through the slick mountainous roads so that we could spend the holidays with our family in Hemmingford. She was a young, solo female traveler, with two small, rambunctious kids in tow and she never gave any indication that this was anything but normal.  I know it wasn’t easy during those years she was with us alone, but she was resourceful, so we were able to have great experiences on a tight budget.

When she and my step-dad met, we began a series of moves every few years for his career. I’ve perpetuated that in my adulthood and have a huge appreciation for how much harder it must have been with a family of four. Growing up in this way taught me how to deal with change, and to let go of material things I don’t need.

There are times when I’ve wished I’d grown up differently. Without the financial struggle, the divorces, the moves, but these days I realize that all of that, or more aptly how my Mom handled all of that taught me such valuable lessons for where I am right now.

Four years ago, a week after my Mom had a subarachnoid hemorrhage, we celebrated Mother’s Day in a neurological intensive care unit. We actually felt so grateful to be able to celebrate, and were even more grateful when within two months, my Mom made a full recovery. Mother’s Day has had even more meaning to me since then.

Happy Mother’s Day Mom! I love you! Thank you for, through your own actions and words, making me feel like I can do anything I put my mind to…even the “crazy” stuff. Whenever I get scared, I’ll think of you and your fearlessness. :)

Recently while on a walk at the Emeryville Marina with my friend Leslie and her son, my nearly three year-old friend Dean, the conversation turned, as it so often does, to travel.  Strolling by the boats, Leslie said, “What do you think Dean; what if you, Daddy and me got on a boat and sailed around the world?” Dean’s response, without missing a beat, “Let’s go!” In a second I was transported back in time to my little brother’s face staring up at me urging, “Yet’s go Yanna, yet’s go!” to whatever our next adventure was.  And just as quickly I was back, wondering when that beautiful sense of spontaneity begins to be tempered by practicality.

A few weeks later while visiting my family in Arizona, I spoke with my seven year-old nephew Ryan, my brother’s son. “So what do you think about going on an adventure with Auntie Lorna tomorrow while your parents are at work?” Without hesitation he replied, “Sure, ever been to Chicago?” I tried not to laugh, I really did, and I hated having to explain why this wasn’t a good plan. Why wasn’t it? It sounded good to me. It just wasn’t practical.  That night before he went to bed, I asked if he’d given any more thought to what he’d like to do. “Hollywood” he said matter-of-factly.

The truth is, I don’t want to say no to these suggestions. I don’t want to teach them why you can’t just hop on a plane, boat, train, bus, etcetera, to go somewhere you want to go. In fact, I want to meet them where they are, and have them remind me that I may be the one who’s got it wrong.

So what lessons am I going to take from these tiny teachers?

What Ryan and I settled on that day in Arizona was a trip to the Arizona Science Center.  To my amazement, he rode a bicycle forward and backward across a tightrope 2 stories-high, and lay on a bed of nails with only his head protected. 1. Adventures can be had right where you are. I’m making a local-centric wanted-to-but-never-did list and I’m going to start doing them before I take off so that even being at home is filled with adventure.

On another recent walk in the redwoods (or as Dean more accurately describes them the “greenwoods”) at Joaquin Miller Park we reached an impasse. Leslie asked Dean, the leader, if he’d like to take the path on the left or the one on the right. Dean’s answer was neither but straight ahead up a hill without a path.  When Leslie explained that we may want to choose one of the established paths so we wouldn’t get lost, Dean replied, “We won’t get lost, we’ll just use our ‘maginations!”  2. Trust your ability to be resourceful and take risks that ultimately make you bolder. I’m going to be sure, during my round the world trip that I’m more whimsical and spontaneous than I am calculated, planned out, and cautious. Where will I go first? Next? How long will I stay? Who knows! I’ll use my “magination.”

Finally, in the spirit of Ryan, Dean, and other pure adventurers like them, 3. Allow yourself to be “impractical” for an ultimate thrill. Someday, sooner than later, I’m going to show up at the airport, train station, or bus station without knowing where I’m going.  Sure, for those of us who aren’t millionaires, it may be too impractical to do all the time, but it can be done. And who knows, maybe I’ll end up in Chicago.

How about you? What adventures have you had in your own town? Ever take off spontaneously without a plan? What have the kids in your life taught you about travel? Tell us about it!

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