The Travels With My Mum Bit

Breakfast with the Acropolis!

Springtime greetings!  For the month of May – Mother’s Day month! – I’ve been sifting through photos and memories from amazing trips I’ve shared with my mother over the years!  It got me quizzing Mum about whether as a kid growing up in the Midwest, she ever imagined she’d travel to places like Australia, Greece and China!  

How does a girl from Ashtabula, Ohio end up seeing so much of the world?  Come along on a little tour and see!

Maybe Mum’s traveling tendencies had their roots in a childhood filled with – well – with being uprooted!  Grandpa was in building construction through the difficult Depression days when the family simply had to move to wherever the work was.  During World War II, they moved about every six months while Grandpa helped build military camps (like Camp Atterbury in Indiana) and retool factories to support the war effort.  

Mum and Grandma on the porch at Aunt Jenny’s in Ashtabula!

That meant Mum had to start at one new school after another and make new friends over and over again (a prospect that makes me cringe just thinking of…).  I feel like Mum not only survived but thrived in those itinerant days by honing a charming craft she still possesses for quickly discovering common ground and kinship with new people she meets!

And maybe a necessary comfort with change made it easy for Mum at just 16 to board a train on her own to arrive early one morning in Grinnell, Iowa where she’d earn a bachelor’s degree in Political Science from Grinnell College.  Not content to stop there, Mum went on to the University of Wisconsin in Madison where, while serving as house fellow to 50 girls in a dorm, she picked up a Master’s Degree and teaching certificate, and somehow found spare time to play bridge – which is how she met my dad!

Wisconsin grad!

Now on the surface, marrying a Doctor of Plant Pathology with an acute aversion to flying might not seem the key to a lifetime of world travels.  And Mum might have figured she’d finally settled down when Dad took a job with the Wisconsin branch of the Forest Service and the young couple bought a quaint little lakeside house in Rhinelander and started a family.

But then Dad got an offer to teach at UC Berkeley.  So despite having a new baby and a new mortgage, the folks thought the offer too good to pass up and, without hesitation according to Mum, pulled up stakes to drive (rather than fly, of course) out to California!

As Dad’s career progressed, work would take him to lots of interesting parts of the world like Guatemala and Britain!  On those occasions, he’d reluctantly leave Mum behind to keep my two big brothers and me out of trouble (quite the task), and would gamely pledge not to enjoy the trips at all without her. 

While these were relatively short excursions, Dad also got a chance in the late 60’s to take a sabbatical to study tree diseases in Australia!  Mum doesn’t recall having any qualms on this occasion either about packing up again to journey by ship (rather than fly, of course) and spend a whole year not just in another time zone but another hemisphere! 

The yet to be completed Sydney Opera House!

Mum makes a new friend in Australia!

Later, when we kids had flown the nest and Dad’s work called him twice to China, Mum was delighted to be able accompany him – with license now for them both to enjoy the adventure!   On one of these trips, she even scaled the steps of the Great Wall – a place in which Mum tells me she sure never thought she’d find herself!  There are no pictures of the moment since my energetic Dad had forged ahead with a colleague leaving Mum to negotiate steps that were becoming increasingly higher and tougher to manage.  As Mum paused for a breather, she noticed a Chinese family reticently gauging her progress.  Ever the maker of friends, Mum cheerily hailed them with the greeting she’d been sure to learn before embarking on the trip:

“Ni hǎo ma!”

The countenance of every member of that family instantly brightened, and they all rushed over to lend a hand in getting Mum up those storied (if steep) stone steps!

Dad’s professional opportunities to see the world were just a prelude though to Mum and Dad’s getting to indulge their shared love of travel in retirement – and sometimes, I was lucky enough to get to go along!

Finnish rendezvous!

Twice, I got to meet up with them to explore the roots of Mum’s side of the family in Finland!  Mum was able to recall some of the Finnish she’d picked up from her childhood days among numerous relatives in Ashtabula – and she added “Spasiba” so she could properly thank people on our side trip to Russia.

Touring St. Petersburg!

As if a second trip to Finland hadn’t been lovely enough, it represented a chance for me to recapture some photos I’d lost from the first trip when a roll of film didn’t advance in my camera (another way of saying I didn’t load the film properly…).  I’d been heartbroken at the time, but was delighted to have the chance to re-photograph places like the ski jumps in Lahti!

When I got there that second time though, I was disappointed to find that the booth where I’d purchased a ticket before to take an elevator to the top of a jump was closed.  But while I was dejectedly walking away, Mum inquired at a nearby kiosk and discovered tickets were now being sold from there.  So because of her determination, I was able to retake my dizzying top-of-the-jump photo!

View from the top (thanks to Mum)!

88-year-old Mum and I haven’t traveled internationally for some time – but we haven’t stopped traveling entirely!  A couple years ago, we road-tripped to Palm Springs which put us close to Joshua Tree National Park.  As we happily dined in a fancy Indian Wells hotel restaurant and enjoyed some live music, I asked in passing if she felt up to going on a little side adventure into what was unknown territory for us.  

Her reply?


Well, there it is then:

Exploring Joshua Tree!

Just getting ready to explore (wearing a similarly keen expression)!

We’re also making plans for a little road trip this summer which will include a stop at our favorite section of the California coast!

Out on a coastal trail!

Whew!  So how did that little tot on the porch in Ashtabula make it to all those amazing global destinations?  Well, with some very good fortune – no doubt about that!  Also, Mum found a soul mate with a similar sense of curiosity and love of exploration.  

I think it’s safe to say I’ve followed their example in those respects!  And it’s been my good fortune to enjoy some positively magical moments traveling with Mum:  like breakfasting almost in the shadow of the Acropolis; wandering breathlessly among the pyramids of the Giza Plateau; and cruising out of the port at St. Petersburg just as the sun was setting and a gentle benediction of rain was beginning to fall.

Checking out the Pyramids!

But I recall the little moments too where Mum’s enduring friendliness and openness to new things made the experiences all the richer – and I expect it’s those qualities that have translated best all around the world!

As May 12th approaches, I’m reminded how fortunate I am for that example too.  And I’ll take this opportunity to say:  “Happy Mother’s Day, my Mummy!”  

Spasiba, xiè xie, and of course – kiitos paljon for everything!  

Minä rakastan sinua, Äiti! 



  1. mvobsession · · Reply

    Beautiful post 🙂

    1. Thanks very much!

  2. Jack Niemi · · Reply

    Hi Amy,

    Another masterpiece! What a gift you have in painting pictures with your words.

    I am grateful for your blog posts. They really keep me connected to you and your Mum.

    Please give her a hug from me.

    Love you,

    Pastor Jack

    Sent from my iPhone


  3. Amy, This is truly a beautiful tribute to your mother and the amazing travels you take. It inspires me to do the same with my parents!! I can also tell that if Anita we’re not your mother , some how she would have been in your life!! It is beshert (meant to be) that you have each other. You are outstanding!!

    1. Oh Seth, that is so sweet – thank you! And we’re so fortunate and glad that you bring music and humor and a lovely heart into our lives! Thank you again so very much!

  4. Very nice post

    1. Many thanks!

  5. Cheers to you both!

    1. Many thanks!

  6. Hello Amy.

    How wonderful post! I enjoyed it very much. Especially I love the photo presenting ski jump. It is marvelous how gently slopes they seem to be when seen them from below, but seen on the top they are upright. If You do not mind Amy, I link there one quite similar photo from Ruka Arctic Hill from 2010.

    Ski jump of Ruka

    I told to my wife, that do not look down, but directly in front of you.

    May I ask where this ski jump situated?

    Have a wonderful day!

    1. So glad you enjoyed the post – I was most inspired by my mum! And lovely picture of a jump more in wintertime! I was in Lahti in the summer so there was a swimming pool in use at the foot of one of the jumps. And yes – it’s quite a different view from the top! It made me certain that I’d never try being a ski jumper! Thank you so much for reading and sharing the photo!

      1. Thank You.

        Yes indeed, there is an outdoor pool in front of highest ski jump.

        Have a nice day!

      2. Kiitos – you too!

  7. What a lovely post about your mother! Sounds like you’ve both led adventurous lives! My grandparents (especially my grandma) liked to travel too – my aunt used to work for Northwest Airlines back in the ’70s, when family members of employees were still able to get very cheap flights, so they took full advantage! I reckon I get the travel bug from them, since my parents certainly aren’t good travelers.

    1. Thanks very much! And a traveling bug is a lovely thing to have inherited from your grandparents!

    1. Thank you!

  8. Thank you for sharing. I hope you mom has a wonderful Mother’s Day.

    1. Thank you for reading and for the good wishes – all the best to you!

  9. Lovely lovely. Your Mum sounds terrific!

    1. Thank you so much! I may be a bit biased but I think she’s terrific, myself!

  10. What a sweet tribute. I love travelling with my Mum.

    1. Thank you! Yes, my Mum is a real inspiration – and glad to hear you love traveling with yours! Thanks for reading!

  11. Have walker, will travel.

    1. You got it! Just keepin’ on keepin’ on!

  12. the koala pic, though

  13. What a wonderful slice of life. Any tribute to a parent is precious. I lost my mother way too early but love to see others embrace the memories they share with theirs.

    1. Thank you so very much! And I do know how fortunate I am still to be making memories with my mum – and I trust your memories of yours are as sweet!

  14. […] for barbecues, beach days, and from the days of my youth, time for hitting the road!  I devoted my last post to trips I took with dear Mummy, so I thought it only fair to shift my focus for Father’s […]

  15. Lovely, admire you for the collection you brought out from mum’s collection. Great post and loved the pictures.

    1. Thank you very much! Yes, I hoard family photos – which sometimes comes in handy! Thanks for reading!

  16. Good post Amy. Your Mum sounds like quite the lady. Allan

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