Story 7: Healing Through Travel: How I Reconnected with My Mom

By Kari Rubina

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I am not a parent, but I can imagine that transition of seeing your kid as an adult is difficult. Especially when the kid is like me and hasn’t chosen the typical career path of corporate America and climbing the corporate ladder. Entrepreneurship and freelancing usually mean stints without work and supplementing income in the oddest ways: donating eggs, selling your old boots on craigslist… you know, the stuff you probably did in college. (Luckily, I have never had to sell my eggs!) 

There is probably some anxiety that comes about when the better life you worked hard to provide for your kid is tested by their “dreams of becoming an artist” or living on a couch while putting all their money into a startup idea. And I’m sure that your kid moving across the country and developing wildly different opinions and values than what you taught her is extremely challenging.

Well, all this tension came to a head during the Christmas of 2014 when my mom was driving me to the Houston airport after only two short days with the family. (I had been at a demanding job for a couple years and didn’t have much vacation time to visit for long periods.) We got in a HUGE fight. It was bad. There were curse words, there were questions about life decisions, there were lots of judgments. I was definitely being a little shit, but I was surprised by some of the things she brought up – like she didn’t even know me. 

The fight ended only because I walked through the doors of the airport and got on a plane. We didn’t speak for two months. (This is a big deal because I talked to my mom almost every day.) 

During those couple of months, I thought about it a lot. I needed time to myself to understand what had happened. Where did all that come from (on both of our sides)? What I began to realize is that, for me, I felt like my mom didn’t know my life. The three years prior had been busy for my family with weddings and babies, and travel was not on the front burner. Totally understandable, but when I began to think about why it hurt so much, it had to do with the fact that my life had also changed quite significantly in those three years. I dealt with a failed business, taking on a new demanding job and the birth and death of my own relationships… and my mom (parents) didn’t know any of that first hand. They barely even knew the names of my best friends in NYC – those that I have come to consider my chosen family. I felt completely unknown to people I had known my whole life, who had shaped and supported me all these years.

Mostly, it made me sad and left me not knowing what it meant to keep giving to that relationship. So, I shut down, stopped calling or communicating. It was heartbreaking to both of us, but it seemed essential at the time.

In February, after lots of sad texts and appeals, we finally talked. I told her all of this. I explained that I deeply desired to be known and accepted by her. We cried. We both genuinely apologized. She came to the realization that she hadn’t been to NYC in three years and we made a plan for it to happen. 

That year we worked on rebuilding our relationship. Lots of calls. A couple of trips by her and my dad. And by the next Christmas, I was back in Texas (for three weeks this time as I had left my job) and as we were sitting on her deck reminiscing about the holidays and the year to come, we started talking about travel.

That conversation led to us booking a road trip up the Pacific Coast Highway 2 months later – just us.

swell-travel-healing-through-travel-how-i-reconnected-mom-1That trip gave us the opportunity to learn more about each other. I was able to witness her physical abilities as she zipped past me up the hiking trails and she was able to see me make quick decisions when hotel plans fell through (which I’m thinking meant she saw me as a capable adult finally! 😉 )

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We even discovered a shared love for hiking and ended the trip by already planning our next girls trip to a National Park (something we never did while I was growing up). This trip with my mom made me realize that travel can be such a healing thing. It pushes us to be open – and sometimes that is being open to something that has been right in front of you, your whole life.

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