With minutes to spare before our bus departed, my 11-year-old daughter and I sped through the streets of Rome towards the Central train station. I weaved through traffic like a race-car driver, while she read the map and shouted out directions. Miraculously, we found the correct lane, then raced to the platform with all our luggage, arriving out-of-breath and one minute ahead of our coach. As we collapsed into our seats, she looked at me and said, “Thank goodness my father isn’t here. He’d have had a panic attack.”

There is never a dull moment on our travels 😊

Somewhere in the sky before we touch down Greece
Sailing in the backwaters of Kerala

We both started to take mother-daughter trips when she was still a toddler. Since then, we’ve scaled the steps of Sistine Chapel in Vatican City, been dazzled by the Pyramids of Giza in Egypt, stood in awe of the magnificence of Eiffel Tower in Paris, nibbled crazily on the Belgian Chocolate Waffles in Brussels, rode horses into the sunset on the black-sand beaches of Santorini, cycled around the canals of Amsterdam and snorkeled with turtles in the Maldives, to name a few experiences. Each time, I dragged her around with an over-packed itinerary to see it all. Falling in love with Paris on that trip — snacking on macaroons and Crepes, admiring picture-perfect flower shops, climbing the winding steps of Eiffel Tower in dresses and laughing as the Parisian air flirted up our legs, walking for 12 hours each day to ensure we explore the interiors of far of lands closely. As she turns 19 today, I realize we have come far. Traveling together for many years has transformed both of us not only the way we experience the world but the way it shaped our perspectives towards everything in life and moreover we became the best travel buddies.

In the dunes of Dubai
On top of Eiffel Tower
The Grand Square in Brussels

This transformation didn’t happen overnight. It was a slow transition into a different way of seeing the world. It hasn’t all been smiles and laughter, but I wouldn’t want to go back to the way I traveled before.

This is what I learnt from her

She enhanced every aspect of our journey bringing out the best in me and showing me the world with childlike innocence (Baby-remember our bus ride from hotel to the airport in Paris-The joke which will stay with us forever) embrace the good and bad as worthy experiences, and connect with everything on a deep level

In the lanes of Istanbul
Walking around the countryside of Goa
Sipping Ayran (butter milk) in Istanbul
Chocolate Museum Brussels-Learning how Belgian chocolate is made

She slowly turned into that lens through which I’m seeing the world. Where I might see poverty and despair, She sees hope and opportunity. She has taught me to see the silver lining in almost every situation and have helped me to realize that we can always use a little more ice cream in our day, even if that made us miss the last coach to our hotel in Istanbul 😊

In happy moods in Turkey
Swimming with turtles in Maldives
Tintin- Exploring Comics Art Museum in Brussels

She taught me to slow down as a traveler, be more aware of my surroundings and pay more attention to details. Traveling with her made me stop, catch my breath, quit the sprint of travel and turn it into a very slow, many yearlong marathons. She opened so many doors for me to meet people. Relationships that we have made with people all over the world, from all different walks of life.  She has taught me to let down my guard and not to prejudge anyone.  Everyone has an interesting story to tell and travel enriches our lives through the stories of others. She is like a sponge, absorbing all the natural, cultural and human interactions everywhere we go.

With our cottage host family in Sikkim
Playing with a child in Siem Reap

This is how travel is shaping her

Travel taught her perseverance and patience. Whenever we flew, she had to wait for the plane, wait for our line to board, wait for the tram to arrive, etc. She spent a lot of time waiting in the car on road trips and waiting for other people to go first. She has learnt early on how to wait, and how to have patience while keeping the end goal in sight.

Boarding a ferry to Athens from Oia
Inside the Ferry
Road Trip to Sikkim
Cycling around the Canals of Amsterdam

Traveling has given her more confidence than I ever could have through words. She’s learnt how to do without, to make do with what she has, and to appreciate what has been given. She has learnt how capable she is in the outside world and without known comforts surrounding her. At an early age she could help set up a tent, order her own food at a restaurant, and find her seat on a plane. She took her first solo flight at the age of 6 years. When she was learning geography, she’d already climbed mountains and swam in the ocean? As she continues to grow and we continue with our travels, I can’t wait to take trips with her to the south pole, walk around the amazon forest in South America and watch the northern lights together.

Nakhal Fort in Muscat
Relishing Ottoman cuisine
Angkor Wat temple in Cambodia
Gorging on hot waffles in cold Paris

Her capability and can-do attitude that has culminated through miles and miles outside home has given her the tenacity to conquer new challenges in life as they arise, from the first day in Kindergarten to her first day in the University in another Continent.

I can see how the travels are shaping her personality. The big wide world happens to be the greatest teacher—uprooting her, expanding her comfort zones, and gently introducing her to humanitarian and conservation causes I hope will one day become close to her heart. The learning on the road is boundless. To gift the spirit of adventure to the next generation is the ultimate privilege. We appreciated every moment of the journey and though some were exhausted days, the feelings of accomplishment of seeing the world together has been immense. On those travels, we had moments in silence and moments of being together.

Sunrise at Angkor Wat, Siem Reap
Hot waffles with Belgian chocolate in Brussels
Turkish Cats
Blue Mosque Istanbul- She always carried an I-pad to write her travelogue during travel

Sure, there are times where we want to tell each other to get lost and there are other times when undoubtedly space is needed, but in the end, we have learned to communicate. We can speak to each other as adults and resolve issues as adults too.

In our travels together, she has interacted with artists, musicians, fishermen, children, construction workers and people from different strata. It was important for me to show her that these people could be different defined by the society, but they have the same goals and aspirations in life. In that sense, we are all the same. She understands that too. Being together not only made my travels more adventurous but even strengthened our relationship at a different dimension.

Those moments when she choses to rest than to complain after a long walk
Nanthang Valley on the Indo-China border

She has helped me become a better mum. Sharing the world and my favorite passion (travel) with her has helped open my eyes and share such amazing moments. I just feel more alive and, in the moment, when we travel together, and this translates into a mum who is fully present and not caught up with the drudgery of day to day life

We couldn’t get enough of Eiffel tower when we saw it first
Beach girls
I always have your back and you got mine

I don’t know if Shruti, my daughter, is wiser or smarter after her travels, but I hope that showing her an unvarnished view of the world would embed empathy, understanding, and perhaps she would be a more useful citizen and better human of the world in the future. At 19 she has traveled to 22 plus countries and that inspires us to hitch-hike, sail, drive, fly, and trek the rest of the world over.

Do you have a travel Buddy?