• Jen Williams

Mum: My Travel Inspiration

Updated: Dec 3, 2019

Although it’s still a couple of weeks away as I write this, July 6 will be the second anniversary of my mum’s death. Only in the last year have I really come to terms with the fact that she’s gone, but I still cannot fathom how it’s been two whole years since I last saw her face.


With mum in Stresa, on Lake Maggiore (2014)

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I don’t want this to be a downer on my blog, however. Of course, I’m still incredibly sad to have lost her, and in the last few weeks I have really needed her, but she was so wonderful to me, it seems only fitting to talk about her with a smile on my face, as I always try to do.


Mum on Lantau Island, Hong Kong, en route to her elective in the early eighties

My mum was actually one of the many people who sparked my interest in the world and in travel. Although she went on to train at medical school and become a microbiologist, her initial dream was to get involved in meteorology, and she was as much of (in fact, probably more of) a geography nerd as myself. I first heard about Michael Palin, not because of Monty Python, but because of his “Around the World in 80 Days” series, which my mum adored.


Mum making friends with a kangaroo in Esperance, Australia

My mum was just as pedantic as me when it came to which countries were countries (“Greenland is NOT a country!”), took pride in knowing almost all of the capitals of world and each country’s flag, and would always point out the different airlines if we travelled through an airport or drove under Heathrow’s flight path. You might think this sounds a bit autistic, and you’d be absolutely right. Welcome to my family!


My mum and Grandma en route to Australia (1980, mum aged 21)

My mum didn’t have a super adventurous side; she was never one to want to go India (her medical training presented her with far too many reasons against it), didn’t fancy visiting anywhere with any political unease, and was always wary of foreign tap water. But she did like to travel, ideally somewhere warm, pretty and peaceful. She managed to maintain a permanent tan of which I was always jealous. (But I hated the hat she decided would be a feature of 2012...)


With mum in the Roman Colosseum (2012)

I’m pretty sure I inherited my “compulsive documentarian” trait from her too. Among our photo albums are a few scrapbooks she put together after various trips, including an in-depth travel log of her six-week trip to New Zealand and Australia with my Grandma, when she was only a couple of years younger than I am now. I wonder if she’d have written a blog if she’d grown up in my generation, that is, if she got over her boomer-like fear of the internet and identity theft.


My mum and Grandma making friends with a koala (1980)

Mum and Grandma hiking Fox Glacier in 1980, check out the matching coats!

As well as her adventure to Australia and NZ with my Grandma, and undertaking her elective (part of her medical training) with the Flying Doctor in Western Australia, she also took a few trips with my dad before her delightful first child was born (i.e. me). They visited my extended family (on my dad’s side) in New Zealand, as well as Australia, Japan, a few spots in the USA, and numerous European cities, with all trips catalogued and chronicled in albums we still have today.


My mum and dad in Japan around 1990

Mum and dad on the shores of Lake Wakatipu, Queenstown, around 1990

Mum on the Tasman Glacier around 1990

Mum and dad by the Sydney Harbour Bridge, around 1990

Mum and dad having dinner at the Sydney Opera House, around 1990

I first travelled abroad with my parents when I was eleven and my sister was eight; I don’t think my mum was afraid of taking two children out of the country earlier in their lives, but rather couldn’t be bothered with the hassle of it, which makes perfect sense to me. They always made sure we had amazing holidays in the UK up until that point.


With my mum and sister up the Eiffel Tower in Paris (2010)

Once we were a bit older, they spoiled my sister and I; between 2005 and 2014 we visited Singapore, Japan, New York, Paris, Rome, and Lake Maggiore as a family, some of my favourite trips to look back on. They were always happy to fund my adventures, through school or otherwise, and sent me to amazing countries such as Iceland, Greece, Japan (again), and Australia. Travel and education are two important values in this house.


Mum and I on the Maid of the Mist tour at Niagara Falls (2009)

My mum started becoming sick in 2015, so international travel was pretty much out of the question. Our final trip together - the finality of which I think she was fully aware - was in October of 2016, when my family, plus the significant others of my sister and I, stayed in a lush hotel in Dorset the weekend after my birthday. We went to see Portland Bill and Chesil Beach etc, and ate lots of nice meals, and I wish I’d focused more of my time on her that weekend. Hindsight is a wonderful thing.


With mum on a boat in Stresa (2014)

The experiences my mum gave me - whether directly or indirectly - are some of my most memorable, and always will be. I think of all the places she never got to see that I wish she could, and I still see things I’d like to take home for her when I travel. As well as loving to travel herself, I know she just wanted me to be happy, and travelling makes me so happy. I can’t wait to see the world in the name of my mumma, always with me and always remembered.


Mumma, travel icon. 1958-2017 <3


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