It was the middle of the night in Cairo, Egypt. I was fast asleep when the door swung open and two people walked in. One of them was a woman my age and the other was the bellhop.
I jumped up, eyes wide open, as the woman I had randomly been paired with for our upcoming tour dumped her belongings out in search of money for a tip. I turned on the bedside lamp and rushed over to help her.
When the bellhop left, she turned to me and said, “Hi, I’m Amanda.” That was the moment I met one of my best friends, and we’ve been travelling the world together ever since.
Amanda is from Texas and I’m from New York, but we’re both wanderlusts who, 20 years later, still meet all over the world in search of new experiences. Only now, we’re mothers with full time responsibilities and careers.
We’ve travelled across Spain, climbed glaciers in Iceland, trekked through the Redwood forest in California, and explored historic cities throughout the United States. We’ve taken road trips from Maine to Memphis, and have jumped into underwater cenotes in Tulum, Mexico.
But we’re no longer the carefree girls we were on that fateful Egyptian night, and it’s not always easy to carve out time to travel together.
Women are pressured to be everything to everyone, and as mothers we often put ourselves last. But Amanda and I both know that when we indulge in our love of travel, we return more focused and better equipped to face life’s challenges.
On International Women’s Day, when we celebrate women taking risks, advancing equality and achieving goals, it’s a good time to remember that along with taking care of everyone else, we also need to pursue our own passions.
We made a pact to keep travelling until we’re too old
Amanda was my maid of honour at my wedding, and during her toast she joked that she couldn’t fathom how I could honeymoon in Hawaii without her. Even though she was laughing, I understood her concern.
The night before my wedding, we made a pact: we would travel together until we were too old to go anywhere, and then we’d sit on a park bench and reminisce about all our adventures and mishaps.
Almost two decades later, our pact remains strong as ever.
We put the guilt of leaving our families aside and planned ahead
My husband was understanding about my desire to travel with my best friend, but once Amanda and I both had kids, it became much more complicated. Now we had to arrange for childcare and deal with the overwhelming guilt of leaving them.
We cut our trips to five nights from our usual 10. Taking off on a whim was out; instead we planned months in advance, leaving detailed instructions, arranging a week’s worth of playdates, and making sure our emergency contacts lists were up-to-date.
By the time Amanda and I would meet up, we’d be exhausted and consumed by guilt.
Our guilt, we’d eventually discover, was unfounded. Each time we called home, the kids were having the time of their lives staying up late, eating junk food and being spoiled by grandparents.
To ease our transition and be present for one another, we created a ritual. On our first night together, we’d find a place with a lovely view, order a cocktail and then catch up and decompress.
Travelling with friends is all about compromise
Travelling the world with another person can present challenges, so Amanda and I try to be clear about our expectations.
I’m high anxiety, while Amanda is super chill. I want to pack in all the sites, while Amanda wants to see a few things, then relax. Over the years we’ve learned to take cues from one another to make sure both our needs are being met, and we always compromise.
When we were exploring Napa Valley, California, my mother-in-law called to say my son was refusing to go to the pricey camp I had signed him up for that week. I had to step aside in the middle of a tour to troubleshoot for a half hour. It put a dent in our trip, but Amanda was super understanding.
Travelling lets us break out of our comfort zones
Travelling allows us to indulge who we are beyond our identities as mums: strong, powerful women who love adventure but also like to be pampered.
We plan at least one activity that gets us outside our comfort zone, like taking a hot air balloon in Egypt, ice climbing a volcanic glacier in Iceland, or hopping aboard the Sandia Peak aerial tramway, which ascends 10,378 feet to the crest of the Sandia Mountains in New Mexico. Did I mention my fear of heights?
After that rush of exhilaration, we always build in a day of rest and relaxation, like soaking in the healing waters of the Blue Lagoon Spa and Resort in Iceland, or indulging in clay massages in bamboo huts in Tulum.
Amanda and I still have a long list of places to visit, and as our kids get older, we’re looking forward to even more travel time together.
Sometimes life gets in the way, but we both know there’s always another adventure on the horizon.
One day, reminiscing on that bench, we’ll have a lot of incredible stories to tell.
In the meantime, Amanda and I are planning a Zoom call to toast International Women’s Day and talk about our next adventure.
_Aileen Weintraub is the author of Knocked Down: A High-Risk Memoir, a laugh-out-loud story about marriage, motherhood, and the risks we take. _