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Taking the Kids: Getting moms and daughters out of their comfort zones together

By Eileen Ogintz, Tribune Content Agency on

When Steff Keene wanted to backpack for the first time, she didn't turn to adventure-loving friends for advice as most college students might. She turned to her mom.

"I go to school out of state and we don't see each other as much as we would like," said Keene, 21. "We are regular hikers but had never done an overnight backpack trip and didn't know where to start."

Cindy and Steff Keene, Northern Californians, opted for a three-day guided women's backpacking trip on the Pacific Crest Trail from REI Adventures. "Going on a backpacking trip with my mom rather than a friend made it an extra special experience," said Keene.

I've met moms and daughters traveling together around the world -- on cruise ships and at spa resorts, all-inclusive Mexican resorts and adventure resorts, on food tours and at cooking classes, touring exotic cities, on hiking and ski trips, often when I was traveling with one or both of my daughters.

Fifteen years later, climbing Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania together with my daughter, Reggie, then 18, remains one of the most memorable adventures we've had -- and the first time I appreciated that my daughter, about to leave for college, was no longer a child but a confident young woman who suddenly was encouraging and leading me rather than the other way around as I struggled on the high-altitude trek (at 19,340 feet is Africa's tallest peak).

Before she left for college I took my younger daughter, Mel, an avid skier, to Austria to ski for an experience far different from the American ski resorts she was used to -- from the small hotel where we were the only Americans to skiing on glaciers, stopping for a long lunch at a traditional Austrian hut with views of 21 glaciers before returning to the hotel for the wellness center and dinner at the hotel.


Kathleen Wobber took her daughter Kathryn Parker, 18, and the youngest of four, to Morocco last winter. "We had never done a trip just the two of us," said Wobber, who lives in Maryland. "It is difficult to get quality one-on-one time with college kids."

This was special because her daughter chose the destination "and I was able to introduce her to a world unlike any she has experienced," said Wobber, staying at a small riad, a traditional Moroccan house, in the middle of the old walled city off the tourist track.

As we contemplate what travel will be like post-pandemic, it's important to remember the wonderful gift a shared adventure can be, especially for moms and daughters, who aren't able to spend much time together, whether you are seeking a bona fide adventure, a relaxing sojourn at the beach or the chance to share a new place or activity together. (Maybe promise your mom a future just-the-two-of-us trip for her birthday or next Mother's Day. Our Best Virtual Family Vacation guide, compiled with our colleagues at Family Travel Forum,might give you some ideas.)

"You just don't get to witness the intimate details of each other's lives until you're traveling by plane or staying in a hotel room together," said Kasey Morrissey, who has now taken over as president of Austin Adventures from her dad and who has traveled often with her mom. "You're there for each other in times of stress (flight delays, navigating a busy city center, a big hike that pushes you beyond the limits you thought possible, etc.) and you're there for the really good times on the trip as well," said Morrissey, who is already planning some specific mom-daughter trips next year. "We had quite a bit of interest before COVID hit," she said.


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