Adapted from a recent online discussion.
Hi, Carolyn: I am an avid traveler and a big introvert, which means I love seeing the world … solo. Part of the fun for me is sticking to (or abandoning) my own schedule, not taking a bunch of selfies (which I hate) and just sitting back and quietly observing without having to narrate every reaction to everything.
My mother, who I love dearly, is a big extrovert, a chatter, and a vacation go-getter (“let’s do EVERYTHING, woo-hoo!!”). Our vacation styles don’t mix, and while we have vacationed together in the past, it has been hit-or-miss (some good times, some memorable meltdowns).
I am planning an expensive and weeks-long trip to an interesting part of the world. When I mentioned this to my mother, she piped up with, “I want to come!” I could suck it up, and even enjoy some of it with her, but that would not be my preference. Quite frankly, I think I would enjoy this trip more without her, not because she’s not a fantastic person and mother, but just because I prefer more quiet time. I even thought about saying, “Why don’t you meet me at X point for a week?” but I know it will lead to a very sad-faced, “Why don’t you want me to join you for the whole trip, I want to see that part of the world too?”
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My mother is a really great person and I don’t want to hurt her feelings. Am I a terrible person and how do I make this work?
You’re not terrible unless it’s terrible to be a different person from your mother.
It’s your trip, so of course you can tell Mom, “Not this time, I’m sorry – I’m excited to do this one solo.” She might be hurt by that, but not because you did something to hurt her; she’ll be hurt because she misunderstands who you are and sees you only through the lens of her own feelings and experience.
It’s also fine if you want to balance her interests with yours and offer the meet-me-at-X plan. It’s very generous of you to give her a week of your trip – and of course frustrating that your generosity will be received as a slap in the face. But, again, you can only decide what works for you and present it to her kindly; how she feels about it is her responsibility.
As for how to present it kindly, say what you mean: “I planned this as a solo adventure, but why don’t you meet me at X and we can spend the last week together?” Assuming you still get the sad face, you can say, “You know me, Mom, I love to travel alone. It’s exciting to me. But I love you, too, and this way I can have both. So, do you want to come meet me?”
If you still get mopeyness, then just give it a, “I don’t know how you raised/gave birth to a loner, either, but you did. Think about my offer and let me know if you want to meet me at X.” Then close the door on the conversation. Good luck.
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