My mom is watering plants when I call her to inform her about my plan to visit Bhutan for my birthday. After her usual questions about whether it would be safe and if I needed something, we hung up. 

Call it a new fad or a way of life, our generation swears by backpacking and solo trips. We find it thrilling to explore new cultures and taste pure freedom. But how often do we think about our parents who have spent most of their lives in one place? Ever paused to wonder if they have any travel plans of their own?

She was married off at the age of 20. By 25, she was already raising two kids. In her twenties, her foremost concern was to spend her husband’s salary judiciously and to maintain a spending diary. When he got promoted, his first priority was to buy his 3-year-old daughter her first bicycle. They hardly went out for dinner and she never resorted to shopping to kick her bad mood.

This was the life of my parents when they were my age. The idea of travelling was limited to visiting Shimla with uncle’s family and cousins. 

While YOLO is the life mantra of our generation, for them it was all about responsibilities. Thinking solo was out of the question.

Like everyone else, I wanted to grow up as fast as possible. Be able to earn and set out to explore all those beautiful places I had seen on Nat Geo. I still feel the adrenaline rush thinking about my maiden solo trip. As a financially independent girl in her 20s, I was ecstatic to gain some meaningful experiences. I would send my folks the photographs of places I visited, the people I met and the things I ate.

But this pride evaporated the moment I realised that in ensuring that I could live without a care in the world, my parents had paid a hefty price: their dreams. 

In that moment, I realized exactly how privileged and lucky I have been. We’re a generation who wants to live while we’re young, unperturbed by the fact that our parents have grown old living solely for us.

Flipping through their honeymoon photographs, I found myself hit with a realization that struck me harder than I expected. There they were, a young couple very much in love, peddling the boat in Nakki Lake. 

Raising kids and fulfilling social obligations: is that all they expected from their lives? My stomach was in knots thinking about the responsibilities they were handed over in their youth that I have the luxury to shrug off conveniently.

I had seen those photographs several times before but in that moment, looking at their smiling faces, it hit me how self-centred I had been. I was so consumed with the idea of living life my way that I had forgotten that my parents also needed the occasional rejuvenation. I wondered if they’ve even heard of fun activities like blue whale snorkeling and bungee jumping, let alone aspiring to do them. 

Looking at my mom chuckling like a kid on the ferris wheel at an amusement park we once visited, I realised that she would be as excited to go backpacking as her daughter. Why wouldn’t she be?

Until that day, I had only seen them as parents. Two people who were sent to this earth to live a restrained life without ever pausing to have fun. Honestly, I’m not an ungrateful child, but why did I not realize sooner that my parents also deserve to find solace in the mountains, explore the quaint little cafes I read about on travel websites and re-discover themselves in the lanes of a new city while soaking in the calmness of flowing waters.  

In their 20s, they never planned their vacations without me. So now, when I can, I don’t feel like leaving them out of my plans and going solo because they more than deserve to experience the beauty that this world is. 

And in case you’re wondering, I’m still heading for Bhutan on my birthday. The only change is that I’ve booked two more tickets.