“You lose flight.”
That’s what the ticket agent at a Moscow airport looked across the counter and told my college-aged daughter. Five thousand miles away in DC, I stared in utter disbelief at the email she’d managed to send using a flash of free WiFi. The words were barely registering. My child was stranded alone in Russia and unable to buy even a single bottled water because her bank card had been declined for suspected fraudulent activity.
My child was stranded in Russia. Without food and water. On a botched layover from Europe to the U.S., with no flights out until tomorrow. (Beware cheap fares.) No money for hotel.
Sex traffickers posing as diplomatic aides would spot her walking around the Moscow airport looking dazed and confused, offer her a lift to the American embassy and then stuff her into a car trunk. They’d drive her out to a Siberian labor camp and force her to work 18 hours a day until they could arrange to sell her to an oil sheik after which she’d be smuggled to the Gulf region in the dead of night, never to be seen or heard from again. I would ultimately take the Red Line downtown, walk over a few blocks and be arrested for trying to scale the White House fence clutching the sympathy letter Obama aides and the State Department had sent me saying they’re doing all they can but admitting the trail had gone cold. What does this mean, can I speak to him please, where is Michelle? Her mama, Mrs. Robinson? I know she’s in there. If you could just tell them I’m out here, I know they will under…sir, please call your dog off me, these are brand new brushed suede UGG boots I just got for Christm…understand that there is no way I can leave these grounds until we arrange to get Air Force One to fly out immediately to find my baby…MICHELLLLLLE!!! MRS. ROBINSONNN!!! I see you peeping from the balcony, don’t act like you don’t see me…damn, that’s a lot of black to be wearing, even for the winter fashion season… OhMyGodThatsNotMichelleIsThatTheSniperOhMyGodOhMyGod…
I flipped the hell out. My pajama bottoms barely tucked into my UGG boots, I ran out the house without showering and blew through the front lobby doors of her bank, looking like an unhinged female version of Liam Neeson in Taken. I grabbed the first customer service rep I saw, and tried to stay calm and professional as I told him the situation. The moment I heard the words travel notification policy yada yada escape his lips, I realized this conversation was going to have go another way.
You don’t understand, I said. My child is stranded in Russia. She can’t buy food or water.
Unfortunately, ma’am, because you’re not on your daughter’s account, we’re not authorized to…
Stop right there, I said. I don’t know who you are. I don’t know what you want…
No. I didn’t actually say that. But what I DID say was that I wasn’t leaving that bank until they released the hold on my daughter’s bank card. I guess he looked in my eyes and saw that I had gone temporarily insane. A supervisor was called. A hushed conversation ensued with nervous glances in my direction. Some typing on the bank computer. More questions about my daughter’s identity. Jesus be a system override, I whispered and rocked. My foot tapping threatened to bore a hole through the floor. Finally, they released the hold. I dragged myself home, slumped in the living room chair, and closed my eyes. Her older sister Jacqi, my rock throughout the whole ordeal, jumped on the laptop to try and get word to her. My nerves were shot. All I remember thinking was:
My child is thirsty. And scared. And there’s nothing I can do.
When she finally arrived stateside, like any loving mother I wanted to chain her to the house and burn her passport. In my family, that excursion has since become known as the trip that shall not be named, and whenever my youngest daughter questions why I’m always worrying over her well-being, my only response is: because Russia. The topic is quickly changed.
Alas, though, my Mini-Me was born to wander the globe. She was bitten by the travel bug even before deciding to major in foreign languages in college, and was so serious about it that while carrying a full course load she worked her butt off at two jobs to self-finance a trip across Europe.
Years following the trip that shall not be named, my left eye still twitches whenever she starts talking about her next travel destination. But I recognize that’s my problem, not hers. She’s graduated from college, is now a grown woman with a job, and can travel any damn place she chooses. Languages are her thing, and she is passionate about seeing as much of the world as she can. So I’ve had to learn to cope with a mother’s constant fears and worrying over things going horribly wrong thousands of miles away.
Instead, I try to focus on the joy and wonder of being able to see the world through her eyes:
Plus, as a lifestyle blogger, having a daughter with wanderlust gives me an opportunity to practice what I preach. As a general rule, I believe we ought to be encouraging more of our young women to travel beyond familiar boundaries and broaden their perspectives. So what do I look like promoting that for everyone else, yet scared to let my own daughter leave the house? (Because Russia.)
So today I proudly introduce you all to Taylor, my Mini-Me and The Well Chick Project’s newest (and only) sometime-y resident travel correspondent. As I write this post she is currently touring Peru with one of her best friends (hey, Olivia!), scaling mountains in and around Machu Picchu, and doing her blogger mother the favor of testing out some of my favorite travel products. Her having a travel buddy has definitely taken my worries down a few notches, plus it just looks like double the fun.
By the way, if you’re looking for a new travel destination…Peru looks breathtaking! Not only is it one of the oldest civilizations in the world (with plenty of ancient ruins and other sights), but the food is apparently terrific. I’d always heard it described as one of the world’s most important cuisines, and the photographs and reviews flowing back my way are giving me serious foodie envy. (Hard pass on the “delicacy” of roasted guinea pig, though. But I will take several courses of the ceviche, please and thank you.)
Speaking of photos, the ones taken by Taylor and Olivia are truly stunning. You can see and learn more about the beauty of Peru as a travel destination by checking out her travel blog: The Adventures of Señorita Fuerte and la Mujer Pequena.
She touches on it a bit in her own blog, but I’ll probably do a follow-up post of my own as soon as Taylor gets back and gives me a full briefing on how all the travel products held up. Did the Tortuga backpack deliver as promised? Did my Ahnu hiking boots survive Machu Picchu without giving her blisters? Did the Scottevest travel cargo pants with their 11 hidden pockets help her keep valuables safe and avoid check-in fees?
And if you’re the mother of young girls, here are my final words of advice:
Avoid watching the movie Taken until AFTER your child is safely back home from the airport.
Do not watch the movie Taken if you have a daughter currently studying abroad.
If it’s too late and you’ve already seen Taken, re-watch it with your daughter right before her trip and annoyingly point out all the things she ABSOLUTELY MUST NOT DO while traveling abroad.
And finally, make sure your daughter has informed her bank of every single country whose airspace she will enter in, even if it is (supposedly) only for a brief layover.