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An Ode To My Mom On Her Birthday


My mom and I in Prospect Park, Brooklyn. Even when I’m home I look like a backpacker.

Happy birthday, Mom! In my quest to be more personal on my blog — and to show a very important person in my life appreciation — I’m writing a post dedicated to my mother on her birthday. It’s funny how many full-time nomads and travel junkies I meet on the road, backpacking third world countries and taking year-long honeymoons, who didn’t travel as children. For many, the love of travel was sparked by something in their older years — or sometimes the fact they never traveled before. For me, this is quite the opposite. My parents travel at least once per year — meaning I started exploring beyond New York from a young age. When I was really young it was Disney World and Sesame Place, which gradually transformed into epic North American road trips to visit the best amusement parks. I absolutely love roller coasters — funny enough, my boyfriend builds them for a living — and I never tired of trying to find the biggest and best. I still remember visiting Busch Gardens in Virginia, and how amazing it was to “travel the entire world” in one day (if you’ve never been, the park is divided into sections representing different countries). They even had a Festa Train Station in “Italy,” which was awesome as my last name is Festa and my grandparents are from Naples. I was also a big fan of Hershey Park, not so much for the rides but for the endless amount of chocolate at every turn.

My mom and I in Dingle, Ireland

As I got older, my parents introduced me to international travel through cruising. Every summer, we’d take a cruise to different destinations — Cozumel, Belize, Grand Cayman, Bermuda, the Bahamas. Not only that, but they let me bring friends (crazy people). On one trip, my parents and my friend Jenn’s took a group of 10 of us to Mexico. Dealing with emotional and rebellious 16 year-old girls probably isn’t the most fun way to spend summer vacation, but they did it to make me happy. But I think it was also more than that. They wanted to show me there was more to the world than just Farmingville, New York where I grew up on Long Island. Even more to New York City, which was only a 40-minute drive from our house. They wanted to help me experience the world from a young age and make me into a more worldly person. They succeeded, most likely beyond what they ever expected. Now, as an adult, I live to discover the world (and share it with all of you!). On my very first major summer-long solo backpacking journey through Europe my mom actually came with me for the first two weeks. We “backpacked” through London and Ireland, although because she was with me the hotels and food were much fancier than the hostels and kebabs I lived on for the rest of the trip. It was so much fun getting to discover these new places with my mom, especially as an “adult” (I was 21) who cared more about having good food and exploring culture than meeting cute boys on a cruise ship. We learned to drive on the wrong side of the road together, kissed the Blarney Stone, explored a tiny seaside town, had pints of beer in Irish pubs, got extremely lost in big cities, saw the famous dolphin of Dingle and just altogether had a blast. I’ll admit before the trip I was a bit nervous if we would get along being in such close quarters for 14 days; however, I soon realized that as long as there was air conditioning and ice cream nearby, she was pretty much up for anything. I believe that is from her that I get my sense of adventure and insatiable curiosity for the world (and I also love air conditioning and ice cream).

My mom and I poising with our wine in front of the Christmas Tree

While my lifestyle wasn’t always easy for mother to accept — either because she was worried about my safety traveling solo or that I wouldn’t be able to support myself as a blogger — she was still always supportive of me. She always wanted to know about my trips and what projects I was working on, reading my blog posts and sharing them with friends. She bought me my first backpack (my Gelert!). Spent about $500 on new clothes for my first extended trip. Bought me my beloved Nikon D5100 last Christmas. Whenever I needed help redesigning my website or making a business decision she was there to offer an opinion. And I could always count on her to offer honest feedback, even when it wasn’t what I wanted to hear. Basically, much of my success is owed to my mother — as well as my father — as they made me the travel-obsessed person I am today. And I am so grateful for that. Happy birthday, Mom! Have your family or friends helped pave the way for your travel bug? Please share your story in the comments below.

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Jessie Festa standing in front of grafitti wall

Hi, I’m Jessie on a journey!

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  1. Nichelle on at 6:08 am

    Wow, you are so sweet! And your mother is just as sweet as you. 🙂

  2. Anja van der Vorst on at 7:38 am

    My parents are no travelers. As in: not at all! So I began traveling only when I turned 18…and never stopped. My brother would love to travel too, but his life/job allows him at most two shorter trips per year. Yet we both seem to have the travel bug. No clue whom we got it from;-).

    How wonderful that your parents are both adventurous and supporting!

    • jess2716 on at 11:49 am

      @Anja: Thank you for the kind words! Maybe it’s because you never traveled that you were so curious to explore the world as an adult? Either way, glad you’re traveling now and hope you’re somewhere fun right now!

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