Adventure Unfiltered: Geraldine DeRuiter on what to do when your mom packs a pickaxe

June 14, 2017

Forget perfect: Adventure is unfiltered. In a new blog series, G Adventures is asking a few people to share memories from trips where things went a bit sideways, but it made for the best story — and the most unforgettable experience. Today, travel pro and writer Geraldine DeRuiter, a.k.a. The Everywhereist, on the most important travel lesson she learned from her mother. (Want more like this? Geraldine's book of travel essays, All Over The Place, is out now!).

As told to Rebecca Tucker, G Adventures.

One of my favourite travel mishaps happened with my mother, back when my husband and I were still dating. He had never been on a trip with her.

As we were getting to the airport I was like, “Mom, please be on your best behaviour.” She goes, “You know what? You’re kind of insulting me.” My mother’s Italian, she’s travelled all over Europe, she travelled when my brother was a baby, she came to the United States when she was pregnant with me. The fact that I was giving her a hard time because she didn’t know how to travel was fundamentally insulting to her identity.

Geraldine DeRuiter's husband and mother. Photo courtesy of The Everywhereist.

Geraldine DeRuiter's husband and mother. Photo courtesy of The Everywhereist.

So we’re going through security, and my mother’s wearing so much jewellery. She’s taking off all her jewellery and she inevitably forgets something, so she’s getting a pat-down. In the meantime, I’m left with her bag. The TSA agent scans the bag and asks me if it’s mine. I said no, it belongs to my mother. And they said, “I’m sorry, we have to put it through again.”

He put it through the scan again and he said, “This is crazy. There’s something in there, but it can’t be what I think it is.”

Geraldine DeRuiter is now a seasoned world traveller but, at one point, travelling with her mother made her very, very nervous. Photo by Rand Fishkin.

Geraldine DeRuiter is now a seasoned world traveller but, at one point, travelling with her mother made her very, very nervous.

I thought, oh God, it absolutely can be what you think it is, when it comes to my mom.

He starts digging through this bag. My mother doesn’t have practical suitcases or carry-ons, so the best way I can describe it is it’s like he’s reaching into a very big sock, because he can’t actually see what he’s pulling out. All I can see is his facial expression, which is like, what the hell. And he pulls out a three-foot length of thick — at least an inch thick — chain.

My mom goes, “Oh, that’s my keychain.” Sure enough, there’s a pair of tiny keys dangling from the end. At this point I’m terrified, but what frightened me most was what the TSA agent said next: “That’s not what I saw on the scan.”

He reaches in again and he pulls out what he had been looking for: A 10-inch stainless steel hiking pickaxe with retractable knives.

At that point, I’m thinking that we’re not getting on this plane, and we’re probably never getting on another plane again.

The axe in question.

The axe in question.

But by some miraculous turn of events, we manage to get on our flight. My mother is not allowed to keep her pickaxe, but she’s allowed to keep her three-foot chain. By then, my husband is so stressed, he’s brittle. We almost missed our flight, we almost got strip searched, we were almost interrogated. But now, we’re sitting on the plane, and my mother doesn’t understand why we’re upset with her.

As we’re taking off on this very full flight, my mother is sitting in the aisle across from us, next to empty seats (the people next to her never arrived). So, she has caused all of this madness, and she then curls up across all three seats and sleeps for the entire flight.

I’m staring at her, and I think: there’s wisdom in this. She’s created so much lunacy, but she’s having the time of her life.

After that, I started to change. I’m not going to put a pickaxe in my bag, but I’ve started to accept that you can control the crazy. If you get to a certain level — my mom’s level — you can accept the lunacy, and achieve inner peace.


How do you do #AdventureUnfiltered? Whether it's not being able to find a bathroom in India or sampling crickets at a night market in Beijing, we want to see photos of your weirdest, wildest, most wonderful adventures. Click here to share your #AdventureUnfiltered moment.

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