Lessons from budget travelling & attending mindfulness retreat with my mum

It was the first time I travelled with my mum and it was her first time travelling for such a long time (3 weeks in total) with a budget to some extent.

I booked for Airbnb well in advance in Saigon for me and my mum. A few days before my mum arrived, the Airbnb host informed they will be away for a few days in Thailand. I did ask for the key before they left Vietnam but they said their cleaner would need it, gave me her number and wrote to me where to get the key. Two hours before my mum arrived, I came to the place but could not open the front door, couldn’t call the host or their cleaner, text sent but no reply. The neighbours couldn’t help either and showed me to the actual landlord.

It turns out the landlord doesn’t allow the Airbnb host to sublet and he did not let me in despite how much I explained about how Airbnb worked and that my mum was going to be here in one hour and he can talk with the Airbnb host when they are back in 2 days. He insisted on a ‘no’ and kept coming back a few times to check…After an hour, just before my mum arrived from the airport, I managed to get us to stay at my Couchsurfing host when I first came to Saigon who has become a good friend. I reported to Airbnb and asked for urgent help but they called for further information after a few hours…and offered me a coupon for next booking.

I then booked for accommodation from Agoda, with my mum complaining about cost, I changed the booking from a room with windows to one without – which was not a good idea…I used to share a room with my mum for more than 20 years when I was living at home in Hanoi and thought it would be nice to share the room with her again. I didn’t realise I have been living away from her for five years and she still thinks of me as her baby so that was quite a problem… I was lucky to be able to come to another friend’s at night and left the room for my mum so we can have a break from each other each day.

Airbnb in Bangkok was not a good experience as well when the host (not Thai…) came over the next morning with anger and after an abrupt conversation, asked me and my mum to move, only because I informed him that my mum found the toilet dirty. I tried to make peace with him because I don’t want my 50+ year old mum to have to move just after arriving the night before. I gave an honest review on Airbnb about this host to then get his review on my profile with made up accuses. After such two experiences with Airbnb in two weeks, I am not sure I will choose Airbnb again in Asia though my experience with it was generally ok in Europe.

My mum had stomache after eating the sticky rice with durian bought from Big C supermarket that we kept in our bag while walking in Bangkok. It could be the durian or the heat of the day that spoiled it…I appreciate that my mum managed to take the metro and tried tuk tuk, together with taxi sometimes.

It was good that I booked on Agoda for Koh Samet after Bangkok – even budget hostels manage to be more professional when you need help compared to some Airbnb hosts. Koh Samet, recommended by a friend who lives in Thailand, was quite relaxing with a few not crowded nice beaches because it’s less popular. My mum had a good rest there before we went to Plum Village Thailand for a retreat for Vietnamese.


My mum taking the 5 mindfulness trainings with her dharma sharing family teacher

We were arranged to stay in a tent together at the retreat because there were too many people. It was a nice big tent but after around 8 hours of bus altogether, my mum did not want to stay in the tent thinking she would not be able to breathe. Together with the fear that I might want to become a nun, she wanted to leave. I was not prepared for this – in the retreat I went just the month before, no tent was needed. I was tired too and couldn’t keep calm, told her she could do what she wanted then. The returned ticket was booked and my mum probably can’t go by herself…I left her sitting at a rock to decide…

A helpful nun saw what happened and went to comfort my mum, brought her to me afterwards saying she could stay at another area. It was good to stay separately so my mum would make new friends and practise (mindfulness) properly without talking to me. Throughout the retreat, I tried to not spend much time with my mum so she would be more dependent and make the best out of the retreat. She was cynical about the practice in the first day. The first dhamar talk the second day touched her and she started to ask about how to practise sitting meditation properly to keep calm and improve health & well-being – I was so surprised and happy. At the end of the retreat, my mum attended a private consultation session with a nun and even registered to practise the fourth mindfulness training ‘Deep listening and loving speech’. Home practice is important after the retreat, I will try to find some Plum Village practitioner who can take my mum to practise with a sangha (group) in Hanoi.

Lessons learned:

  • Cancel Airbnb if the host is not going to be there when you arrive
  • Some doors are opened by sliding to the side…
  • Agoda is probably a better option when travelling with elders because there might be accidents with Airbnb…
  • Try to accept your mum as she is, though she might act or say things to you that are not easy to hear, it’s mostly because she cares about you but just doesn’t know the best way to show it. This is easier said than done though…Having breaks from eachother during travels helps. Taking my mum to massages was a good way to have a break from eachother while still being together.
  • When taking parents to a retreat, ask for a normal accommodation in registration form, staying in a tent is properly too ‘hippy’ for them…It’s ok that they don’t stay so quiet or follow the retreat’s reminders. While I have been practising for around 7 years, it was my mum’s first time. I tried to be more relaxed about her after a few days…
  • Taking parents to Plum Village retreat becomes very fruitful. I hope to take my dad there next retreat 🙂



My mum practising walking meditation at Plum Village Thailand


Plum Village retreats in Thailand

 Plum Village retreats in France (for other countries visit Monasteries list at the bottom of page)



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