It started nearly a year ago -- a simple enough idea for a not-so-simple graduate school project.
Anne and Laurie Greenawalt didn't plan for their trip to coincide with Mother's Day. Rather, that's just how it worked out for the Upper Allen Township mother-daughter duo, who embark today on a cross-country train bound for Chicago; Los Angeles; Tucson, Ariz.; Atlanta, and everywhere in between.
"I said I wanted to go across country," Anne Greenawalt recalled of the initial plan for her professional project - a requirement to achieve her master's degree in communication studies at Shippensburg University. "My mom said, ‘You really shouldn't go alone.' And, what she was really saying was, ‘I want to go with you.'"
‘For better or worse'
As part of "The Daughter Project," the Greenawalts will spend 20 days - or three weeks - riding the rails from city to city, exploring both their own relationship, and that of other mothers and daughters that they encounter as they go along.
Throughout the duration of the trip, the duo will collect stories to be included in both a blog and eventual narrative that Anne Greenawalt is putting together as part of the project.
Their journey will take them to Chicago; Denver; Salt Lake City; San Francisco; Los Angeles; Tucson, Ariz.; San Antonio; Atlanta; and Greensboro, Ark., before returning to Harrisburg on May 28.
"We wanted to do this, but we wanted to do something a little bit different," Anne Greenawalt explained of the purpose behind the project. "The plan is to connect with at least one other mother-daughter couple in each city. We want to interview them and share their stories. I think that's the biggest part."
"Every mother-daughter couple has a story," she added. "It's for the better or worse, and we want to share those ... find out what they do together and any similarities between mothers and daughters across all different types of backgrounds."
With a hectic travel schedule of just a day or two in each city, Laurie Greenawalt explained, "There are no expectations. We just go and whatever happens, happens. And if we don't get our mother-daughter duos to talk in every city, then we have a story of getting to that city."
Initially, the two had planned to drive across the country. At the suggestion of a friend though, the trip shifted from roadways to rails.
"After we had the train idea was when it really took off," Anne Greenawalt said. "We knew that we wanted to travel in May, but the fact that we were leaving on Mother's Day, that was a coincidence. This is the perfect time for us to do it together. I'm finishing my degree so I'll have a break before I start a full-time job, and she has a break in her full-time schedule right now."
And, of course, she pointed out, "My mom keeps saying that she's not getting any younger."
Added Laurie Greenawalt with a laugh, "We're going to be backpacking, so I say we better do it now."
Despite close quarters for three weeks, both Greenawalts are looking forward to their time on the Amtrak train.
"This will work out. We've traveled in Europe and there are very small places there, so we'll be fine traveling," Laurie Greenawalt explained.
"We'll have a couple sleeping cars that we'll be in," Anne Greenawalt pointed out, adding "I'm actually kind of looking forward to it, because I've never done it before. And, we'll stay in some hotels, and there are a few cities where we'll stay with friends. So, it's not like we'll just be on the train. We'll have some time to have some space."
Though he'll miss his wife and daughter for the three weeks that they're gone, Mike Greenawalt admitted, "I thought it was pretty neat that the two of them can get together like that. They've always gotten along real well."
"We've always been a close family," he added. "And, I'm sure they'll have a good time together."
"Not everyone would want to go with their mom," Laurie Greenawalt said of embarking on the trip with her daughter. "Not everyone is lucky enough. Just the adventure of it all ... I'm honored that she wanted me to go, really."