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20 adventures for 20 years of caring for dad: Son thanks mom with epic trip

After the death of her husband last year, Carla Brooks seemed lost. Son, Barton Brooks hoped to inspire her with a European adventure.
/ Source: TODAY Contributor

A son who wanted to thank his mom for caring for his dad for 20 years is taking her on a whirlwind trip to 20 European destinations and they’re sharing their adventures on their blog, The Little Girl from Kamas. But the vacation is giving them both much more that beautiful photos and videos.

“I get to hug my mom every night, show her things she’s always wanted to see, and have her hang on my arm as we walk around each city,” Barton Brooks, 45, told TODAY via email. It “has just been perfect.”

After 20 years of caring for her husband after a disabling stroke, Carla Brooks wondered what to do next with her life. Son, Barton, decided to inspire her with a European adventure.Courtesy of Barton Brooks

For 20 years, Brooks’ mother, Carla, cared for his father, Karl, after he suffered a debilitating stroke. Following Karl’s death, a year ago, Brooks worried about Carla, 77.

“It wasn’t a huge shock when he passed away, but after caring for him 24/7 for nearly 20 years — she was just lost,” Brooks said. “She was sad and lonely (obviously), but there was more of a melancholy about what she was supposed to do next.”

An idea struck Brooks as he was looking through slides from Carla’s infamous trip to Europe in 1962, which she took after learning her then-fiancé was two-timing her. She grabbed the wedding money and headed off for international travel. Brooks wondered if he could coax that strong-willed adventurous spirit from his mom by recreating that vacation.

Gregg Goodbrod and his soon-to-be mother-in-law, Carla Brooks practice their can can outside the Moulin Rogue. Goodbrod enjoys having an adventure with his fiance and mother-in-law.Courtesy of Barton Brooks

“I decided to use those pictures as a guide and take her to some of those locations — try to re-find that young woman,” he said.

He and his fiancé, Gregg Goodbrod, 43, put their lives in Woodstock, NY, on hold, secured their finances, and started planning. But, when Brooks and Goodbrod first proposed the trip to Carla, she hesitated.

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“I was surprised and overwhelmed, and was really excited, but just didn’t think I could do it,” she said via email. “But I decided I wanted to try!”

On September 29, the trio landed in Paris and have since visited, Disneyland in Paris, Switzerland, London, Talacre in Wales, Budapest, Prague, and Munich. The trip represents more than simply helping her find her lost spirit. It’s also a way to show gratitude.

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“We’re giving her 20 adventures for the 20 years she gave Dad,” Brooks said.

Almost half way through their travels, Brooks has noticed a transformation in Carla.

“She’s more aggressive (in our plans) in a good way. More of a ‘let’s do this,’” he said.

Barton Brooks and partner Gregg Goodbrod put their lives on hold to travel with Brooks' mother and help her recapture her adventurous spirit. Brooks said "It was the best decision I've made."Courtesy of Barton Brooks

While Brooks hoped the trip would help Carla, the three often remember Karl. On November 7, Karl’s birthday and the year anniversary of his burial, they visited Talacre in Wales, where Karl’s ancestors lived.

“The most meaningful day was in Wales when we had the memory day for Karl,” said Carla. “We spent that day at the lighthouse where his great grandfather was the lighthouse keeper 150 years ago, and we’d been there together before — he loved it there.”

After dedicating her life to caring for her husband, Karl, after a stroke, Carla Brooks felt lost after his death last year. Son, Barton Brooks, hoped to inspire his mother again with a trip to Europe. But they still took time to remember Karl, like when they visited Talacre, Wales, where Karl's family came from.Courtesy of Barton Brooks

Goodbrod, who lost his mother 20 years ago, enjoys the trip because it is giving him time to reflect on his own mother as well as bond more with his future mother-in-law.

"Sometimes things get a bit tender for me as I think of my own mother, but to have this adventure with my fiancé and his mother, well, it’s just been an incredible experience," he said.

The trio also makes time for fun. So far one of Carla’s favorite experiences was the baths in Budapest. While she felt unsure at first, as soon as she eased into the warm mineral water, she relaxed.

“Seeing her swim around in Budapest like Ester Williams — I just loved it,” Brooks said.

The travelers have many adventures ahead of them, including Alsace in France, Strasburg in Germany, Vienna and Salzburg in Austria, Rome, Florence, and Venice in Italy, and Paris, among others.

“I’ve already gotten more than I could have ever dreamed,” he said. “It was the best decision I’ve made.”