‘Mamma Mia’ Changed My Life And Made Me Want To Travel The World

mamma mia lessons


My lifelong love affair with the movie “Mamma Mia” started the way many loyal cult classic movie fan stories begin. I was with my friends in a local movie theater’s 11 p.m. showing, seated next to a boy who I was head over heels in puppy love with. Because we were all nightmarishly artsy kids, we sang along without even knowing all the adapted words to the ABBA classics. (Who doesn’t know the vague words to “Dancing Queen?”)

“Mamma Mia” is my go-to, feel-good singalong. I watch it when I’m sad or feeling the pang of wanderlust, and I watch it with my girlfriends with a glass of wine when I need a good giggle. In fact, in preparation for the sequel, I watched “Mamma Mia” one more time and realized just how much it shaped my life since that first teen viewing 10 years ago. Here are a few things that stuck with me.

There’s a huge world out there.

I’d never thought about Greece before seeing this movie. But seeing that bright blue water and those rustic hills made me need to visit the Greek Islands. But beyond longing for Greece, the movie casually name-checked so many European cities that it kick-started my drive to backpack through Europe. Meryl Streep’s character Donna met Colin Firth’s Harry in Paris, and he just “followed her to Greece, quite spontaneously.” The movie made me dead-set on not only seeing Paris, but also on hopping from European locale to European locale — quite spontaneously.

Dancing fixes everything.

Take it from a frequent apartment dancer — you are a dancing queen and nothing can get you down if you dance it out. Whether it’s dancing solo in your kitchen or out at a club with your besties, taking a minute to dance to your song will make you feel better in pretty much every situation. It’s not necessarily a perfect solution, but dancing sure is stress-relieving.

Heartbreak is a part of life.

I’m lucky I saw this movie at the beginning of high school before the real teenage angst set in, if only so I could belt “The Winner Takes It All” at the top of my lungs when my crushes disappointed my overly romantic 16-year-old self. But the missed connection love story of Donna and Sam (played by Pierce Brosnan) taught me that you can be in love, get your heart broken and life keeps on moving regardless.

There’s no such thing as a ridiculous outfit.

The throwback outfits from the 1970s days of Donna and the Dynamos were frilly, bedazzled gems. And all three women proudly rocked those Spandex suits in the 2000s. It showed me that you should always wear your crazy outfits with pride. I intend to wear outfits now that make me feel like the hottest gal on the block in the moment, especially if it will look dated AF in 20 years. I want my travel pics to make me remember what it was like to be in my twenties, wearing a bright orange romper and sitting on a beach.

No one knows you like your mother.

There are a lot of love stories in “Mamma Mia,” but the one that always makes me a little weepy is the relationship between Donna and Sophie (Amanda Seyfried). Even before I moved across the country from my mom (and started spending time on different continents than her), I got a glimpse of her point of view. Donna says she can’t wait for Sophie and Sky to set out on their own and is rooting for her adventures, while also loving the fact that she’s staying close to home.

You can’t predict who the important people in your life will be.

Relationships are a mysterious thing and, often, the people who end up becoming your pseudo-family will surprise you. It might be three strangers on a boat heading to a tropical island or it might be your next-door neighbor. You won’t know until all of a sudden, they’re the people you want at your brunch, birthday party or even wedding.

But there are people in it for the long haul, no matter what.

You know who the people are who will dress up in feather boas and sing karaoke to you when you’re sad. They’re the people who know your life better than you do, give the best advice and won’t run away from a challenge — just like they won’t listen to you trying any nonsense, shaming yourself or giving up on your dreams.

Age is just a number.

Tonya can get it (she’s played by Christine Baranski, after all). But seeing her teach the young boys on the island a lesson or two showed me that the myth of women’s lives creeping into obscurity after middle age is totally false. Society makes women feel old far too soon, and we can keep on living our best lives as long as we want to.

There’s no one right time for love.

Whether we find our soulmates at 20 like Sophie and Sky, later in life like Rosie and Bill or find our way back to an old flame like Donna and Sam, there’s no singular opportunity for love. You can be a happy lone wolf and never know when your fellow wolf will appear. Take that chance.

It’s okay to take a nontraditional path.

From Donna’s journey through single motherhood to Sophie and Sky’s decision to put off getting married and travel the world together to Sophie’s undetermined father, “Mamma Mia” taught me to follow the call to travel and not worry about societal expectations. And isn’t that what musicals are all about?


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