We’re just back from a week in Jamaica. The only bit of the island I saw during this holiday was the road between the airport and the hotel, and the half-mile stretch of coast I could see from my sunbed. There was a time when I would have started that sentence “I’m ashamed to say that the only bit of the island I saw….”. I would have been quite sniffy about the kind of tourist who makes no effort whatsoever to immerse themselves in a cultural and enriching travel experience. But I’ve had an epiphany. I think it’s possible that I’ve been getting holidays a bit wrong. You know, missing the point entirely.
In the past, just as soon as the flights and accommodation are booked, I have logged straight on to Amazon to order a guidebook. Then, I’d plan out all of the things that we ought to see if we are visiting a new country. As a result, here are just a few examples of the kind of (disastrous) excursions I have planned on recent family holidays.
What a gorgeous island, and we’ve been twice. On our first trip, I insisted that we hire a tiny Fiat 500 convertible in order drive along one of Italy’s most stunning coastal roads, the Strada Panoramica Della Costa del Sud. Doesn’t it sound beautiful? It is. But have you ever driven on a winding Italian coastal road? Take it from me the travel sickness sets in fast. It’s an experience that is memorable mostly for its frequent vomiting and toilet stops.
The Perry family in the Carribean en masse to celebrate my father in laws birthday. I know, let’s try some watersports. I organised for myself and my (at the time) 7-year-old daughter to go on a (what I expected to be) light-hearted snorkelling adventure. Oh no no no. It was terrifying. We sailed out to a reef, in deep deep deep water. It became obvious that there was absolutely NO WAY Francesca was going to get in the sea. It was so choppy that another dad on the trip became violently ill (when he was snorkelling, did you know that you can get seasickness IN the water? ). F is now mortally terrified of boats and the sea.
Las Vegas 2017
To the USA to celebrate our 10th wedding anniversary. I wanted to go to the Grand Canyon. Suffering from an irrational (maybe not that irrational) fear of helicopters and light aircraft I again hired a car for this excursion. I know that this is not news to most, but North America is really big. It took hours and hours to drive there and back, we spent a whole day of a long weekend in the car. We argued about where to find petrol, and what to do if we didn’t. And when we reached the Matthew – ‘big hole in the ground’ we couldn’t find any food. None at all. Starved all day. How we laughed.
This time, I insisted upon booking us a multi-centre holiday so that we could ‘see some more of the island’. Day 2, and I decided that we needed to get a boat to the beautiful Madalena Islands. So I tore the kids away from the pool to navigate the excruciating stress of an Italian ferry terminal. Off we all went and then had a huge argument out on the return crossing because in my view ‘no one looks like they are enjoying themselves‘. The real crowning triumph of that trip was the drive from north to south with my son being violently ill (another Italian road) and me having to sit on his sicky seat so that he could travel up front to try and control the vomiting.
I jest. We had great times on all of these trips, but we would still have had a great time (better time?) if I’d have just let us be. If I’d just allowed total relaxation to unfold. You see, as far as the rest of the family were concerned none of these outings was welcome or necessary. They were only going along with it for me. And was I really enjoying myself, or just fulfilling a need to see myself as someone who is interested and cultured and goes to places to learn about them?
So I am letting us all off the hook. Holidays and sightseeing and adventuring don’t have to go hand in hand. Going away from home and doing nothing at all but spending time together, having a break from the usual routine, and getting stuck into a book can be the whole point.
We can still do day trips or city breaks or cultural outings, but plotting and organising and jumping in and out of cars doesn’t need to be part of our holiday plans. For a couple of weeks a year, if we are lucky enough, we can take a break from the whole damn thing.
How do you holiday, ants in your pants or dedicated to doing nothing? Let’s chat…