Danielle McCarthy

Travel Tips

How family holidays have changed since I was a child

How family holidays have changed since I was a child

As a child of the fifties and sixties the annual summer vacation was the family caravan.  Of course, as with life, it's not just the destination, it's all about the journey. Who could forget the hours spent in the family car playing "riddle me riddle me ree there’s something I can see", or that perennial question, "are we there yet?". And not to forget what really went on in the back seat. Let's face it, the conditions were ripe to challenge the best of a family's temperament.

Unfortunately, the parental team were already under strain even before well into the journey. It's only more recently come to light from revelations exposed through books like "Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus", that a husband and wife have different map reading abilities. This was no more evident than in the family car. 

Further fuelling travelling conditions, certainly that time of the year, was the heat. The closest thing to an air conditioner was this little blue fan mounted on the dash board. Then add into the mix, three kids jammed together on the back bench seat. Conditions for conflict grew riper by the mile.

As the heat build up continued, so tolerance levels plummeted. Just the annoyance of the tiny hairs on your kid brother's sweaty legs subtly rubbing against your own legs, was at times enough to spark a full on physical confrontation. If only at least one of the parents had headed the warning that "he's touching me", the consequential full on punch up could have been avoided.

Thankfully things have now changed for the better. The family car is now more an air-conditioned lounge on wheels. Riddle me riddle me ree has been replaced with each child’s own personal video entertainment system. Marital conflicts over map reading directions have been resolved with an onboard navigation system.

Plus there’s one big additional difference now. Choice. The world has since become a lot smaller. It’s now just as cheap for the whole family to grab a flight to some exotic overseas location.

I had been travelling the globe on my senior gap year. Or sabbatical as it's referred to in some countries. I was looking forward to the break from the adventurous wandering of a senior backpacker, to spend some quality family time with one of my children and her young family.

One of the attractive things about such an exotic getaway are the cheap massages. A whole hour’s massage for a mere fraction you’d pay back home. The family that massages together stays together. This must have been the thinking at the time. Or perhaps the bulk rate that slashed the price even lower.

So, here we all are. Baby in pusher, in theory, asleep for the whole duration. And thank goodness for ten fingers and ten toe nails. There’s a good hour’s worth of nail painting entertainment for the other little family member. Meanwhile Mum, Dad and Grandpa have all settled in. All lined up on our masseur tables. Curtains drawn enough to suggest some discreetness, but looking more like a hospital emergency department.

I’m not sure what the selection process was. But the masseur I was allocated was the considerably more mature aged of all the women. Actually, she reminded me of an Asian version of my grandmother. While trying to avoid any prolonged eye contact, I pondered if she had perhaps taken up this job as a twilight career change, or was used as like a last minute emergency department fill in. I figured the latter was more probable.

I have to say, granny was good at her craft. It was probably only fifteen minutes into this relaxing slumber like state. I say slumber, because the last thing I remember was my foot being soothingly massaged.

But suddenly I woke with a jolt. In horror, I find granny now perched on my back. Strutting up and down it as if I’m a paddle board. This is where the happy family experience took a sudden turn. I’m not sure if it was my sudden awakening jolt, but next thing baby wakes up with an almighty scream. So, there’s me coming to terms with granny knee boarding on my back, baby screaming. Meanwhile instructions are coming out left right and centre from the adjoining cubicles in a desperate attempt to console baby.

A unique massage experience with a difference. But it’s “moments like these” that makes family time very special. But for the senior gap year grandpa, it was extra special just to be a part of it.

This is extracted from a new book written by travel writer, Chris Herrmann. His book My Senior Gap Year tells about the many amusing stories and experiences of his senior gap year journey backpacking around the world. See www.myseniorgapyear.com for more information.

Our Partners