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  • Planning a Holiday for Five

    It’s that dreaded holiday period again. We’re not really planners, my partner and I, not at the best of times. But this holiday we surpassed even ourselves and decided that we liked the idea of just “going with the flow.” The children liked this idea at first, but then they didn’t. They think the idea of renting a camper van and googling “Weatherpro” to decide where we want to head is exciting, but now that the holiday is fast approaching, they ask every day where we’re going.

    I wanted Scandinavia, my partner wanted Greece, and we finally managed to agree on France. This means that for now, at least, the kids are happy. The camper van season is nearly over, so when we tried calling in to rent one for “tomorrow,” they said we had to wait a week.

    This means that I have a few days to wonder: where does this indecision come from?

    Is it merely a character trait that has gotten worse over the years of dealing (or not wanting to deal with) packing for a family of five? It is getting worse – every holiday everything inside me seems to scream at the thought of getting all that washing ready, organising all the necessaries, and why does it sound so simple and yet it always takes so long? It can’t be that much work, can it, especially now that they’re all packing their own clothes? But for whatever reason, it always takes so long, and there is always so much to do (like clear out the cellar and finally get the summer and winter clothes thing running smoothly…).

    Or could it be the fact that my partner, after a terrible knee operation which has gone wrong, is rather immobile at the moment, so it is difficult to plan holidays that include a lot of walking, which leaves us with a limited option of beach or said camper van?

    And then I realised that actually it could be a mixture of the above but also, and more importantly, the fact that my partner and I have different ideas about what it is we’d like to do on our holidays because of the way we were brought up.

    He grew up going sailing on Lake Constance in the summer and skiing in Zermatt and St. Moritz in the winter (though after his studies he travelled the world as a skipper on a yacht). I grew up moving from continent to continent, and once a year we’d return “home” to Switzerland where we’d visit all our relatives. My father had bought a small chalet in Valais, and we spend many Easters searching for eggs and skiing in the Leukerbad area – that was our only constant. For the rest of the time, we’d explore whatever country we lived in.

    As kids we spent the night in Omani deserts, travelling to oases and visiting our “garden boy,” Musa, who invited us for traditional tea in his tent. Later when visiting my dad who lived in Gabon, West Africa, for a year, we travelled to the Albert Schweitzer hospital in Lambaréné, dodging hippopotami in our wooden river boats. As teenagers, we lived in Peru, where we travelled down the Tambopata river in the Amazon of southwest Peru, climbed Huayna Picchu, saw the rare Puya Raimondii that grows three metres tall and flowers once at the end of its decades-long lifetime. We also paddled from one man-made reed island to another on the Lago Titicaca. A few years later, living in Cartagena, Colombia, we spent time on an island which harboured injured dolphins, where they were trained for tourist shows that helped pay for the open-air aquarium and the marine biology labs on the island. Thanks to our friendship with the wonderful owner, we swam with the dolphins and often spent weekends living in this paradise, a tale my children love to hear over and over.

    Now I face my children and wonder, What can I offer them, How can I compete with that? And that’s probably where the issue lies. However beautiful Lake Constance is (and I do love it), it’s always the same, and I’ve seen all the REKA villages there are to see for skiing with kids. When our children were little, neither my partner nor I fancied the idea of travelling long distances on aeroplanes or in cars. Not having to, we opted for holidays nearby.

    I had begun feeling terrible that at their age I had seen so much of the world and had had so many experiences, and they had barely been outside of Europe, let alone Switzerland. In recent years I’ve managed to squeeze in a few holidays in Greece or Italy, and we have of course often visited my sister in London and friends in Paris – with a side trip to north Bretagne – and a visit to friends in Gozo, Malta. But I always felt that it wasn’t quite the same.

    Of course we don’t have a company that sends us around the world to live in exciting places or pays for annual home leave, as my father did. But it’s not really a financial issue. With good old-fashioned thinking ahead and booking holidays early, you can get pretty good deals – at least, so I’m told.

    Now that the kids are older, I feel a tad guilty at not having exposed them to more yet. It’s nothing that can’t be undone, of course, and often that nagging feeling of guilt pushes you to get things done. But there’s also the challenging period of discussion before my partner and I can agree on what to do and where to go. We simply have different ideas of how to spend our holidays with the kids based on what we experienced as children. I’m not happy anymore with lying on a beach at an all-inclusive hotel with delicious buffets, even a five-star hotel.

    I’d like the children to experience places and cultures and see firsthand how other people live. I can’t offer them an in-depth living experience like I was so lucky to have, so I must accept that what they have is OK, too. Living in Switzerland has its benefits, not only the natural beauty but also its geographical location in Europe, which allows for interesting weekend trips. It’s time now for a new sort of travelling.

    Before, I thought I was just being ungrateful and maybe even a bit spoilt. Now I realise it’s more that I’d just like the general knowledge about the world that I experienced in passing to be a part of my children’s lives. I simply didn’t know how exactly to go about it, precisely because the travelling was built into my childhood life.

    Naturally we must give it some thought and planning, and though it may take a lot of computer research time, I think both my partner and I have come to a point where we have agreed that Europe is a good beginning. I never travelled around Europe much, so it’s exciting for me, too – I can’t wait to visit Scandinavia. And we’re thinking further afield: Israel and Canada for next year and the year after.

    Indeed, we’ve already contacted our travel agent, but they’ve told us they would have to put our names on a list, because we’re too early for 2016, let alone 2017!

    October 1, 2015. Mothering Matters.
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    Planning a Holiday for Five

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