DO this don’t: Travel with your parents

I haven’t been on holidays with my parents for a VERY long time. And because it was my first year back in Australia and first Christmas at home for more than a week, we decided to plan a trip to Cairns.

My mum had recently seen travel photos on Facebook from a friend of hers who travelled to North Queensland and I think she was slightly jealous that they (being Americans) had seen more of Australia than they had. Up until the beginning of last year they had always used their leave to go back to the Philippines to see family, and it was probably their 5 week sojourn to the USA and Canada in mid 2011 that they finally caught the travel bug to see something more than just their homeland (as lovely as it is). So when mum suggested a Christmas trip to Cairns, I was a little bit hesitant, but thought it was a good chance to get them to indulge in the travel bug and show them how I travel.

The planning process was a bit mental to be honest. Me, being a non-planner, was frustrated by mum’s incessant questions about booking flights early, wanting to stay in a resort with a pool because there were killer jellyfish in the ocean, debates about hiring a car, and if shops were open at Christmas and maybe, no- we should- bring a Christmas ham on the plane just in case shops are closed and there would be nothing to eat and do you think the weather will be good because I hear it’s cyclone season… and so on, you get my drift. Mum’s have a way of being over paranoid so I was forgiving in this respect, but god forbid I was going to let her actually take a Christmas ham as hand luggage on a 3hr flight up to Cairns. Dad and I did eventually convinced her a Christmas ham wasn’t necessary, but when we arrived and were unpacking our bags I did notice she had smuggled across the state border some canned goods and meatloaf (maybe in preparation for that cyclone).

Holidaying with the parents wasn’t as bad as I initially thought. Sure, they’re going to want to eat dinner early, take pictures of everything, over-anaylse the touristy sights and they’re never going want to stay up late for cocktails – but I found that by having tons of patience, a bucketload of compromise and a preparedness to make time for thoughtful answers to all the questions, I actually really enjoyed their company and even learned a thing or two.

My parents are in their mid-fifties, and despite my perceptions that they were old, conservative and boring, I saw quite an adventurous side to them for the first time.  Whilst my siblings and I shivered timidly at the water’s edge of a river in Mossman Gorge, mum and dad both dived in head first into the freezing waters, giggling like school children, and egging us on to jump in.

During our boat trip out to the barrier reef, my dad surprised me by wanting to try diving and loved it. Mum went snorkelling on her own for hours, mesmerised by the rainbow of corals and intent on capturing about 87 underwater photos of the same fish.

When we suggested going jungle surfing in the Daintree rainforest, Mum – who was not particularly comfortable with heights – was terrified at at the thought of ziplining through trees 20 storey’s up, but by the end she was ziplining upside down and screaming in delight – even confessing that she’d conquered her fear and would love to do it again.

Of course when you’re in close proximity to family 24/7 tempers will undoubtedly flare (the most memorable disagreement was regarding having a photo taken with a koala!), but I suppose my point is that I never realised my parents were so fearless and open-minded.

After the trip I realised that it would have taken a lot for them to want to travel with me as well – knowing that I’m a seasoned traveller and can be pretty stubborn about my way of holidaying. In the end I discovered that travel doesn’t discriminate by generation (and why should it!). My folks just happened to get bit by the travel bug later in life. And the symptoms of the travel bug is the same at every age – the desire to get away, try something new, see the sights, be adventurous, meet people and maybe even conquer some fears. To experience a holiday with your parents as an adult makes you see them in a different light – I only hope that when I’m in my mid-fifties I can jump into frigid cold lakes, fly across tree canopies, discover underwater worlds, and put up with stubborn adult children who think they know everything about travel, who stop you from smuggling Christmas hams across state borders which results in having to order pizza and Thai takeaway for Christmas dinner.

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Why do we travel?

“There is psychological pleasure in this takeoff, too, for the swiftness of the plane’s ascent is an exemplary symbol of transformation. The display of power can inspire us to imagine analogous, decisive shifts in our own lives, to imagine that we, too, might one day surge above much that now looms over us.” P. 38-39”

Alain de Botton (The Art of Travel)

Travel is my middle name. I obsess about travelling on a daily, no, hourly basis. Where I’ve been, where my friends have been, where I want to go next, how much leave (and funds) I have. I could probably say it’s a borderline addiction. I’ve been very lucky to visit a lot of the places I have, but I always feel like there’s more to be explore.

I’m in the middle of reading Alain de Botton’s “The Art of Travel”.  It’s not a travel guide about the outward journeys that a traveller takes, but more an inward reflection and analysis of the psychology of why we travel.

I’ve endured hours of bus, plane and train journeys and often contemplated during these journeys of why I have such a neverending thirst for seeing the world. People travel for all sorts of reasons – to learn a new language, meet new people, to surround themselves in history, to live for the moment. For me, travel has always been a part of my life. I’ve lived in 5 different cities in four different countries and have visited every continent. My recent jobs have been involved in travel marketing. I write about travel. I photograph my journeys. I dream of my next destination. I live and breathe travel.  I love the feeling of knowing I’m about to embark on a journey into the unknown, into an unfamiliar situation, far away from every day comforts.

With travel, all my senses are heightened. I relish at the thought of tantalising my taste buds with foreign spices and flavours; inhaling scents that range from the fragrantly delicious to the mysteriously repulsive; straying off the beaten track and challenging my map-reading skills – only to discard the guidebook and follow my (pretty impressive) sense of direction.

As de Botton describes in the book, the excitement and anticipation of a new destination occurs at the precise moment that you step into a foreign airport, bus or train station. You see a sign. The sign is foreign, may be in another language or bilingual, probably with strange fonts and embellishments; but the sign delights you because automatically it serves as the first physical and mental signpost that yes, you have now arrived elsewhere. How many times have you seen ‘Exit’ signs in local language in the foreign airport you’ve just landed in and tried to mouth the pronunciation to yourself as you wait for your bag to come around on the carousel? Uscita. Ausgang. Salida. Sortie. I would try to roll each strange syllable off my tongue as coolly as a local, and make a mental note of my newly discovered word in the hopes of using it when trying to converse with locals later. But its not just about the foreign signs.

I travel to experience the magic of living beyond the every day. I travel because I want to feel.

I’ve felt insignificant when I’ve looked up into a clear night sky in the middle of the English countryside and watched all the stars shyly wink at me from a thousand light years away. I’ve felt empowered and inspired when I soaked in the changing twilight hues of a mighty African sunset melt away into the horizon in the Botswana wilderness. I’ve felt energised and immortal when I’ve strapped on my snowboard at the top of a snow-covered slope in France, drawing in a breath of crisp mountain air to ready myself for the exhilaration of carving through deep fresh powder. I’ve felt peace and tranquility as I listened intently to the soothing rhythms of crashing waves reaching the shore as I lay in my hammock outside my beach hut in the Pacific Islands.

All these little moments are gentle reminders that I am a living, breathing, human being. That I can see, feel, hear, taste and smell things in their simplest yet most magnificent forms. And all these moments and feelings are carefully stored in my memory bank – fiercely guarded by my subconscious in an effort to never forget –  because in times when I’m frustrated, helpless or stagnant these memories remind me to feel as close to true happiness as I know it.

This is why I travel. What are your reasons?

All photos in this post were taken by the author and subject to copyright.


Ten things to do on a 26hr bus ride

1. Sleep. If you can. I suggest ear plugs, eye mask, a good pillow.

2. Read. I read an entire book and probably couldve read another two.

3. Eat. Pack snacks and water. I wished I had brought some booze too, wouldve helped with achieving point 1.

4. Chat. If you’re with fellow travellers this is easy, if you’re alone try speaking to the locals. At one stop a local started chatting to us but in Portuguese and despite our blank looks and attempts to tell him we didn’t understand, he kept chatting away anyway.

5. Write. I did a bit but because there were no folding tables it was all written on my lap and now I can’t even read it myself.

6. Plan the rest of your trip. I had some long discussions in my head about where I would like to go next. It made me rather anxious so I didn’t do this for too long.

7. Trying to find the most comfortable position. In between the sleeping, eating and chatting you are constantly trying to be comfortable. Legs out, legs crossed, left side, right side, arms up, arms crossed. It was rather futile because no matter how much you try you’re never going to be comfortable anyway.

8. Sing. Even if it annoys others, its something to take your mind off the time and the numbness in your legs.

9. Clean out your bag. Sand, tickets, wrappers, old receipts, This took a good hour or so.

10. Watch the scenery. Much of the scenery is the same; farmland, town, farmland, town. Some of it the same as back home, and every now and then you’ll see something interesting, like a very thin horse or children playing soccer barefoot.


Rio – Eu te amo!

Its my last day in Rio. It seemed like a while ago that I was only just arriving, but yet feels like I’ve been here forever.

I didn’t have high expectations for this city. Brazil wasn’t meant to be part of my itinerary, it was simply a  jumping off point to get to Argentina.

I was in for a rude suprise. The last week has shown me this was a city with a rich culture and high energy from the favelas (slums) to the modern city centre, beaches, forests, street parties, dancing – Rio is incredible and I’ve fallen madly in love with its attitude.

In the last week I’ve spent lazy days at Ipanema beach, where you go not to just sunbathe, but also people watch. Its also fair to say that the brazilians are ever so confident in bikinis, no matter what size they are.  On the beach, various vendors sell their wares (mainly food), including the amazing Acai, an iced slushie-type drink that is deliciously good. The locals will spend all the day at the beach – eating, sunbathing, playing soccer, dancing.

When not at the beach, brazilians love a good party. The famous Lapa street party is the place to be on a Friday night. Lapa is a district full of history, charm, culture and nightlife (its also renowned for crime). On a Friday the people of Rio pack its streets for dancing, food, and drinking. The atmosphere is buzzing, and people from all walks of life come together to simply just have a good time.  During the day, Lapa (and Santa Teresa, the posh hillside neighbourhood above it) is a feast for the eyes with its graffiti-stained walls, working tram, cobble-stone streets and colonial architecture.

One of the main tourist attractions is the Christ Redeemer statue.  I was one of the lucky few to be able to go to the top on a magnificent clear day and look down on the city of Rio. The statue itself is simply amazing and I can see why the locals are so proud of it.

Today, I reluctantly say goodbye to Rio and am in for a 23hour bus ride to Iguazu Falls. I’m looking forward to the falls, but not the bus ride!

 

All photos in this post were taken by the author and subject to copyright.


No place like home… or is there?

there's no place like home Home is one of those words associated with family, comfort and security.  The thought of home, to most people, conjures up images of bliss and serenity. After a 14 hour trip on the proverbial yellow brick road, just the sight of Sydney from above in an aeroplane gives me goosebumps. On the drive home from the airport I see that things have not changed, things are exactly as they were when I left last – the same roads, buildings, neighbours, driveway, house, bedroom. That tree in the backyard may have grown slightly, the kids next door are three inches taller, and the family pet is furrier, fatter and slightly lazier. But things are still familiar, secure and comfortable.

Having been at home now for a good week or so, I did realise that there was no place like home. Food on hand. Laundry washed. Love is all around.

Through your childhood as you grow up all you think about is leaving home. And then you leave. You work and travel in all parts of the world, meeting others who have also left their homes, and at the same time being invited into new homes. While you are away you try to recreate that feeling of home for your own self – through friends, routines, comfort, security and memories.  And so on, until one day, you realise as you get older (and maybe wiser), your real home is the one and only place you want to go back to.  For me, going back home makes me appreciate all the simple things. It also makes me appreciate the great things I’ve done while I’ve been away. It makes me feel lucky that I’ve had the privilege of being able to spend time away, to create a life for myself, while at the same time have the comfort of knowing that if all else fails, there is always the opening arms of a loving home waiting for me.

But I also think a person can have multiple “homes”. As a saying goes, home is not where you live, but where they understand you.  To be in a place where you are understood as the person you are brings a sense of belonging and family. There’s nothing better in the world when you find a group of people, far away from your natural home, who know you like you have been friends for decades. You form these friendship bonds and you trust these people like family. So leaving these people can sometimes be just as hard as leaving your own family behind. As someone readjusting to life back in the ‘real world’ there are times when you get ‘homesick’ for your other homes. I wonder if Dorothy ever missed the land of Oz? Does she wonder what happened to her friends, the scarecrow, lion and tin man? And that crazy wizard?

You know that life goes on without you, and like some parallel universe, you sometimes crave for that other home too. But you also know that the next time you are there, all will be the same – the road, buildings, neighbours etc – and that there will be your other family there waiting for you, open arms –  probably with a drink in hand – ready to welcome you home.


Top 10 things I’m most looking forward to when I travel

1. SLEEPING ~ long, drawn out naps & lie-ins whenever I want.

2. EATING ~ wherever, whenever, whatever at no set schedule or time.

3. READING ~ hopefully be able to finish a book from cover to cover – uninterrupted.

4. ME ME ME ~ Only worrying about me, myself and I.

5. SUNSETS ~ being able to watch one every day.

6. LAUGHING ~ more than stressing or crying.

7. FRESH AIR

8. BEVERAGES ~ sampling the local beers/wines/liquers

9. PEOPLE ~ that speak a different language yet somehow still manage to create a connection with them

10. NOT WORKING ~ not having to wake up at 6am, not having to receive passive aggressive emails from colleagues, not having any deadlines other than the ones I set for myself.