For many of us, the first experience with travel probably wasn’t solo travel. It probably wasn’t even international or interstate.
No, most of us got our first taste of travel crammed into the back of the family car with our siblings preparing for a lengthy drive to wherever it was our parents had decided to take us. While some of my wealthier classmates could boast of trips to New Zealand, Europe, or Disney Land over the summer breaks – my own memories of family trips are less grand but no less wonderful.
Whether we were summering in Newcastle with the extended family; taking a week to soak in the sun on the beaches of Byron Bay; or driving to Cameron’s Corner or Broken Hill when we lived in the NSW Outback – family trips were played a big part in kick-starting my love of travel.
We first started taking an annual spring trip to Mooloolaba on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast when I was 14 or so. Each year we’d pack ourselves into the car along with whatever possessions we deemed essential for a week’s separation from computers.
This was before the advent of smart phones.
I’d have my Warhammer 40,000 miniatures and some issues of White Dwarf, my younger brothers would pack plush footballs and a soccer ball, and my sister would bring… I haven’t the faintest idea.
I have fond memories of waking up to the sound of the ocean and the feel of a cool spring breeze drifting in through the window. Of early morning jaunts to the beach so we could leave before the sun got angry at 10am. Of day trips to nearby tourist attractions like the Australia Zoo or the criminally bad Nostalgia Town.
Nostalgia Town has been closed now. Good riddance.
Memories of fish and chips eaten on the balcony. Of being bored out of our skulls waiting in the car while Mum looked at dolls or yarn or honey. Of nights spent in front of the TV as a family.
That younger, more naive Aussie had no grand ambitions to ever be on the road. He was dealing with the pressures of high school and trying to figure out how to be cool. His most grand ambitions were likely ‘get a girlfriend’ or, on a good day, ‘become the next great game developer’.
Had you told him he’d someday live in South Korea or China; or that he’d have girlfriends and friends from every corner of the world, he’d have looked at you like a crazy person.
I still have to pinch myself sometimes.
Return to Mooloolaba
When I told Mum I’d be back in Australia for three weeks in March, she leaped into action planning a family trip. It’s a rarity that we’re all on the same continent and have free time, but Mum managed to knock together a five day family holiday in Mooloolaba. We weren’t able to get the same apartment we used to rent every year, but we got one within walking distance of our old stomping groups.
Well, two. A family of ten takes a little more than a two bedroom apartment.
We stayed at Bellardoo and really liked the place. Heated pool. spacious apartments with balconies overlooking the ocean; and really close to the beaches, restaurants, and stores we’d need to keep a group of ten occupied.
Our days there weren’t remarkable of family vacations. We spent time on the beach when it wasn’t too windy or rainy (it was autumn, after all). We revisited the Mooloolaba Wharf for a decadent meal at Hog’s Breath Cafe and the girls spent a torrid, rainy day at a local market.
The boys and I played board games (Nintento Monopoly and Spicks & Specks were particularly popular), bought Warhammer miniatures in a fit of nostalgia, went bowling, and even took part in a bit of no-holds-barred Laser Tag.
We totally didn’t lose almost every game to a trio of eleven year olds. Definitely not.
We had a night out for sushi as ‘just us kids’ (pictured below) and another night where the entire family had Sizzler like we did in the old days. We watched daytime TV, read books, and discussed our lives.
Far from the days where all we had to talk about was school or some new game we’d found, the conversation came from all angles. Dom discussed his plans to move to China with his girlfriend, I discussed my future plans, Heather discussed married life and being a mother, and Izaak regaled us with tales of being cool in high school.
It’s sad that the family holiday falls by the wayside as individual members of the family make families of their own. For eighteen (or more) years of our lives, our families are the most important people in the world to us. It’s easy to let them slip to the back of our minds when we’re caught up in our own existence, and I’m really grateful that I got the chance to be together again as the family that helped me become the man I am today.
We might be older and busier. Some of us might have had girlfriends or husbands or children in tow, but we’re all very much the same people who helped shape one another.
Call me crazy, but a five day vacation with my family was every bit as memorable as seeing the Grand Canyon, running away from bears in Yosemite, overcoming the language barrier in Asia, and any number of tragic airport goodbyes.
When was the last time you took a family vacation?
What were the challenges you encountered? Or the rewards that stuck with you?