While I was growing up my parents always insisted that we have a family holiday. As a kid that is of course fantastic but even as I got into my late teens and friends no longer went on holiday with their parents, my sister and I continued to have summer holidays with our mum and dad and I am so thankful for that. When we were young it was the annual trip to France as my auntie was living there at the time. From Cumbria to Dover it was a pretty hefty journey (and of course it was all by car). We’d pack up the car and head down south for the epic journey over the Channel and then further on into France. Thinking about it now I don’t know how my sister and I kept ourselves occupied for all that time but I don’t remember any massive shouting matches – but maybe my parents remember different.
After crossing the Channel we’d pull into a tiny hotel in some remote French village, fall asleep on the hardest beds known to man then after a ‘continental breakfast’ head on to our Eurocamp destination. We’d be tootering along, enjoying the lovely French countryside when my mother would suddenly scream as we faced oncoming traffic and my dad would swerve into the ‘right’ (in more than one sense of the word) lane.
These long journeys as a kid have made me quite resilient as a traveller. I can’t say that I’ve done the mammoth trip to Australian (yet) but even on a 9 hour flight to Brazil or a 7 hour train ride to Nice – time passed and I actually enjoyed the travelling, not just arriving at the destination.
Thinking about these journeys as I kid, we didn’t have i-Pads, TVs in the back of the headrests, I was quite a bit older when I had a Gameboy or CD player or an MP3 player. I can’t remember how old I was when I got my Walkman but even then I don’t remember shutting myself off in the car, going into my own little bubble and refusing to admit that my fellow passengers existed. What did we do? I remember a lot of ‘Where’s Wally’, colouring books, Eye-spy, various car number plate games and probably a few wrestling matches in the back of the car with my sister, followed by a serious telling off by a parent and spending the next hour and a half in silence or worse… listening to the Archers on Radio 4.
But at the end of these endlessly long car journeys we’d be greeted by a friendly twenty something university student who would show us to our home for the next 10 days (a stationary caravan which would inevitably be infested with ants within two days) and the holiday would begin.
The one holiday we had which will go down in Cooper-holiday-history as the never-ending journey was the ‘holiday’ we had on the Norfolk Broads. Being from the Lake District a boating holiday sounded like a great way to spend our summer, however as we motored down the motorway, my sister and I balanced on tins of baked beans, chunky chicken and towels, the slow realisation that spending a holiday on a boat that was probably not much bigger than the size of our car may not be the dream we all had in mind.
The Leading Lady was the name of our boat and even though we didn’t even manage to get 10m away from the jetty before we lost the life ring and had to circle 5 times in order to fish it out and block oncoming traffic, my dad still didn’t lose his enthusiasm. With the wind in his hair and the tiller in his hand he felt like Captain Nelson… though probably a more accurate description would be Captain Pugwash. The holiday wasn’t of course without hilarious incident. I managed to fall in while we were mooring up one night, my sister caught her first fish, and on the last night we sat eating chunky chicken and mashed potato while watching other families enjoy fancy pizza and mini-golf on the other side of the canal (we missed the last boat across) and while we were pulling the boat in for the final time my sister managed to walk straight back into a 7 foot hole of dirty oily water (I’d never laughed so hard in all my life).
All our holidays were filled with conversation, chatting, laughing, (
sometimes often) arguing, card games, ball games, eating together – there was interaction. Years before wi-fi and having your hand no further than 10cm from your smartphone we had to interact with each other. Our conversations weren’t interrupted by taking photos of food/cocktail/dog/cat, or idly checking Facebook, or answering messages rather than answering the questions from the person sat in front of you. These days I fear they too often are.
The other day, I was booking accommodation for my next summer holiday with a friend, and we kept saying no to all the apartments that didn’t have wi-fi. Why do we even need it? I’m pretty sure the world will be able to continue without me posting a gazillion photos of food/cocktail/dogs/beaches. I want to be able to have memories of my holidays like I do now of when I was a kid. To SEE and remember the funny moments, not to remember my holiday as ‘that time I dropped my phone trying to take a photo while on a cable car’ or stressing about running out of battery and no available plug is nearby.
I’m not going to have my phone on the table while I’m out to dinner with friends. I’m going to resist taking unneccessary photos of pointless though perhaps hillarious things. I’m going to take in the moments and share them with the people I’m with. (…And then maybe later I can ‘share’ them with others).