Tag Archives: relationships

5 Benefits of Family Holidays

Family group hug

Family are the people in your life who want you in theirs, the ones who accept you for who you            are, the ones who would do anything to see you smile and who love you no matter what…

I consider myself extremely lucky. I love spending time with my family, particularly when I can steal them away for at least a few days so that it’s just us, where work and day-to-day distractions are wholly removed. As a grown up family, it’s as precious.

But sure, having all gotten used to living our own adult lives, we have our moments when our plans don’t align, when our ideas clash, when my way of making coffee just doesn’t fit with your way. Something strange also happens, at times, a return to childhood identities, with bossiness and awkwardness and moods from twenty years ago emerging unexpectedly.

Ultimately, though, there are benefits to holidaying together, something I realised again in 2013 when I spent a  week in a beautiful cottage in Linton, Herefordshire, with my parents, my sister and her husband, my ten week old nephew and my D-man.

Now based in Australia, about 17,000km from my childhood home, this was the first time in nearly two years that I’d caught up with my family, and I cherished moments of chatting late into the night with my mother, catching up on our lives, picking up on snippets of wisdom and life learning, of observing my dad scout the garden of our holiday house, searching for edible goodness to bring to the table, of walking and talking in the countryside with my sister and sleeping, swaddled nephew, of getting to really meet her husband and hear a little of his story, of introducing D-man to my clan.

In trying to understand what makes a family holiday so special and important, I’ve come to the conclusion that these are some of the key benefits:

  1. You are able to relax. Totally. Unlike within certain professional and friendship groups, there’s no need to put up appearances, there’s no pretense. You all know each other pretty well, the life journey that you’ve been on, the struggles that you’ve met and overcome, the joys you’ve experienced. There is something incredibly comforting about not needing to explain yourself, to just be fully understood and accepted. It helps you to deeply relax.
  2. You can really spend quality time together. Away from our usual environment, we are less likely to be distracted and more able to be present, in the moment, with our family. Things that are deemed time wasting and unimportant in the rush of normal life can again surface, like ice creams and lazy wanders around quaint English villages, like board games, puzzles and creativity, whatever your craft.
  3. You make space to nurture family relationships. Skype and phone conversations have their place, but nothing beats sitting around the dinner table sharing stories and recalling family moments that leave you laughing so hard that tears roll down your cheeks, of warming around a fire after a drizzly hillside walk, of collectively observing the next generation of your family wriggle their toes, grab their feet and gurgle in their cot.
  4. You create moments and memories that bring you closer. When it’s time to leave your holiday house and say goodbye to the family reunion, it’s often back to a world where technology is the tool that keeps us connected. While phone chats maintain connections and photos can remind us of certain times during the holiday, memories in their broader sense of sight, smell, touch and sound can help transport us back to that time of feeling relaxed and surrounded by those closest to us.
  5. You learn more about each other and the wider family. Catching up on the events of the last year or two, noticing new laughter lines and grey hairs, discovering things about your grandparents, finding out which aunt is going through difficulties, which cousin is doing incredibly well at college, all these create a feeling of understanding, connection and ultimately, belonging. And isn’t that essentially what we all want?

All of these assume you actually like your family – at least a little – and that you get on well enough to make time together a positive experience, rather than one you leave with a few extra frown lines.

Wishing you all happy holidays in 2014, with successful, nurturing unions between you and your family, blood tied or otherwise.   

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Filed under culture, expat life, relationships

Wordless Wednesday #3: Love all the way

#3 incredible-grave-plaque-Whitby

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Filed under culture, personalities

The need for solo time and travel

What to do when solo travel stops being solo travel? When it becomes group travel? Or couple travel? Maybe the adventures are enriched by shared experiences, maybe the chatter and laughter rolls on late into the night, maybe great plans for the next day are derived around a camp fire or hostel kitchen table.

But maybe something inside of you yearns to sail your own ship again, to break free of noise, to just be yourself by yourself.

It happened to me.

A little over a year ago I was bussing from Brazil to Bolivia, practising Spanish with people in the street, dancing with crowds at random festivals, eating birthday cake with local families and following Che Guevara’s final footsteps. Sure, at times I was mingling with others, but so much of my days were spent and decisions made on a solo basis.

Sometimes I was lonely but mostly I was open to meeting whatever people and adventures presented themselves. My heart and mind were open to the world, to life.

Fast forward to March 2013 and I was employed, in a relationship and had signed a 12 month lease on a town house. A desire to be part of something and to belong took over. And whilst my heart felt other joys, my world closed in. Just a little bit.

And so when all sorts of things built up into a crazy head spin, I followed the scent of my traveller blood and did what made me feel real and alive, and I walked out of my share house, into the houses and onto the couches of friends and soon to be friends.

But what about the solo stuff? Not being on anyone else’s schedule? Not having to be considerate of anyone else for a moment? If I was to get back to a place of generosity and warm spirit, I needed a moment of quiet and a moment of selfishness.

The instant that I booked a tipi nearby one of my favourite beaches within a National Park barely an hour away from my Aussie life, I felt my spirits lift. Adventure. Nature. The ocean. My tick tock.

And now I find myself at the end of a week of small time adventuring feeling almost ready to return to the cosiness and rhythm of settled life.

Just one more night, alone, before I rejoin the party.

Travel, I realise, doesn’t have to be about far away places and exotic appeal. It’s about tapping into that feeling of exploration and freedom, and keeping it local can work just as well.

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Filed under australia, national parks, oceania, solo travel

Dinner with someone else’s boyfriend

WHILST ANNA* LAY SICK IN bed, I went to dinner with her boyfriend. Before you judge me as some thieving little hussy, read on. She knew. She gave us her blessing.

Maybe she had a hunch that I wasn’t that type of girl. Maybe it was because me and Anna got on really well. Maybe she’s just not the jealous type and she trusted that her man wouldn’t stray. Or maybe, just because she was sick didn’t mean that she expected her boyfriend to stay home fawning over her. She wanted and expected him to go get on with things. And not necessarily alone.

Whatever the reason, I found her trust admirable. Because life and love whilst travelling, I’ve come to learn, are out to test every relationship going.

I’m sure there are people who it does work for, that there are people who are able to feel free from ties and really experience their travels without the constant reference to home or the other but still feel connected enough when they return, and that there are people who are faithful to each other across vast distances and despite having had such different experiences they’ll never be able to fully share.

But I’ve met many a person who has decided to leave their relationship back home or put it on hold in order to allow them to truly be free whilst travelling.

Freedom, they argue, has little to do with sleeping with someone else but rather it’s about following whatever adventure presents itself without consultation or compromise. And if, by chance, those adventures lead to the bedroom (or a beach or another hidey spot) then they want to feel free to go with the moment, not hold back.

And leaving a relationship back home is surely fairer than the behaviour of some travellers I’ve met who claim to have a partner back home, profess to missing them terribly, and then that very night share a bed and part of themselves with a stranger.

It has really made me think about relationships on the road. If you’re travelling together, that’s a challenge in itself, but something that can strengthen your connection with new, shared experiences and adventures. But, if your boyfriend, girlfriend or spouse isn’t with you on a longer stint of travel time, it seems almost an impossibility that you’ll last.

Of course we all need moments of freedom and independence from our close relationships, but planning on being away from your boyfriend for two years, as one girl I met had decided, just seemed a little silly to me, particularly since she seemed to be unconsciously searching for a substitute only two months in.

Anna was right about me, and I liked her a lot. She was a good, honest, fun girl. Her and her boyfriend were a fantastic couple who I’m sure I’ll see again in my life. Of course I had no intention of chasing him, of hurting her. Despite what people might think about solo travelling girls, we’re not all single and we’re not all on the prowl. Some of us, believe it or not, just want to travel and meet lots of different people without any added complications.

So I went out for food with Anna’s boyfriend. We ate at a place where we bumped into other travel friends and it wasn’t intimate or awkward or anything like that because, like Anna, he was a good person too. No funny business.

There are a fair few good ‘uns out there.

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*names have been changed

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Filed under bolivia, culture, random, solo travel, south america, travel