The Sunday Telegraph (Sydney) - Stellar - - Contents -

has un­cov­ered the se­cret to sur­viv­ing a fam­ily hol­i­day.

There’s a great Gary Lar­son car­toon in which a pro­fes­sor tests his “con­tro­ver­sial” method for treat­ing the fear of snakes, heights and the dark: the pa­tient is pad­locked in a box with a bunch of ser­pents and hurled from a top-storey win­dow. The premise is that no­body would be crazy enough to lock them­selves in a con­fined space with the source of all their ag­gra­va­tion.

On a com­pletely un­re­lated note, this sum­mer I thought it would be a good idea to take my fam­ily on a road trip.

There are many good rea­sons to take a road trip – be­ing on the run from the po­lice, for ex­am­ple – and, it turns out, sev­eral rea­sons not to.

These might in­clude, say, hav­ing a heav­ily preg­nant wife and a tod­dler who is yet to mas­ter toi­let train­ing.

Even so, there is some­thing al­lur­ing about the call of the open road. A plane trip of­fers only queues and de­lays, and the anx­i­ety of miss­ing your flight or be­ing pub­licly shamed by the hand-lug­gage po­lice. Not since the death of Sid James have the words “Carry On” evoked so much trauma. A car trip, by con­trast, prom­ises free­dom – be­ing mas­ter of your own des­tiny. “The hum­blest per­son is a king in his own car,” Tony Ab­bott once wrote. (In­deed, so com­mit­ted was Ab­bott to au­to­mo­tive trans­port that his col­leagues de­cided to throw him un­der a bus.) And so I thought it would be a good idea if, in­stead of fly­ing from Syd­ney to Mel­bourne for Christ­mas, we loaded up the car with three-and-a-half peo­ple and 487 toi­let ac­ces­sories. This was high risk, yet I rea­soned it would have the dual ben­e­fit of: 1) al­low­ing us to see some of Aus­tralia’s beau­ti­ful coun­try­side; and 2) re­duc­ing as much as pos­si­ble the time spent with my mother. I should point out that my mother is the most self­less and per­fect hu­man be­ing, which is pre­cisely the prob­lem. For it doesn’t mat­ter how old or suc­cess­ful you are, any pro­longed ex­po­sure to your mother turns you back into a petu­lant teenager. Last week I spoke to an award­win­ning jour­nal­ist who spent half his hol­i­days locked in a bed­room cry­ing to Led Zep­pelin. As a re­sult, vir­tu­ally every mid­dle-aged man I know has cal­cu­lated that the long­est ac­cept­able ex­po­sure to his par­ents is a week, com­pris­ing one day of rap­tur­ous re­union, three days of happy rem­i­nisc­ing, two days of air­ing griev­ances and one day of pack­ing.

And this is where the true ge­nius of the road trip comes in: it al­lows you to com­bine the max­i­mum amount of time off work with the min­i­mum amount of time spent with your rel­a­tives. YOU: Can’t wait to see you, Mum! YOUR MUM: How long are you stay­ing for? YOU: Just a week. We’re driv­ing down. YOUR MUM: But I thought you said you had five weeks off? YOU: Er, we’ve just moved to Dar­win. Of course you don’t re­ally have to move to Dar­win if you need a four-week car trip – in the big cities you can just move two suburbs away. Or you could sim­ply move some­where more civilised, like the Balkans. Ei­ther way, a road trip is a great way to es­cape a fam­ily hol­i­day. Now if only I could fig­ure out a way to es­cape the car.

Joe Hilde­brand hosts Stu­dio 10, 8.30am week­days on Net­work Ten.

Any pro­longed ex­po­sure to your mum turns you back into a petu­lant teen”

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