TIMES OF THEIR LIVES

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Family Holidays - Susan Kuro­sawa

IT’S said that two of the great­est gifts we can give our chil­dren are roots and wings. So, a sense of fam­ily and be­long­ing, and per­mis­sion to break free, to travel, to find out what’s around the cor­ner, over the hill and far away.

Be­fore this ul­ti­mate es­cape can be ac­com­plished, we need to travel with our chil­dren, to teach them about the world or, in the case of Depar­tureLounge ’ s two off­spring, al­low them to make fab­u­lous fun of us as we be­come flus­tered by round­abouts and for­eign signs or try to put on a snorkel and mask up­side down. In Hawaii on one oc­ca­sion, which be­came known as the Maui Maui Re­bel­lion, Lounge man­aged to cause ter­mi­nal em­bar­rass­ment to her sons not just by driv­ing on the wrong side of the road but by fail­ing to grasp the in­tri­ca­cies of a man­ual trans­mis­sion, thus caus­ing our rental car to bound about the is­land like a crazed kan­ga­roo.

Lounge has a sus­pi­cion her par­ents would have sent her trav­el­ling alone at the age of, say, five, if given half a chance. Lit­tle Lounge (bossy, with plaits and a pony) rarely let up about want­ing to go on ex­cur­sions, to have ad­ven­tures of The Fa­mousFive ilk (smug­glers’ caves were men­tioned), while mother and fa­ther thought week­ends were about prun­ing roses and lis­ten­ing to the cricket on a tran­sis­tor ra­dio. They let Lounge take her var­i­ous cats — no­tably, Lady Pru­dence, Ginger Nut and Scamp Mousey­mouth— out for walks (some­times in a doll’s pram; the snooty Lady Pru­dence was not averse to strolling on a red pa­tent-leather leash, ei­ther). But it has to be con­sid­ered that mother and fa­ther would have pre­ferred to just wrap Lounge ’ s af­ter­noon tea in a road map of Sur­rey and send her off in­def­i­nitely, or at least un­til dark­ness fell, which in sum­mer in Eng­land is con­ve­niently very late.

But in those long-gone days, par­ents were quite un­wor­ried about let­ting chil­dren dis­ap­pear all day to play. Two decades later, Lounge ’ s sons found them­selves on much shorter leads, in­vari­ably with their mother tug­ging at the end.

As they were grow­ing up, we took hol­i­days when­ever we could, from the land­mark kind (Dis­ney­land and a South Pa­cific cruise) to rent­ing beach houses or driv­ing up to Syd­ney’s Blue Moun­tains with protest­ing cats in spe­cial car­ri­ers and the car boot jammed with pic­nic bas­kets.

It was im­por­tant to be see­ing things, to be sat­ing our cu­rios­ity about how other peo­ple lived, what they ate and wore, how our own ex­pe­ri­ences com­pared. We took thou­sands of pho­tos, kept jour­nals pasted with post­cards and tick­ets, bored rel­a­tives silly with tales of our pere­gri­na­tions.

Lounge is in a par­tic­u­larly nos­tal­gic mood this week­end as we have a Fam­ily Hol­i­days edi­tion for you, full of good in­for­ma­tion and ad­vice on how to give chil­dren the (travel) time of their lives. Just re­mem­ber, it doesn’t have to be a grand ad­ven­ture. Af­ter more than 15 years of traips­ing with my sons, of­ten to ex­otic climes, do you know what they re­mem­ber most fondly? The time we went camp­ing in a na­tional park near Syd­ney and they were al­lowed to cook the sausages and not take show­ers be­fore bed. Or per­haps it’s not the scorched snags and hy­giene dis­pen­sa­tion they re­mem­ber; more that their mother, un­able to chan­nel quite ev­ery­thing she’d learned in the First Dork­ing Girl Guides troop, erected the tent in such a care­free fash­ion that it col­lapsed in the mid­dle of the night. Happy to­geth­er­ness. LOUNGE’S elder son, Justin, was re­cently in Ja­pan and met up with his old school­friend Ben Lee, now based in Eng­land. Ben went mad shop­ping for clothes and couldn’t be­lieve Tokyo’s good value com­pared with Lon­don’s.

The present strength of the Aus­tralian dol­lar against the yen has made Ja­pan an un­likely bar­gain. Ac­cord­ing to Ken Osetroff, di­rec­tor of tours­gallery.com, which op­er­ates es­corted tours to Ja­pan, there are real bar­gains to be had. He says: ‘‘ A cof­fee will cost you $1.50, fresh-cut sand­wiches cost around $4 and a very familiar din­ner of meat and three veg can be as lit­tle as $12.’’

Os­teroff says his com­pany has been cre­at­ing tours to Ja­pan for 25 years. ‘‘ The leg­endary $100 mel­ons and $10 cof­fees are sim­ply not part of ev­ery­day life . . . we even show our tour guests where to buy an­tiques and col­lecta­bles at bar­gain prices, in­clud­ing beau­ti­fully dec­o­rated sec­ond-hand wed­ding ki­monos for as lit­tle as $20.’’ Tours­gallery’s Ky­oto Gar­dens and Rural Vil­lages tour de­parts Novem­ber 19; $5490 twin-share. 1300 307 317; www.tours­gallery.com.

Also note that Travel&In­dul­gence will pub­lish a 24-page tabloid re­port, Desti­na­tionJa­pan on Fri­day, Septem­ber 21. We will be cov­er­ing Hokkaido ski­ing, af­ford­able ac­com­mo­da­tion and Tokyo for fam­i­lies among the mix.

WELL-PRICED South Africa is also prov­ing ir­re­sistible to Aus­tralian trav­ellers. Al­most 35,000 of us trav­elled there in the first five months of this year, a 6.7 per cent in­crease over the same pe­riod in 2006. Bangu Ma­sisi, gen­eral man­ager Aus­trala­sia for South African Tourism, says she’s pleased with the in­crease and sug­gests the fig­ure is on tar­get for the coun­try’s tourism goals this year. www.southafrica.net. ■ FIND of the week: Sin­ga­pore’s new Amara Sanc­tu­ary Re­sort, set in 3.5ha of trop­i­cal gar­dens on Sen­tosa Is­land, has an open­ing spe­cial of $S285 ($219) a room a night (valid to the end of Au­gust). Some of the lux­ury ac­com­mo­da­tion is con­tained within con­verted 1930s Bri­tish army quar­ters. www.ama­ra­sanc­tu­ary.com. ■ LOUNGE loves: KuDeTa2, the latest CD by DJ Donni 1. Right on Seminyak Beach, Ku De Ta is the hippest restau­rant in Bali; the CD will be avail­able in Aus­tralia by the end of the month. Chill out to the likes of Nina Si­mone or Los Hom­bres Calientes or, bet­ter still, head to Seminyak. www.kudeta.net.

LOUNGE loathes: That scari­est line in the English (travel) lan­guage. Hire car clerk: ‘‘ We are de­lighted to up­grade you to a larger ve­hi­cle.’’ Just ask Lounge ’ s sons.

Il­lus­tra­tion: Michael Perkins

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