The Back Seat

For­get the five-star hol­i­day. Get your shots, pack lightly, be pre­pared for un­savoury toi­lets and have the hol­i­day of a life­time. By Is­abel Lee

Time Out Malaysia Kids - - Time In -

Re­mem­ber the days be­fore the chil­dren ar­rived? Yes, look back through the cob­webs, dirty di­a­pers, sleep­less nights, bick­er­ing and re­mem­ber those get­aways where the only thing you had to worry about was get­ting to the air­port on time and per­fect­ing your tan. We all have a favourite travel pe­riod in our lives and it’s usu­ally when we were young and care­free. Some rem­i­nisce about traips­ing through the trop­ics on the banana pan­cake trail, oth­ers about long train rides across Europe. The one thing these sorts of trips have in com­mon is that they were event­ful, dirty in one way or another and you re­ally saw the coun­try you were vis­it­ing in all its un­fil­tered won­der.

Then one day it all changes and be­fore you know it you’re trav­el­ling with what seems like a 100kg kit com­pris­ing strollers, toys, a hun­dred changes of clothes, first aid kits and about a thou­sand zip lock bags. Hol­i­day­ing with young ones is like plan­ning for guer­rilla war­fare… and so we as par­ents try to find the eas­i­est pain-free op­tions – the five-star ho­tels with the kids’ club and the most ster­ile of des­ti­na­tions to avoid any con­tact with germs and dirt.

But, is that re­ally what con­sti­tutes a mem­o­rable hol­i­day? Which are the hol­i­days you re­mem­ber most? The one where you spent ten days tour­ing ev­ery cap­i­tal city in Europe un­til it was all a blur? Or the one where you ate odd food on the street, stayed in an A-frame hut on a stun­ning beach, rode the public trans­port with the colour­ful lo­cals or found your­self sit­ting in a vil­lage some­where drink­ing the lo­cal fire­wa­ter?

When I was young I was lucky enough to have both types of hol­i­days. Now be­ing a par­ent in my 40s, I re­ally do look back on my child­hood hol­i­days with nos­tal­gia. I re­mem­ber go­ing to places where there was an hour of elec­tric­ity a day, end­less train and boat jour­neys to get to that hip­pie beach, the envy I felt when friends told me they were go­ing to Club Med. All I wanted was to be en­sconced in a ster­ile (but lux­u­ri­ous) ho­tel room with an end­less break­fast buf­fet. What I got was com­mu­nal bath­rooms and a fear of mos­quito nets.

As adults we are given to rem­i­nisce through rose-tinted glasses about those care­free child­hood hol­i­days, and I now en­joy telling my chil­dren about how cool it was to share a toi­let with colour­ful char­ac­ters in baggy clothes who smelt funny!

My chil­dren have also seen both sides of the coin. Yes they have had some pre­ten­tious hol­i­days in fan­tas­tic lo­cales; but as par­ents we should make an ef­fort to show them that it’s not all five-star ser­vice, crisp sheets and cold tow­els at check-in.

Case in point: on a re­cent trip to Sri Lanka, the high­light of their trip was the dif­fer­ent modes of trans­port we took. The whizzing three­wheel­ers in Colombo squeez­ing con­fi­dently through some very tight spa­ces – mind you, the driv­ers were al­ways very kind, telling my kids (LOUDLY) to keep their limbs within the ve­hi­cle. The train to Kandy where Bol­ly­wood films were played on re­peat the en­tire way and food ven­dors hopped on at ev­ery stop and we ate ev­ery­thing they had to of­fer. The lo­cal bus where my son watched a chain of hu­man bod­ies hang out of the door as the bus got too full and the look of dis­be­lief on his face was price­less. It took some con­vinc­ing to make my daugh­ter even sit down but in the end it was a mem­o­rable bus ride into the hol­i­day an­nals and it cost us al­most noth­ing. And that was just one hol­i­day… I won’t even be­gin to re­mem­ber the cross­ing across a swollen rag­ing river sur­rounded on ei­ther side by dense jun­gle on a tiny wooden boat. I can still hear a lit­tle voice say­ing, ‘Where’s the life jacket, mummy?’

Whether it’s back­pack­ing, camp­ing, car­a­van­ning or any hol­i­day that re­quires vom­itin­duc­ing van rides, overnight boats or pro­pel­ler plane rides to small towns, you can be ab­so­lutely sure that your kids will re­mem­ber these ad­ven­tures, and those deluxe com­fort­able hol­i­days will fade into ob­scu­rity. You can be sure they too will one day fondly rec­ol­lect those crazy trips to their own chil­dren and so the wis­dom will be passed on.

As par­ents we should make an ef­fort to show them that it’s not all five-star ser­vice, crisp sheets and cold tow­els at


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