Travelling with a Grown up Family
There are lots of tips for handling holidays with tiny-tots or teenagers, but far less information around for managing harmonious travel with grown up, or almost grown up children. These are my top tips for ensuring a harmonious time, rather than a holiday from hell
Time Out Don't feel you have to do everything together all of the time. Your kids are used to being independent so let them have some space. If they don't want to do everything with you and just want to 'chill' at home don't sweat it, it doesn't really matter if they don't tick off everything on your 'sight-seeing' agenda.
Treat your Family Like Friends Although I'm a firm believer that parents should be 'parents' to their off-spring and not their 'friends', I relax this rule a bit on holidays. After all in the same way you choose which friends to travel with you are choosing to take your grown up kids away with you. It makes sense to therefore afford them the same level of respect that you would your actual friends. If that sounds too 'goody-goody' to be true, it really isn't - all I mean is wait untli they are not there to have a moan and gossip about them!
Timings Know yours (and more likely your kids) tolerance levels of how much time they can spend together as a farmily unit before everyone starts driving each other mad. It is quality not quantity that is important! So if after a week or two your grown-up children want to dump you and go back to their uni friends for a few days don't take it as a personal snub. Guilt tripping them is not a good plan. #Just saying!
Phones Do not comment on screen time usage. They are grown ups and can use their phones as much as they like. I was going to say don't feel obliged to foot the bill for extra 4G data when travelling in remote areas, but who am I kidding, just pay the bill!
Reminisce Presumably if you are travelling with grown up kids it is because holiday experiences have been fun in the past. Take a trip down memory lane and reminisce about the good times you've had together.
Play Games In my opinion you're never too old to play cards after dinner..
Assign Roles Keep the whole family engaged in the trip by involving everyone in the planning of the days and the assigning of organisational roles such as navigator or restuarant chooser. If someone doesn't like their role agree to swap the next day.
Keep Busy Have plenty of things to do, Just like when the kids were little ensure there is reading material on hand, cards, games, and plenty of activities to participate in. Be active and keep the endorphines pumping with plenty of brisk walks!
Join in the Fun Joke, be daft, relax, have fun. Be prepared to be the butt of the kids jokes (to a point!)
Be Vulnerable The kids are grown up and it is ok to share with them what it means to you to spend time with them. This will make them feel valued.
Be your Best Self (Well at least for some of the time!) If you are like me half of the conversations that you have with your 'grown up' kids, will be about practicalities and organisational things. Use this time to really connect at a deeper level. Chat with the kids about their lives and even perhaps share stuff about yourself. Ask questions (without being too nosey!) seek their views, and remember and respect what they have to say. In essence, be your best self.
And if all that sounds too much like hard work remember that they are grown up and don't have to come. With that in mind (shock, horror!) my final tip is:
Take a Break from the Family! I've had the time of my life with Mick and our girls on our recent NorthCoast500 Land Rover adventure. Without an ounce of sarcasm, my gratitude book overfloweth. I've loved it. Also, since returning I've enjoyed spending time with my own parents. (I wonder if they are giving advice to their own friends about managing time with a middle-aged interfering daughter?! Maybe, maybe not!) I do though have a quick mini-break planned for next weekend too, and there won't be a family member in sight.!
What was that about being my best self?! It seems it's harder than it looks, but never mind! Watch this space for my next post on the value of nurturing friendship!
During our Northcoast500 adventure we’ve experienced the ‘same same, but different’ features of the guesthouses we’ve stayed in. From luxurious window seat views in Myrtle Bank at Fort William; to characterful local warmth and hospitality offered at The old Manse in Lochcarron; to the efficiency of the tartan carpeted Corriness House at PoolEwe, by Loch Ewe; to the spaciousness and comfort in The Old Surgery in Ullapool; to the magnificence of the scrumptious breakfast and stunning scenery at Aiden House in Durness; all the places we’ve stayed in have been good. Some have been excellent, going the extra mile to ensure we’ve had a very enjoyable stay. Drawing on our experiences of this holiday here is my checklist of what a good guesthouse should have.
Great Guesthouse Checklist
Eco-Friendly Approach. At The Old Manse we loved the provision of every breakfast jam under the sun in their original sized jars from which we could help ourselves. This was waste free and far preferable to peeling open small packets of butter, jam and marmalade, for the waste to end up in landfills. In the same vein the refillable shampoo and conditioner receptacles were welcomed at Aiden House and are less likely to be taken as a 'souvenir' too I imagine!
Staying in guesthouses has not been a stuffy or staid option and has enabled us to travel round a lot, whilst having a little bit of luxury to compensate for bumping in around in a landrover for several hours a day. I’ve been quite envious of the bikers roaring off on their luxurious triumphs and Harley Davidsons, but let’s face it I couldn’t update my blog from the backseat of a bike and I haven’t seen any four seater motorbikes. We’ve seen some amazing places, along our Northcoast500 route and Lazarus the Landrover has served us well squeezing into places that campervans can’t access. Most notably the magnificent Bealach Na Bar pass between Lochcarron and Applecross - I wasn’t at all scared by the single pass traffic and the very steep drops!
The guesthouses we chose are considered quite good value for money and typically priced for the NorthCoast500 route. Travelling with grown up kids needing their own space does bump up costs, but what can you do… we don’t want to leave them at home and gone are the days when we’d all bunk up together. Would I come back and do it all again? Definitely. Have I got a favourite guesthouse from the above. Yes, but it wouldn't be fair to say which it is.
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Day 2 of our ‘Northcoast 500 in Scotland trip has started fairly well. We’ve waved off MrytleBank Guest House in FortWilliam. The staff were very friendly, with their ‘wee this’ and ‘wee that’; the view from our room was stunning; and the facilities were excellent (just as well as we were all obliged to stay inside yesterday afternoon and channel hop between the cricket and the tennis.) The tyre swing was a hit with my kids (yes, I know they are allegedly grown up), so all is well in our world. The locals keep telling us to enjoy the beautiful weather, but I did nip into the town this morning to buy a new, very reasonably priced fleece, just in case the breeze picks up. We are in Scotland after all.
My plan had been to wear my landrover t-shirt (a gift for Mick that was too small!) for a departure shot each morning in front of Lazarus, but I’ve realised that this will create a whiffy rather than cool vibe so I’m having to rethink that idea. I’m feeling a little nostalgic as I love this time with just the four of us, but wondering how much of this ‘same same’ we can have with the kids before the ‘different’ starts. I’m starting to wonder if we are quirky ‘holiday makers’ or if all families are like ours. What do you think?
Same Same - Family
Different - Family
At school if I’d self-assessed and averaged out my grades I am pretty sure I’d have been a stock standard Grade ‘B’ student. I’d maybe reach an ‘A’ for the odd English piece; in French and Geography I was more ‘C’, but overall ‘B’ would be my forte. Better than fine or satisfactory – we all know what they mean – but not reaching the excellence of an ‘A’. Nothing has really changed, a 2.1 in my first degree at Essex, (though I’m sure firsts were scarcer in those days), and good solid merits in my later Masters’ degrees at the University of East Anglia and Nottingham and librarian diploma.
I think I know exactly why this is the case. Once I am sure that something is ‘good’ i.e a ‘B’, I can’t be bothered to do anymore work on it. I am a settler at good enough. In my life there hasn’t been any writing twice the word count allowed, enabling pruning and editing until the assignment is perfect. For me, once I’ve got enough words and it makes something like sense then that will do!
Transferring School Grades to Life
I’ve realised I apply the same attitude and approach to many parts of my life, especially things I have to do. Take housework, for example. In England I do keep things tidy and reasonably dust free, but I definitely wouldn’t achieve an ‘A’ grade for anything household related. With all house-y, and D.I.Y stuff I know what an ‘A’ looks like (my mum’s house) and an A* (my brother’s house!) but I just can’t be bothered to achieve such excellence myself. To be honest I’d only get a ‘B’ if the examiner was feeling generous! I probably shouldn’t admit this, but I have sunk so low that I have been known to use socks to dust the skirting boards. You might think that’s not so bad but I’ve been wearing them at the time!
Now I’ve started thinking about it there are loads of examples of my Grade ‘B’ approach to life. In fact it feels like I can’t escape it. This blog, is full of glitches, broken links and the like, preventing Google from even hardly recognising it, yet I just can’t seem to muster up enough umph to get it fixed up. We are back on the road to Scotland, this time heading to Fort William, (the first stop on our North Coast 500’ road trip in Lazarus the Landrover), though my holiday preparation has only reached ‘B-‘ grade. I bought the snacks, cooled the freezer cube thingies, but couldn’t be bothered to actually make sandwiches for the journey ahead of time. I decided we could make them en route whilst driving – which, to my detriment, I’m learning is actually easier said than done.
Even my beloved swimming – my way of maintaining a good enough level of fitness fits a grade ‘B’ rubric. I’ve made the effort to progress beyond, what I call, chinny swimmer, and I’m told I’m not too bad at all at freestyle now, but I can’t put the effort in to really master a decent breaststroke kick. Must do better!
When I was in the library I put ‘A’ effort into making it a fun environment and encouraging kids to love books. I was an ‘A-’ in creating a great collection for the whole school and parent community, (I like to think I know my books reasonably well), but I was only a C- in really embracing digital technology - and as for truly getting to grips with Dewey… I just couldn’t be bothered. I hope I was ‘A’ in developing a strong team, but in learning how to catalogue and classify books I was ‘D-’. So overall I guess at work I came out a ‘B’. No surprise eh!
Video courtesy of Bangkok Patana School Library. a great display we put together in January 2018 around an 'Under the Sea' theme, when promoting the enviornmental books of visiting author Gail Clarke.
It is interesting to see what I have invested an ‘A grade’ level of effort into. My family of course is top of the list, but I’m not sure I am mentally prepared enough to start grading my input into developing these complex relationships One thing I do know is they would probably give me an ‘A’ for worrying and nagging, but I’m not sure that is such a good thing!
The reality is that it seems that outside the personal stuff of family and friends there really isn’t much else that I seem to think is worth accomplishing beyond a ‘B’ in. Perhaps if I view my Grade ‘B’ achievement sympathetically I can justify it with the claim that I know what really matters or that I’m impatient to fit in as an infinite amount of stuff into a finite amount of time so don’t have time to be a perfectionist. I think, though, on both counts that’s probably me just letting myself off the hook!
One thing that I think I am quite good at is inspiring others to aim to achieve higher and being better than I am myself. I kind of expect it and it brings me pleasure that it is often the case. My kids have a better work ethic than me and are both kinder and more forgiving than me. When I was in the library, members of my team were phenomenally good at what they did, always striving for excellence. Perhaps I sewed some of the seeds but they followed through and paid attention to detail in getting things done properly. My housekeeper in Bangkok might smile ruefully at my self-analysis, at recognising excellence and desiring it in others. I certainly exact high standards from her in cleaning, washing and cooking-she doesn’t let me down!
I guess it’s good that at least I’ve recognised a lifelong Grade ‘B’ accomplishment pattern. It’s too late to change what’s been so I will have to be content to have been ‘good’ enough. Perhaps what I have been grade ‘A’ in is at cajoling, persuading and motivating others. The issue is though, that these days, the only person l have to cajole, persuade and motivate is myself. It would be great though to have a passion to be a grade ‘A’ in something and really go for it. Just right now, I’m just not quite sure what that something might be. I can't spend my whole life touring Scotland in the landrover - any other ideas?
I’ve tried to be patient. I’ve tried to be fair. I’ve spoken positively of my local pool. I've tried not to make negative comparisons between it and Thana City’s multiple swimming areas - all bathed in a warm, balmy, sunny 35 degrees glow, edged in 5 star comfort sun loungers, with waiters and waitresses who know me by name serving me poolside delights.
Similarly, I’ve not commented on the inevitable foot-print clad dirty floors of the local leisure centre, or minded its limited (non-existent) showering facilities. Instead, I’ve focused on the friendly welcoming staff - they're brilliant - and the diverse populace who are able to access this facility at different times. I've not minded the 'hour only' slots where the final fifteen minutes is spent lapping the waves with 60 pairs of beady, six year olds' eyes willing me to leave the pool early so that their fun lesson can begin.
I've tried, I really have, but I'm not finding swimming in the UK too much fun. Who is to blame? Well, it’s hard to say, but check what kind of swimmer you are and decide if it could be you.
The Walking Catfish
The Walking Catfish tends to wiggle rather than swim. S/he can be found towards the steps side of the pool slowly moving the length of it whilst chatting to a fellow Walking Catfish. S/he is likely to leave the pool along with other Catfish and head for a cuppa and a slice of cake. The Walking Catfish is a friendly breed of swimmer, but can be problematic to other fish, when the social aspect of walking with friends means that several lanes of pool are taken up and unavailable for actual swimming. Walking Catfish often leave zero room for overtaking by other species, but because they are so nice tend to get away with this.
The Neon Tetra
The Neon Tetra is a friendly fish, always quick with a smile and willing to share its lane with you. It clings to the centre lane and takes its time to travel the length of the pool. It rarely submerses its whole self into the water, preferring to keep its head above the surface so that it can welcome new fish to the water. It likes to squish up against other fish it is familiar with, sometimes without their consent. Outside of the pool it can be found chatting to the reception staff and is always quick with a joke. The Neon Tetra's only fault is its tendency to hover on one spot, thus making it difficult for other species to touch the poolside edge.
The BristleNose Fish
The BristleNose Fish is the master of disguise and one of the most annoying fish in the pool. It is often quite ripped in appearance and approaches the water as if engaging in fast and furious activity is its sole purpose. Hogging the roped off lanes, whilst chatting to other Bristlenoses or poolside attendants, often of the opposite gender, is its actual purpose. One disdainful look from a BristleNose and other species, move out of the roped lane area pronto. Although the BristleNose may often feature on leisure centre promotional flyers and leaflets, looks can be deceiving and after claiming the prime swimming area, it tends to lounge at the peripheries of the lane, thus making it impossible for less high profile swimmers to use this space.
Southern Cave Fish
The Southern Cave Fish enters the pool with aplomb taking a headlong dive into the depths of the water, regardless of any activity occuring at surface level. With no sight, and minimum hearing the Southern Cave Fish is largely unaware of surrounding water users. It only senses their presence through the vibration of shoving up against them with wide flailing arm and legs. The Southern Cave Fish is often an older, very localised male fish who is unaware of any negative impact of claiming the majority of the pool as its own. In truth, the Southern Cave Fish is disliked by all. The BristleNose is disdainful of the Southern Cave's less than perfect exterior, the Neon Tetra dislikes being separated from its 'tribe' and The Walking Catfish is frequently irritated from having the ground taken from beneath its feet as the Southern Cave dives in.
Sea Urchins emit a predatory and spikey aura that makes other fish wary of engaging with them. They often swim alongside the roped area, in an attempt to avoid the Neon Tetra Tribe and as an act of passive aggression towards the Bristlenose, whom they resent for lounging in the prime swimming spots. Most Sea Urchins swim fairly slowly, alternating freestyle and breast stroke, without ever getting their hair wet. but regularly meeting their daily exercise target. Sea Urchins are known for their longevity and secretly aspire to show Bristlenoses how it's done.
I think I probably fit the Sea Urchin type, though I do get my hair wet when I swim. That's another thing, why do UK swimming pools dry out my hair so much? Actually, perhaps I'm a new breed of swimmer completely, deserving of the Grumpyoldfart tag!
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If you are a fish lover, (or concerned about copyright) I've linked the images used so please take a look at the original sites I have borrowed them from.