Overseas Reunions - Weighing Up Family & Friends
Grateful citizens of Australia crossing the globe to return to the land of their familial ancestry must have faced this un-named but unavoidable predicament:
- a 24-hour flight with young kids to get to your destination
- expectation to spend your holiday driving around to see family
And if you dare suggest a geographical equidistant rendezvous, your family might still complain it’s too far!
Yes, the ordeal of a three-hour drive up the motorway from their homes seems to trump any trip you have made in terms of cost, time and inconvenience by a factor of ten to one.
Being a solution as opposed to a problem orientated person, may I share a recent travel experience which highlights both and I hope this solves this blighted experience.
Turning 60 this year, I wanted to return to the UK, where I has spent less than half my conscious life, to revisit said family and old friends.
But unlike many trips of past years, I wanted us to share a long weekend together, somewhere special and meaningful.
It proved as you’d suspect a hopeless ambition.
As our mother came from the wonderful Lake District in the north of England, I found a 16th century barn we might use to create the occasion in a wild and isolated valley.
It wasn’t a barn in the usual understanding but a camping barn in the recent British sense with 16 mattresses set up in three lofty rooms.
It was basic, clean, warm and to my mind wildly romantic and ideal for the occasion. Sure, there was only one toilet and one shower, but they were inside and there was a roaring fire.
The only technology was light from electricity generated by a water-wheel in the garden. It was a half-hour drive to get to the nearest mobile phone signal.
We would be cut off from the 21st century and walk the windswept hills amongst the highest peaks in England.
Maybe not to everyone’s elegant standards but we’re talking two nights in somewhere very special at the end of summer.
First, I asked family members who were incredulous, obstinate and obstructive. Too far from London (all of three hours), too cold, too wet, and we don’t like hill walking.
Then came demands there are no answers for: I need my own en-suit toilet, I need high-speed broadband for work, where can I plug in my hair drier etc etc.
A compromise solution of an Airbnb 19th century vicarage in a midland’s village of little outstanding natural beauty was brokered. It was cluttered, cold and devoid of any family or other connection I valued.
So, I pulled the plug on family and focused on friends from school and university-- one of whom I had not seen 40 years. I described the set up honestly and within days they all agreed to come.
The get together proved to be one of the highlights of the 60th or any other year. A short, blessed time with old friends who appreciated getting out of their comfort zone to create some lasting memories (as well as stoke many old ones).
I was especially moved by the arrival of my friend Hugh, who I’d last seen as a 17-year-old, with his wife and we all got on as if nothing had happened in the interim to interrupt our friendship.
With the family, we eventually had a Saturday afternoon reunion at a seaside resort on the South Coast where we had spent many happy summers. It of course poured with rain and blew a gale.
But those three to four hours proved sufficient to rekindle happy memories but not too prolonged to inflame past enmities.
My advice for what it is worth for those considering intercontinental get-togethers is simple.
Remember why and maybe where you became pals with old friends and then revisit the scenes of those crimes.
With family, make it dead easy and maybe even boring for all and keep it short.
For my 70th year, if I still have my marbles, I’ll know better what to do. Whatever you chose, don’t miss the opportunity to get together, it is what some travel is for.