The Family Traveller - My Experiences and Thoughts

I just read an article in the Club Mahindra Blog (Clay) by Lakshmi SharathThe Family Traveller, where she talks about the differences between those travelling alone and those in a group and the kind of amenities they look out for. I started commenting on the article only to realize that it was getting too long, so I decided to write a post on it instead, interrupting my current series on my vacation. So, here are just a few of my thoughts on the same subject. Please do read her article here before you start on this one, so you can understand what I am talking about.

To begin with, I am also a family traveller. I travel, not just with my husband and 6 year old kid, but also with my in-laws, and sometimes cousins too. I totally agree with Lakshmi that most family travellers look for not just the basic comforts during travel, but in fact, they look for a home away from home. They want everything that they are used to at home – the same kind of food, the same kind of routines, everything working like clockwork. Many a time I have wondered why these people come on a holiday. They might as well just stay at home!

There are many such people in my family itself, and it still irritates me, even after all these years, when they sit up till late at night watching some stupid serial on TV, just because they “can’t wait to see what will happen next!”, and can’t wake up early the next morning to go to the place we have come so far to see. “Oh! It doesn’t matter – the place isn’t running away anywhere” is another refrain I have come to hate. Food is another matter of irritation – someone wants only phulkas, while someone will not touch potatoes, someone wants rasam, while someone else doesn’t want any masala in the food!

Thank goodness, my hubby and in-laws aren’t like that! We all have our own priorities, likes and dislikes about the places we want to visit and the things we want to do, but once out of the house, we forget all about the house and our normal life and habits. Be it the mode of travel, accommodation, food or activity, the rule is simple – take what is available. It certainly isn’t easy, especially with a kid, but teaching by example is the only way to get a kid to do what you want him to do.

At the age of 6, Samhith enjoys travelling, and looks forward to visiting new places. He wants to go trekking, and see more birds, animals and new places, and is upset when someone tells him he is too young for it. He doesn’t complain about food unless it is too spicy or hard, and enjoys every mode of travel, no matter how slow or uncomfortable. Yes, he is too young to camp out or live in the rough, but as soon as possible, I would like to take him on such trips. As of now, the closest he has been to the wild is at the Jungle Lodges resorts, and that is the trip he remembers best.

Of course it has not been easy – we have had to reinforce the idea every now and then that a holiday is not for comforts – it is for seeing things other than you see at home. It has helped that we have been travelling so much since he was born, that he has opened his eyes to the immense beauty of nature, to the variety of birds and animals, to the beauty in stones and shells, and even to the beauty of temples. He has been hearing mythological stories for so long that he enjoys temples just for the stories associated with them!

One of the biggest problems that I have begun to encounter is when I am at a resort with many more family groups. While both Shankar and I like to do our own thing, and are happiest left alone, Samhith gets attracted by all the groups of people and wants to be with them. That, by itself, is not a problem, but it turns into one when the kids get out their video games or sit watching TV! This vacation, the problem arose when he saw a kid with a video game, and I refused to allow him to use it, saying it was inappropriate. The mom took umbrage, saying that I wasn’t allowing my child to do what he wanted to do. “Kya, aap vacation may bhi bacche ko daant te ho??” (What! You scold your child during the vacation too!!). I was too stunned to answer, but thankfully, Samhith came away with me, and we were soon engrossed in collecting feathers, and he forgot about it. I can see many such incidents occurring in the future, and the only way I believe I can circumvent it is being open with my son, and also being firm. The very idea of playing video games sitting in the reception area of a huge resort with acres of greenery right next to the sea is unimaginable, and something I cannot accept!

The other problem is with the transport. People just can’t imagine taking their children by train or bus, and fly everywhere. This time, I travelled alone with Samhith from Ernakulum to Tiruppur, Tiruppur to Puttaparthi, Puttaparthi to Tirupati and Tirupati to Bombay, 3 of the journeys by train, and one by bus. I had only booked second sleeper tickets for the train this time, and I must say, both of enjoyed the trips. The bus was unexpectedly horrible, but he managed to take that in his stride too….. Everyone I met was shocked that I was travelling alone and that too by bus and train, but both of us enjoyed every minute of the journey. I am really proud of him, and hope he continues to be the same. I certainly wish he won’t turn into one of those whom Lakshmi talks about – asking for a TV in a jungle resort or a pool in a beach resort.


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