Travelling with Extended Families: The Joys and Pains

As Anthony Boudain said ~ “Travel isn’t always pretty. It isn’t always comfortable. Sometimes it hurts, it even breaks your heart. But that’s okay. The journey changes you – it should change you. It leaves marks on your memory, on your consciousness, on your heart, and on your body. You take something with you….Hopefully, you leave something good behind.” 

Believe it or not, travelling with big families or extended families will definitely AMPLIFY all of the above.

A Large Chinese Family

Yes, it isn’t always pretty. It can even be maddening. Especially when you travel with extended families. Yes, there are pros and cons – it all depends on how close everyone is and how well they can get along with one another. Otherwise, all hell break loose will become a daily routine. And if you are not sure, please do not ever, I repeat, do not ever go on a cruise with extended families or families per say, unless all of you can be, at the very least, civil to each other.

An Extended Family Vacation with Matching Shirts

And yes, it isn’t always comfortable. Again, when you are not close with one another or know each other well enough – you can’t relax or chill and just be yourself. You have to be on your guard and watch your words/actions. You might even have to help out baby-sitting the little ones, if there are little people in your extended group. Hence, the real meaning of a holiday for you begins to diminish.

Oh, you bet it will hurt and even break your heart in more ways than one. Sometimes you might become so frustrated that you cannot do what you like, visit the places you want and just enjoy being at the holiday destination as you imagine to because you have to accommodate and adjust to what the majority or the group wants. During heated moments, careless wounding words or gestures could be exchanged and everyone’s moods become affected as well. There would be an uncomfortable prickly air of silence surrounding the group no matter how scenic the holiday spot could be. Then you start swearing under your breath that you will never, ever, travel with them ever again! And it will probably last about a few months, and you’ll soon forget until the next wonderful holiday travel proposal pops up again.

Yes, the journey changes you and it will, whether you like it or not. The only time you won’t feel the slightest change is when you have isolated yourself in the hotel room or villa and have refused to venture out of the hotel. Then, of course, the likelihood of anything touching you would be closer to none. I know of some people who have travelled the world and yet still remain “unchanged” and “untouched”. Because wherever they go, they bring along their own little bubble or cubicle. And they live inside that bubble or cubicle, expecting to see the sights and hear the sounds but not actually experiencing it for themselves. And God forbid that they should puncture that bubble or cubicle. They never realise that they are the real foreigners in a foreign land and not the locals. They still expect to have their Starbucks, McDs and other foreign familiarities but just set in a different location. Sad to say, these travellers are the ones who will learn nothing new and experience nothing truly authentic to that country’s culture. One of the best lines to describe this is from the hilarious movie, “Bride and Prejudice” starring Aishwarya Rai. No, it is not “Pride and Prejudice” but “Bride and Prejudice”.

She said in the movie, “You want people to come to India without having to deal with Indians.” You can watch the clip from the movie here.

The Movie: “Bride & Prejudice”

When all is said and done, it does leave marks on your memory, on your consciousness, on your heart and on your body. And I do not mean the insect bites, or food poisoning and the hallucinations that may accompany the earlier mentioned two. I often find that the kind of marks we would come to value most at the end of every travel are the ones that made a lasting impression in our hearts, minds and thereby, our consciousness. Personally, I always leave a foreign land with the “heaviest marks” on my stomach. Yes, I often eat too much of everything during my travels. It is just so hard to resist when every delectable food item is calling out my name – EAT ME, or YOU CANNOT GO HOME WITHOUT SAMPLING A TASTE OF ME! Then, I find myself weighing ten pounds heavier than when I first landed in that city. Thank goodness, the airlines do not charge each passengers’ weight, just their baggages.

Oh yes, we definitely end up taking something with us – it’s called SOUVENIRS and way too much SHOPPING that adds to the over-weight situation with our luggages…or in my case, way too much food stuff. Above all, we take away the MEMORIES – both beautiful and the not-so-beautiful. And in the case of my brother-in-laws – a huge collection of photos. Our family travel vacations are always immortalisted in print like “Tiffany” catalogues. Yes, their photography skills are quite special. Lucky for people like me who have zero gift of “the eye”. Sometimes, travelling with extended families feels like a “corporate retreat” designed to reinforce “teamwork” and relationships. After all, we need to learn how to get along and accommodate to one another within that period of time. Everyone has to learn to share, give and take. Most of all, tolerate.

Finally, we do leave something good behind – sometimes, it is our favourite cashmere sweater, a misplaced bag or whatever we have forgotten to retrieve from the hotel room safes before we left. It happens. Fortunately, these are things we can rectify with the hotel staff’s kind assistance. There was once when my parents found STACKS of CASH in their hotel room’s safe. It was left by the previous guest. Always the careful and rational one, my dad called the hotel front desk to inform them of the “bountiful” discovery. My dad was wary that the cash belonged to some “unsavoury mafia-ish character” and did not want to risk getting involved with it. Yes, we watch way too many action and crime movies in our family.

Hence, in the end, no matter what trauma or drama may ensue, we always look forward to travelling together. Collectively, we have made so many journeys together and gone through all sorts of experiences. Ours is a family which do not shy away from seeking out the exotic and authentic routes. It is just not about the scenic views. It is the desire to see how the locals live, eat what they like best and walk the roads that they do in their everyday lives. Our trips are always too short but we try to insert as much as we can into our itineraries.

In many travels, we have argued, cried, laughed, accused and even danced together. It is not dissimilar to our daily lives as a big extended family. The main organiser, i.e. The C.E.O – Chief Entertainment Officer aka me – have experienced my fair share of complaints from my fellow travel companions. Sometimes, I feel self-piteous and wallow in the sadness that no one appreciated all the work I have done. However, they do not last very long. The truth is, travelling with families means travelling with our loved ones. Whenever trouble sprouts and there have been cases of it, I for one, am truly grateful that I am not alone in a foreign country. I have help and support. To this day, one of my best travel memories from my childhood was our Scotland and USA trip. That deserves a posting of its own.

So, it is very much like life and the world we live in. Everyone needs to learn how to share the burden and help out. Every single person is advised to put aside her or his own selfish needs and learn to help, give, support and accommodate one another. The key is adapting to each other’s needs and doing our best to get along. It never hurts to be a little more considerate of one another. Again, I’d like to stress that the willingness to participate, share and interact are crucial in all the journeys we make in life. Then towards the end of every journey we make in life, we would always leave a place with a deeper understanding of each other, and our relationships become richer.

I am off to Europe with my big extended family 🙂

See you all on the “road”.

Happy Travelling!

Being Afraid Is Human, But Staying Afraid Is A Choice.

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