Travelling with family: the laughs and the leaving

22 February 2014

I come from a rather complicated but fantastically hunky-dory family setup. I was the second youngest of five kids of varying ages; two boys and three girls. School holidays, when we all got together, were wildly entertaining with all the good, simple stuff. We recorded radio news shows on our old cassette player and participated in fun tennis tournaments (the highlight obviously being the R5 tuck shop money for the day). We fought and we swam. We raced and chased and were forced to attend “holiday school” where my eldest sister was the teacher in charge. I actually didn’t attend against my will; I loved fun school work in the vacation. Sadly, all the extra study didn’t much help my understanding of mathematics.

Travelling with family Travelling with family

But my fondest memories of our holidays together as a family are the trips in our old, white Toyota station wagon down to the Eastern Cape from Durban. For several years, we were most fortunate to have access to a beach shack not far from Port Alfred. For us kids, it was heaven; the sand was a mere ten metres from the front door, the beach relatively empty, the sea bush a wealth of hideaways and playing options. There was no running water which meant we only had to bath seldom and for special occasions; hence the twice daily compulsory family swims. We all had to do our bit; the boys collected drinking water from the rain tank outside, the girls set the table for every meal and everyone took turns washing the dishes. After lunch, it was quiet time and everyone, young and old, retired to their beds for a read and a nap. I read hundreds of books over those holidays. Looking back as an adult, it was a truly magical time. We would all leave after two weeks sun-tanned, relaxed and energised for the new year. I hated leaving my favourite place in the world.

So, you can only imagine how very long the 11 to 12 hour trip felt from Durban to Port Alfred in a car with five kids in the back. It felt like an eternity. Our parents were very good at “controlling” us with good music and audio books and enough rest stops with good ‘padkos’ along the way. But inevitably, there was the odd fight and also the emergency toilet break. Sometimes, we’d simply have to stop on the side of the main national road.

On one such occasion, we all got out of the car to stretch the legs and those that were desperate for the loo, went. Then, we all piled back into the station wagon and drove off. My youngest brother, who must have been about two at the time and barely talking, suddenly began to wail and gesture wildly to the rear of the car. Upon looking back, we could see the image of a teenage boy running after the car, arms in the air. The boy happened to be my oldest brother, who we had actually left behind. It is a vision that will stay with me forever. If it wasn’t for my baby brother, who knows how far we would have gone without him? Ever since that day (yes, sometimes even now that we are all grown up), my stepdad will do the obligatory count to check that everyone is ‘in’.

Travelling with familymay be stressful at times but it is hilarious at others. And it leaves one with memories that last a lifetime.

Philippa Francis

Over the last few years, I have fallen in love with travel and I am not sure I will be able to stop, except for my other great love; writing. After studying journalism at Rhodes and Stellenbosch Universities, I wanted to get a taste of the bigger world. I have worked all sorts of jobs and I have saved. I have ‘bused’ around Europe and backpacked around south-east Asia. I have seen magical sights and met wonderful people from all walks of life.