My wife and I take my kids on holiday abroad at least once a year, generally to an All Inclusive Beach resort with slides and pools, in order to let the kids have limitless fun, me have limitless beer, (or at least the option of limitless beer; I don’t allow myself to drink more than one or two in front of my kids because, well, responsibility?) and it allows my wife to feel good about having 6 plates of food from the buffet because her first plate was a salad. When I hear people say that taking kids on holiday is one of the most stressful things you can do, I honestly believe that these people just aren’t doing it properly.
When my children’s Mother and her Husband take them on holiday however, it’s the most stressful time of my life. They’re off enjoying themselves in the sun, leaving me at home to watch the clock while awaiting their return, scouring the News for anything “Terroristy” happening. Before I met my wife, these week-long torture trials were exhausting and lonely; filled with paranoid visions of my kids slipping beside the pool and braining themselves, becoming the next Madeleine McCann, or simply walking in front of a Terrorists bullet/truck/suicide vest.
Horrible, horrible times.
My wife, being the “sensible one” in the relationship, only managed to sit through one year of this obviously self-inflicted torture I was putting myself through and decided that when the kids go away with their Mother the following year, we were going to have our own little break somewhere. Just me and her, visiting cities and places we’d always wanted to see, but couldn’t go to because, well; which 9-year-old kid wants to go to Vatican City?
We were going to go travelling.
Since then, me and the wife have ticked off quite a bit of our Bucket Lists, and learnt a lot about the right way and the wrong way to go travelling, especially at our age.
You see, it’s different travelling when you’re in your teens, or early twenties. You can hop on a plane with barely any money and only a backpack full of tie-dye T-shirts and have a spontaneous, yet amazingly self-enriching time.
When you hit your forties and fifties, you can’t be as carefree and as “like, totally Random” as the young-uns. You need to plan, and you need to know your limits.
So with that in mind, here are some tips for the Middle-aged Traveller from someone who is fast becoming a “dab-hand” at this travelling mallarkey.
1) Leave your guilt and worry at home.
The first time we went away without the kids I felt terrible, and it led to me not being able to relax and enjoy the first couple of days of our trip as much as I should have. “What kind of parent leaves their children whilst trotting the globe?” I asked my wife while crying into my ridiculously over-priced, and to be honest, appallingly tasting Aperol Spritz. What I failed to understand was that I wasn’t leaving my kids; they were busy sunning themselves in Ibiza with their Mother, and that I was on this trip to try to ease my own suffering about them not being with me.
The fact was, as my wife calmly (through gritted-teeth) told me, was that the kids were never going to be with me during this week anyway, so I may as well enjoy it.
So, if like me, you have kids from a previous relationship and you go on a “Couple’s Vacation” when the kids aren’t scheduled to be with you, then don’t feel guilty. Make the best of a bad situation and enjoy yourself.
If, however, you have kids and simply choose to leave them with family, friends or the Neighbours’ Dog to enable you to placate your wanderlust, then you are disgusting and don’t deserve to have children at all. (I’ll leave it to your interpretation as to whether this is a joke.)
2) Find the nearest Pharmacy
Let’s be honest with each other here. You’re middle-aged, and with that comes certain issues surrounding your health. I don’t want to hear this rubbish about how many miles you cycle a day (no doubt dressed like a wannabe member of the GB Cycling team) or how often you go to Spinning Classes, which, I only recently found out had nothing to do with knitting or sewing. It’s irrelevant. When you hit a certain age, your body slowly begins to wind down and fail you at key times, and being abroad certainly doesn’t help.
Think you can walk for miles on cobble-stone paths and climb hundreds of steps without passing out?
Think you can drink foreign beer and enormously generous servings of spirits and liqueurs without having the hangover from hell?
Think you can still eat rich, spicy food and not follow-through when you fart?
The Pharmacy is your friend.
3) Don’t punch the “Lookie-Lookie Men”
We’ve all wanted to do it.
The thing is, I did it.
I’m not immensely proud of it, but at the same time I still believe the guy deserved it. Thankfully, the Venetian Police saw it that way too.
Basically, we’d had 4 days of “Lookie-Lookie Men” trying to sell us their wares; from plastic roses to reduced price tickets to museums, to light-up toys that you shoot into the sky which illuminate most major European cities at night. One guy, obviously sick of being ignored by the throngs of tourists, decided that he was going to stop my wife in her tracks and place a plastic rose across her breasts, citing the old rule “if you touch it you have to buy it”. To be slightly fair to the guy, I think he was aiming to put it in her hands, but ended up with his hand buried deep in cleavage valley. One Bruce Lee style punch to the chest later, and the guy was lying on the floor trying to attract the attention of his fellow “Crap-sellers”, who were starting to move in on our position looking to aid their fallen comrade. If not for the Police, who shooed them all away and told me with a sympathetic yet stern look to “beat it”, I might have ended up at the bottom of the Grand Canal with a dozen plastic roses stuck up my arse.
Remember to keep your cool. Italian Police aren’t normally known for their sympathy towards tourists.
Especially English ones with Football shirts on…
4) Don’t over-do it
Like I said earlier, you’re not as young and fit as you think you are. Being in a different country, and being amongst younger travellers will give you a false sense of your own abilities. Seeing other, younger people enjoying themselves and seeking adventure after adventure, throwing caution to the wind and just “going for it” is the path down which the Middle-aged Traveller will fail.
If you want to join the group of sweaty, dirty-haired students on a gap-year at the next table, who invite you to get drunk with them on the local speciality booze, then that’s up to you. (Just so you know; they’ll invite you to either make fun of you, or steal your wallet, and you’ll accept to try to “re-live your youth” and convince your friends back home how cool and hip you now are. You will achieve neither.)
My advice is, don’t do it the night before you plan to climb to the top of Il Duomo in Florence.
Other tourists don’t like stepping over sick in such a tightly enclosed space.
5) Treat your significant other as a Guinea Pig
Most couples usually have one partner who is significantly more adventurous than the other, and that’s fine. If everyone was the same we’d be pretty bored. Don’t get me wrong, you should let go a bit and try new things whenever you travel, but being abroad can really make people let go of their inhibitions; sometimes with disastrous consequences. If you’re the least adventurous one in your pairing, you’ll probably also be the one who doesn’t like spending too much money on things, especially on new things that you might not like. Enjoy yourself by all means, but use your head. Nobody wants to blow their money in the first couple of days. You need some security, right?
Here’s my solution. Oh, and this is for the “Less adventurous” partner to read, so if that’s not you, look away now.
Let your partner indulge their adventurousness. Convince them that they do want to try that drink that you’ve heard so much about, but are too frightened you’re not going to like. Have a taste of theirs, and, if you like it? Get one next time. If you don’t? No harm no foul. If your partner doesn’t like it?
“Oh dear, that’s a shame. Just hold your nose when you drink it, you won’t taste it.”
Money saved and adventures had. That’s a win in my book.
6) Don’t go with other couples
At the very least, couples who are having relationship issues.
This one really is a no-brainer. The last thing you need in a country you’re unfamiliar with is the “troubled couple” kicking off with each other and having to spend the entire time playing Devil’s Advocate. The guys end up going their own way, getting drunk in the middle of Prague and relive their Lad’s Holiday from 1994 by climbing into the Krizig fountain.
The girls on the other hand will be drunk in a wine bar, telling each other how much they hate men while crying on the shoulder of some “friendly locals” who are plying them with more wine.
Ok, maybe the last scenario was slightly over-the-top, but at the very least, both couples will want to do different things spend so long debating where to go first, they end up staying in a Pub all day getting sozzled or end up going their separate ways anyway.
It’s all a bit dramatic for my liking.
So there you are, I’m sure there are more hints and tips out there, but these are what I deem to be the important ones.
So, get yourselves on Groupon (very cheap as long as you live in London) get a holiday booked, remember these pearls of wisdom and you’ll be fine.