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Travel as a child – Experiencing Countries 1 to 5

One of my favourite pastimes is travel. I travel to see and feel the world first hand and learn how other people live. And to get a look into other cultures and understand how privileged I am. Here I tell the tales of my travel as a child, the countries I have visited, and my reflections on them and how they, in turn, have impacted me.

United Kingdom

And the start of my travel story outlines that privilege – born in a middle-class family in the UK. As my parents had lots of holidays from work, we indulged in family holidays. When we were young these were all caravanning holidays in the UK.

As a family these were breaks away from everyday life, exploring a new place in the countryside. Now, the UK is not famed for its amazing weather – and our holidays were no exception. We got the odd good day and made the most of the weather. When it was raining, we got to play cards and drink coffee. We learned how to play a mean gin rummy during these times.

I also remember that there was a lot of hard work on caravan holidays. We had a massive awning such as those in the picture. Set up took time, pegging, putting up guy ropes, and unpacking lots of things stowed for travelling. And each and every day you had to put beds and bedding away. More annoyingly, as we cooked in the caravan, my brother and I still had to do the dishes. Although it did seem more exotic doing them outside at the campsite.

MS ZiYou ScarboroughSchool Trips

Additionally, I went away on school trips occasionally. Once we went to Scarborough, which was actually a perfect little seaside resort to take kids. We were allowed out on our own and given times to be back at. We had great fun with the simple pleasures of exploring, eating sweets and exhausting ourselves walking up and down the hill. Then when we were older, we even got taken to London. That was a different sort of trip, we had to stay with the teachers at all times, and had the fear of God put into us if we strayed. Yet we still had an enjoyable time and made the most of it. And I loved London as much then as I love London now.

Overall, I have lots of fond memories of childhood trips in the UK, they are a mix of nostalgia, happy times and childhood exhuberance. We realised we were luckier than some people who had fewer holidays or trips away but didn’t feel as lucky as those who got exciting foreign holidays, or that eternal childhood dream, to go to Disney.

France

The first foreign country I ever visited was France. Once we were a bit older my family expanded the caravan trips over the channel. We spent a lot of time exploring Brittany from very family friendly campsites. We had fun times, and I especially recall the joy of visiting the hypermarché. Yes, France had big supermarkets much before we did in the UK, and these were such a novelty to visit. And I was so happy as a kid that I got to choose what type of juice and cereal to buy – simple pleasures eh? I was less happy that I was made to drink all the disgusting strawberry juice I selected though.

Nowadays I’ve been to France loads of times and explored lots of the country. I’ve made many pilgrimages to Paris, and always find something new to captivate me each time. I love doing day trips and visiting small towns in Normandy. I’ve road tripped all the way down to the Riviera and really explored the South coast. I’ve also gone on a wine tour through the Loire Valley and Champagne, which was great fun, especially when you did not need to drive. I am meant to speak French, but in reality, I can (a) order wine (b) buy train tickets and (c) make sure they serve me veggie food. Which is all you need, no?

Being exposed as a child to a foreign country was fascinating – the language confused us, but as my mum speaks fluent French we never had any challenges. And to be honest, we didn’t really see the holiday as that different from holidays in the UK – we still had to drive, take the caravan and did the same sort of kid-friendly activities.

Spain

Ms ZiYou beachWhen my parents started getting a bit more affluent and us kids got older, they decided to upgrade and go on a foreign package holiday by plane. This felt very exotic at the time, my first trip by plane. However, this is where we got introduced to new concepts such as complexes with pools, sunbeds and bars.

And everything was catered to holidaymakers, with signs and menus also in English and German. This was the era when people did really get up in the middle of the night to put towels on the sunbeds. I remember being excited by the warmer weather, but a bit perplexed at how British it was. And how alcohol was very freely consumed. Not exactly showing the best of humanity here.

Greece

After Spain, like typical British tourists, we expanded our holiday choice to the Greek Islands. Which in addition to the warm weather, were also much cheaper than Spain. These were much more picturesque, and less touristy places to visit. Amusingly I remember our confusion at the road signs here, when we rented a car we got a map, with English place names. But the road signs were in Greek. Cue much panic as I tried to remember the Greek alphabet from science classes to guess where we were going.

Malta

Ms ZiYou MaltaAnd the destinations kept piling up now. We then tried Malta. Three things stood out from this trip. I got to go on a submarine, here there was an absolutely amazing passenger submarine, which I nonchalantly approached as a kid, but looking back it was an amazing experience.

Secondly, we got to see the Popeye village-set which just blew our minds! This was somehow so amazing, that both my brother and I remember it now. And finally, the music. All night every night the bar below our apartment blasted out Ace of Bases’ All that she wants is another baby. Not a great song and it gets less enticing each time you hear it.

Cyprus

A final place I visited as a child was Cyprus. I think I visited too young and didn’t fully appreciate the country. We understood there were two sides of the island and peacekeepers but didn’t understand why people could disagree so strongly that an intermediary was needed? As children who lived in a peaceful country, we only saw disagreements and war by TV and didn’t understand how people could have so much hate. Even the popular sweet was to be referred to as Greek Cypriot / Turkish depending on where you were.

Travel as a Child Retrospective Thoughts

Hell yeah, I was a middle-class kid that got to experience lovely holidays and travel around the UK as a child. And I got to experience a few foreign countries as well, all on my parents’ bill. Looking back, holidays were one of the key things that marked out your social class and position in the hierarchy, although I didn’t realise it at the time.

Did my travel as a child inspire me? Yes, it made me appreciate there is a wider world out there. But I also saw the downsides of tourism – tourists behaving badly and trashy resorts. So I loved getting out there and experiencing new places, and that love of travel has endured to this day. But I have taken a step further and gone much more off the beaten track than my parents did.

Over to you

  • Were you lucky enough to experience travel as a child?
  • If so what types of breaks did you go on?
  • How did this influence you as an adult?
  • Those of you with kids, do you travel with kids?

Thanks for reading – please leave a comment below and join in the conversation. You can also connect on Twitter or Pinterest.

Looking forward to your thoughts and ideas – all are welcome. 

20 comments on “Travel as a child – Experiencing Countries 1 to 5

  1. Twelve years ago I was bringing up my 4 boys as a single parent and I wanted to take them on a Big Family Holiday. At first I thought of Queensland, all warm and tropical, but I soon realised that i could take them overseas to Bali for FAR cheaper, even after factoring in passports for the 5 of us.
    It was going to be the only holiday, but we had so much fun that the next year we went to Phukhet, and the year after that to Singapore.
    We didn’t do much travelling within Australia – I figure we can all do that when we’re grey nomads. I wanted them to see the world.

    1. Those sound like absolutely awesome holidays for your boys, those are all places I want to visit one day. And a very good point that some foreign holidays can be cheaper than domestic – that’s certainly true in the UK as well.

  2. I never realized Popeye was filmed in Malta. Way cool. Robin Williams and Shelly Duvall are soo good in the movie! Actually the whole cast was pretty amazing.
    I wish my family took international trips (as now I can’t seem to break my fear to just do it). But we did a lot of wonderful camping trips that I have very awesome memories attached.
    And Frogdancer, that is awesome. I so want to take my child on a big trip.

    1. Hi Jane – yes, I don’t think we did either until we got there -a rather unexpected but very welcome day out!

      Camping is fun, and as a child it is even more fun in my experience. And you are in the US, so you’ve got a massive country to explore before going overseas!

  3. Similar but different experiences. We had the luxury of yearly family holidays from as young as I can remember which were always France but not caravanning. We staying in gites every year. My parents really didn’t do holiday destinations so never a fun park or a place with lots of other British families (something I always did as a parent though). When my parents split we then had the annual French trip and camping in a small motorhome in Britain. I well remember the card games, washing up in the attached tent and hot lemon squash to keep warm in February half term!

    As a teen I was jealous of friends who went on a plane, something I didn’t do until I bought my own package holiday as a parent. As a result of never doing package/family orientated travel I made sure that was what we did when kids were young. Camping in France often, always on family sites, usually tents (think Eurocamp) or upgrading to a mobile home.

    1. Hi Tuppeny -yeah, that’s very similar – love the hot lemon squash!

      And that’s so cool you have taken your kids on family-oriented holidays – that sounds like so much fun!

  4. You were so lucky to experience travel as a child. Our family didn’t have much money and we didn’t travel much. Occasionally, we visited the national parks in the US. Those were fun trips. We didn’t have any camping stuff so my dad just get a motel room and cram 5 of us in. 🙂
    Our kid already traveled to more countries than I did at 25. What a privileged little dude!

    1. Hi Joe – sounds like you made the most of the natural park trips as kids, they sound like perfect childhood trips – the US national parks are beyond awesome.

      And Junior RB40 is quite the world traveller already, that’s great you’ve been able to give him those experiences and be a full-time Dad to him.

    2. I know right? My son has been to many more places than me thanks to study abroad at the university. Or, as I call it, a semester of European vacation. My first trip outside the US was to Africa last summer. Life changing! Taking the kid and his girlfriend to South America soon. Traveling with him as adult will certainly be interesting.

      1. Hi Kevin, that sounds like an awesome experience for you son abroad – what a fabulous choice!

        Glad you enjoyed your trip to Africa, I did a Safari and it was mindblowing. Travelling with adult children sounds lovely, but a lot of new boundaries there will certainly be interesting.

  5. We had holidays both abroad in Spain and in the UK when I was a child. The Spain ones tended to be package holidays and the UK ones in B&Bs.

    As a family now we caravan (with the big awning!) in the UK, and also try to get abroad once a year on an all-inclusive to fatten the kids up.

    1. That’s so cool FU MON CHU that you are now the family with the caravan and the awning! And I think holidaying in Spain is a British rite of passage, your introduction to package tourism.

  6. Oh, those good old memories. We were living at the same place but in many ways different country back then. Those were the fading years of communism but the dreamland which was called Yugoslavia was still standing strong. I consider myself lucky that I was able to have the experience of living in it as a child. We went on holidays every year to the beautiful coasts of Croatia and later Montenegro. As far as I can remember when I was four or five years old we went twice a year. These were caravan holidays which I deeply miss. I really want to provide my daughters’ with similar experiences in the following years when they will be old enough to enjoy it. After shit hit the fan and Yugoslavia fell apart we mostly enjoyed staycations and pioneer(communist scouts :)) camps around here in Northern Serbia and Hungary. I haven’t been to Croatia for more than two decades now, but I definitely want to visit it in the following years. Thank you for reminding me of these memories, I was not thinking about them for a long time now!

    1. Hi HCF – that is really interesting to hear you growing up through such political change and seeing countries changing and redefining themselves. And I’m doing a Balkans tour next year I hope, so you sound like a man who has lots of knowledge about the area.

  7. It’s great that you got to see all those places! I think generally in size alone, Europe is more accessible to see other countries, compared to Canada. My parents struggled financially so there was only once or twice that I remember going on vacation within Canada. But we had family in another province so that we traveled more often there.

    I guess mostly there was a focus on exploring your own country when we did have enough to do more than a staycation. And that’s kind of hammered in the value of exploring your own country as well as abroad.

    1. Oh yeah, I’d say that us travelling to other countries in Europe is similar to Canadians travelling to the other side of the country. Going abroad is much easier for us.

      And I totally agree on exploring your own country as well- there are so many cool places in the UK, and so many more that I need to explore.

What do you think?