In our home, when winter comes, we know that summer is not far behind. And so, on that first chilly day, when we really do not want to wander around in the open air and instead sip our tea and coffee contentedly on the covered balcony, we take out our reading material for the next couple of months.
Travel brochures. Beautiful photographs, itineraries that are chalked out almost step by step and to the hour through all the continents barring Antarctica. It should not be difficult to decide where we should go, you would think. At the worst, if there are too many choices, just close your eyes and open a page — any page — and go there!
That could be what normal families do. But ours is not normal. Ours is a family of four that contains at least a dozen alter egos and any decision has to take all these tastes into account.
One of us would like to go on a trip to the off-beat locations and avoid all the tried and tested “touristy” destinations. “Stonehenge? Pompeii? The Colosseum?” says one. “The whole world goes there! I would rather see Woodhenge and the remains of Roman arenas in other countries, like Croatia and Spain and France — let’s put those on the itinerary instead.”
“The Notre Dame? Palacio Real de Madrid? Cologne Cathedral? The Palace of Versailles?” says another. “Too many paintings and statues, too much ornate architecture. We’ll get confused, the images will meld together in our minds and we may just as well have not seen any.”
“Plaza Mayor? Tiananmen Square? Champs Elysees? No need to get involved in all the historic marches and demonstrations that took place there. Those bits of the past and of politics are of no interest to us! We can’t keep thinking back to the beginnings or the ends of wars; we would rather not be reminded of carnage; we are a hopeful generation ...”
“How can we go to places where we don’t know a soul?” says the most family-oriented of the lot. “When we’re travelling, it is great to spend some time with friends and relatives, be a part of their lives for a little while, reminisce about barefoot afternoons when we were young. We ought to choose a place where we have someone of our own!”
This produces an uproar from the others, who believe a vacation is for “chilling” and “doing one’s own thing”, not getting involved in regulations and doings of another household when we’re trying desperately to get away from those of our own — and another suggestion bites the dust.
Finally, all of us agree that nature and her splendours are what we would like to see. Whew! At last, we seem to have something in common.
And then, the angle that should have been the first to be considered jumps out at us from our bank books and we hesitate. Our budget goes nowhere near what we would have to spend if we want to stand on the tip of The Grand Canyon or at the edge of Victoria Falls.
“Have you heard of the latest idea on the charts — a staycation?” asks a well-meaning friend, who cannot bear to see the discord in our household over what should have been pleasurable planning. “Stay in your own city or town and explore all the sites in and around that you don’t get a chance to during the rest of the year ...”
We look at each other. Not a bad idea at all. Sit pretty. Make a couple of short, leisurely and stress-free trips — perhaps with others who choose our hometown as their vacation destination.
Cheryl Rao is a journalist based in India.