I STILL HOLIDAY IN 1973. I have an ancient Classic caravan full of ancient camping gear, and every year, I camp at the same ancient camping ground. All of it is excellent, and it suits my ancient self rather wonderfully.
Sure, I have modern holidays as well. As Covid takes a step back and allows these things again, I’ve jumped in a jet and stayed at a hotel and eaten off a plastic credit card instead of plastic camping plates. But I am still charmed by older-style seaside camping. There’s something about tripping over tent pegs, wrestling with sleeping bags and communal washing facilities that enlivens me.
My childhood vacations revolved around my dad’s addiction to surfcasting. He could not be convinced that any fish south of Kaitaia were worth catching, and so all holidays were bookended with interminable journeys, sweat-stuck to the vinyl seats of Dad’s Chevy. Much of Northland was windy gravel roads; the choice: windows down and choke on dust, or windows up and choke on Dad’s cigarette smoke. The trips were even longer if the rugby or cricket was on; Dad would drive with his head down near the dashboard, trying to hear the radio, steering with his knees while rolling another
cigarette. Monotony was relieved by intermittent vomiting on the side of the road.
Dad’s ideas of camping may have evolved during the desert campaign in World War II and were primitive even by my current 1973 standards. A ten-by-ten tent, with lots of poles and ropes but not much space; kerosene to provide cooking, lighting, soot and an oily smell; sleeping bags filled with kapok and rocks; and Neanderthal toileting arrangements. We would camp by a stream after driving for hours on the sand up Ninety Mile Beach. I would stand in the surf and fish until bored (20 minutes, max) and then I’d leave Dad to it and head inland to the huge sand dunes to get lost. For weeks we would live there … like castaways.
Only infrequently would holidays vary. In 1965 we travelled to Wellington, so Dad could watch a test against the Springboks, and enroute, I had my first stay in a hotel at Bulls. It seemed remarkably luxurious (compared to camping). And when you walked down the passage to the shared toilet and bathroom … there was plumbing! Things got even flasher in Wellington: we stayed at a plush and prim little private hotel called The Beild (long gone – under the motorway). At the time, I couldn’t imagine Buckingham Palace being any posher. A man in a suit stood at the bottom of the stairs and ding-donged a little set of chimes to call us for dinner. Class. It was a very long way from kerosene-flavoured sausages at Ninety Mile Beach.
As my own kids grew up, holidays were fun, fantastic and just a wee bit frantic. Rented baches, motels, overseas trips and so on. I only tried conventional camping with them once: it rained constantly, and it was a dismal, damp flop. So, it has only been after my kids grew up and headed off on their own holidays that my wife and I bought an old caravan, and we love it. Caravanning nostalgically links to me my childhood holidays with my parents, but it has just enough mod cons and concessions to comfort, convenience, and hygiene to make it bliss. And I can take my dog.
Something in our guts tells us that holidays are essential. Health, family life, relationships, general happiness … they all get a boost from a good holiday. So we listen to our guts and go. But what holiday? Could I also urge you to also listen to your guts about what type of holiday is going to suit you at this stage of life? Maybe it’ll be five-star hotels in Honolulu or in a pup tent in the local ranges. A road trip or a ‘staycation’. Maybe an Air B’n’B … maybe even a caravan. Explore and experiment, monitor both your endorphins and your stress hormones. I consider it a major life achievement to have found a style of holiday that seems to suit me perfectly.
Still refining it, though. I’m looking for some dinner chimes.
AFTER DECADES STUDYING FAMILY LIFE, JOHN NOW FOCUSSES ON THE ‘PRIME-TIME’ ISSUES OF LATER MIDDLE AGE. CHECK HIM OUT ON JOHNCOWAN.CO.NZ – ESPECIALLY IF YOU NEED SOME WRITING, EVENT SPEAKING, VIDEOS MADE, OR SOMEONE TO HAVE A COFFEE WITH.