During lockdown, with the prospect of travel seeming further away than ever before, a lot of us will be feeling an extra strong sense of wanderlust and nostalgia for our past trips and adventures. G You is happy to present a series of travel writings reminiscing on our community’s favourite and most meaningful trips to remind ourselves of the joys and growth travel can bring. Our next ‘Trip To The Past’ is called ‘The Nothing and Everything of a Family Holiday’ and is to Kos, by Imogen James.
The Nothing and Everything of a Family Holiday
I’m lucky enough that I’ve been on holiday at least once every year since I was born. It’s hard for me to pick a favourite, but as I got older, and started appreciating the significance of these two weeks of sun, the most basic holiday holds onto me. One of these, a £500pp two week break to Kos, sticks out the most. So much, yet so little happened.
I’ve gone to Greece about fourteen times now. The little blue and green Ionian islands are well trodden by like minded tourists, and as a kid, a grumpy teenager, and a nervous adult, I have seen the beauty in them. Kos was somewhere we had never been before, a smaller island, a smaller hotel, and one less family member.
For some reason, people seem to think you need a 5*, luxury duvet, room service type of hotel in order to have a good holiday. That’s not the way I see it. At the end of the day, to do a holiday right, you’re only supposed to be in your room to sleep, and maybe to nurse some wounds (I will elaborate later). We’ve never opted for anything fancy, which is why Hermes Hotel suited us perfectly. Nestled 10 minutes away from a stony bay, the family run hotel bathed in sun and tranquillity. The pool lay right underneath a cliff, both sheltering and awe inspiring. The owner would trot around the pool every afternoon and take the evening’s food orders, all homemade by her extended family. Big Mama Mia vibes. From that cliché moment of the heat when you step off the plane – with Jess Glynne annoyingly ringing in your ears – to the first bomb in the pool, regardless of age, I felt content for the next two weeks.
Our small, tin can car bumped all the way down a winding road to a haven of a beach. There must’ve been about five other people there, one of those places with a battered scooter laying next to the ramshackle hut they called a bar. Toes dipped in blue and sand hugging our bare skin, the relaxation of day one quickly faded. Mum stepped on a stonefish, a poisonous barb.
Picture my father, in his annoyingly fluorescent ‘Baywatch’ shorts, running down the beach with a plastic cup full of his own urine, which gets poured all over my mum’s foot. Good thing they have a healthy relationship. Then us carrying her to the car, accelerating back up the mountain at a speedy 10 mph, whilst I’m distracting her by singing broken up nursery rhymes. When we eventually got back to what should be a picturesque village, we got lost in a sea of laundry and mopeds, ending up in far too many back alleys to count. The pharmacist and the doctor, through some awkward translation, recommended hot water for the princely sum of €100. All systems are go. I leap out the tiny door at the hotel, leg it up the stairs, acquiring an old ice cream tub for the water, meanwhile the hotel owner offers to drive my parents to their room instead of walking the 50 odd stairs. I wish it was that simple. Awkwardly jogging with my boiling water so as not to spill a drop, when I come round the corner to see the tin can car wedged between a wall and a balcony, the owner smiling away at my parents. He continues on the accelerator, not sure if he’s blind at this point, assuring everyone the car indeed fits between the two walls. The car does not. What had been a nice day at the beach had turned into a venom fuelled car crash. And this was only day one.
She was okay the next morning, the peace continues. We liked the island. Kos seemed to be pretty quiet at the end we were in, relatively untouched by the Irish pubs with REAL ENGLISH BREAKFASTS and the fake designer bags. There was the odd moment of panic about the rental car, but aside from that, we lapped it up. Small sandy coves surrounded by nothing but expensive sun beds and the faint crackle of a radio; winding single track roads accompanied by the sound of donkeys tied here and there; feral cats watching your every move as you tucked into another souvlaki. And then my boyfriend dumped me.
Holidays are supposed to be relaxing; they have on them this emphasis that it will be perfect. ‘Don’t contact me I’m on holiday’ they say on Facebook. Except, life doesn’t read your posts. We were surrounded by serene countryside, slivering blue pools, crisp pints of beer, yet the bad things can still make their way in. I cried the whole night. I remember him telling me, whilst I was sipping my 4th Piña Colada. Inevitably, we went straight home. It was the ugliest, most beautiful night of the holiday. With puffy eyes and a sore head, I slid my door open and watched the sun rise. It was still warm, but cool enough that I wasn’t uncomfortable. I like to think the sun melted the sadness away. I realised then, that if I wasn’t sat on a balcony in a little family hotel in a cove of a tiny island in Greece, I’d be much sadder.
Travelling heals. I gained so much from that holiday – far more than what I lost. The remaining few days were spent with laughter, dancing to Bruno Mars as the sun sank into the deep sea, and a lot more beers than I can remember. What I think will be my last family holiday for a while was spent in the best way possible. With my family. It wasn’t the best holiday I’ve had, or the worst, but it was definitely the most interesting. Travelling can be both nothing, and everything, all at once, much like this chaotic, relaxing two weeks.