We’re probably not the only one to say that 2016 had been a year we’d always remember for the rest of our lives, not for the best of reasons. This year, family travel took a different meaning for us; it became much more than just going physically somewhere. We did go places, but the family itself was a journey. We learned that it is possible to keep travelling, even as life took a turbulent turn.
February: Madeira, Portugal
Our Madeira trip on February was the only trip this year where everything felt normal, even though probably only on the surface. February was a beautiful time to visit Madeira while the rest of Europe was still in the middle of a winter. It was 20 degrees and sunny and we had a great apartment in the heart of charming old town of Funchal. It was to be the least eventful trip of the year, but it seemed like a great beginning to our travelling calendar.
April: Gozo, Malta
Our trip to Gozo in April already started off on an ominous beginning. The trip was booked several months in advance, it was meant to be an extended family travel, with my parent-in-laws joining us. The Kid was excited and looking forward to travel with the grandparents.
At the beginning of April, the parents-in-laws arrived in Malta, meaning to spend some days by themselves before we could join them in Gozo. After 3 days of enjoying the sunny island, my mother-in-law fell ill. She didn’t get better after the next day, so they decided to fly back home to get proper treatment. At this point, we knew they would not come back to the island, but understood that it’s best for her to get better close to home.
My mother-in-law got progressively worse the closer it was to our trip. We had to reconsider whether or not we should go or to be with her instead. In the end both my parent-in-laws convinced us to go, that it would made them happier to know that the carefully planned trip would not go to waste, and they wanted us to enjoy ourselves, since they couldn’t come with us. So we went.
We landed in Malta, and went on to drive to the island of Gozo. It was a beautiful drive and a ferry ride across in the dry and warm Maltese weather. Our Gozitan farmhouse was lovely, but felt so big, now there were just the three of us in a house meant for 6.
On our way to dinner, we received the news that my mother-in-laws passed away.
There we were, sitting waiting for our dinner. Everybody quiet in their own thoughts, not even The Kid was crying.
The rest of our trip somehow reflected our mood. The usually dry and warm Gozo was windy, cold and rainy during our stay. The stone house felt even bigger, darker, and gloomier. The sea was too rough for swimming. We asked ourselves everyday if we should cut the trip short and fly to Germany to be with the family instead. But we stayed, being there for each other, and tried making the best of the trip.
June: Split, Hvar, Korčula, Dubrovnik (Croatia)
Croatia was our most anticipated trip this year. It was one of the most fun (but also elaborate) trips I had to organise, with different arrival and departure points for the flights, 4 different accommodations and 4 ferry rides.
A few weeks before the trip, we found ourselves in a circumstance that forced us to rethink whether or not the family should stay together, and came very close to deciding otherwise. It was the time both of us asked hard questions to ourselves and to each other, and once more, another hard consideration whether to go ahead with the trip or to change the plan.
In the end, we knew that even at the worst of times, we’d still make a great travel team. With both apprehension and hope, we went.
It was a busy itinerary for 8 days, island hopping on the gorgeous coast of Dalmatia, but I’m glad to say that it was a logistical
July: The Summer Sail, and a Solo Travel to Sardinia, Italy
July-August was the time for our annual summer sail in Dutch water. But this year, I decided that it might be a good idea to have some time on my own and do some solo travelling.
I joined the first 2 days of the sailing and then got dropped off to catch my train back to Amsterdam and then to catch my flight to Alghero. I have never been to Italy before (yes, for real), but Sardinia was on the destination short list for this year, so I took it as my pick.
Alghero and its surrounding was gorgeous and I had lovely times, but it definitely was not an easy destination for me; solo travelling, not speaking Italian and not having any driver’s license. The biggest challenge was being gluten intolerant (something I just found out shortly before) in the land of pasta and pizza.
Being on my own in a strange land for 10 days was something I hadn’t done in years, and I’m glad I did it. I loved the freedom, spontaneity and the feeling of self-reliance of figuring things and tackling travel challenges on my own. It also gave me more opportunity to make connections with locals and fellow travellers, something we don’t do much travelling as a family. And it also provided me with ample time to reflect and ponder, seeing things from a different perspective.
Speaking of perspective, I really missed having my photographer around, instead of having to take pictures on my own (pictures I later on lost when my laptop got stolen, in truly 2016 style).
The short separation was a needed one. It provided us a distance both literally and psychologically to see ourselves, each other, and our motivations more objectively. It was after I returned home, we started to have better picture on what we wanted for the future and how we’re going to proceed.
October: The Eifel region, Germany
We did a short 4-day trip in the Eifel region of Germany. It’s another milestone trip; for the first time, The Kid announced that she won’t be coming with us, and opted to stay with my sister instead. Being invited to a pyjama party was the top reason for the refusal, but I did wonder if she also sensed that it’s a good time for her parents to spend grownup time together. To be honest, we really appreciated her decision. We changed our bookings last minute, from a triple room at a hotel to a cosy 2-people cottage by the picturesque Rursee surrounded by radiant autumn colours, on days it was basking in un-seasonally clear sunny weather and 20 degrees temperature. It ticked all the boxes for a romantic getaway.
We are not naturally romantic people, and there was still a certain awkwardness between us, but it was a truly memorable trip and a good reminder what it was like to be a childless couple (and truth be told, we did not miss The Kid at all… haha). If my solo travel allowed us to see each other better, this trip gave us a refreshing insight of us as a couple, isolated from the noise of normal everyday life.
For now, everything is a working progress, the way it should be with anything in life, really. If it’s an indication of anything, we have put the planning in place for our next trip to Sint Maarten in the Caribbean in February, and our sailing trip in Croatia in June. Here’s hoping for a better 2017.