Looking back, it’s clear that our annual family vacation was less ‘Brady Bunch on tour’ and more a yearly endurance test, during which we pushed family bonds to the limit. Given the food poisoning, road rage, and sometimes questionable parenting, we’re often surprised that we survived those long weeks on Spain’s Costa del Sol.
1. You almost got kidnapped off the back of a camel in Tunisia.
A trip to North Africa wouldn’t be complete without a token camel ride. Unfortunately, ours was a disaster. Striding ahead, our parents left us at the back of a long line of tourists with two teenage boys as ‘guides’. Taking a shine to our blonde hair and pale skin, we were led away from the tourist pack to roam the sand dunes alone. Young and far too polite to question what was happening, we sat stiffly and silently atop of our camels waiting to be rescued. The rescue party (our parents) did eventually arrive, after our dad declared that the sensation of riding a camel was similar to castration. We were ordered to hastily disembark and were marched back to the car.
2. You lost half your body weight following a bout of food poisoning.
Keen to blend in with the locals, we were banished from ordering our favourite ‘fries and ketchup’ combination whilst on holiday. Instead, our parents encouraged us to eat the local cuisine, regardless of its appearance or taste. During one such gastronomical experience, we were forced to eat a questionable looking chicken dish, which came with a delightful topping of flies. Not wanting to insult the chef, we dutifully ate the meal. A few hours later, we were all spectacularly sick and spent the remainder of the holiday in our hotel rooms, seeing more of the bathroom than the country.
3. Your dad refused local transport, opting instead to rent a car despite not knowing how to drive like a local.
The rental car was a staple of our family vacations. It was also a staple source of terror and near-death experiences. Finding it hard to adjust to driving on the other side of the road and without the help of familiar road markings, we were regularly flung the wrong way around roundabouts. Horns beeped, locals shouted expletives, and we all closed our eyes and prayed. Our ‘favourite’ memory is having to hold onto the door of our rental car for the entire way back to the airport, thanks to an earlier collision. Safety first, kids.
4. Your parents not only encouraged you, but dragged you into ocean breaks that were way bigger than you.
One particular memory includes ourselves and our dad being entirely wiped out by a giant wave in Tenerife. Gulping in salty water, half-blind and disorientated, we washed up on shore, only to find our dad lying flat out on the shore — entirely naked. It seems the ocean was too powerful for him and his swimming trunks. Fortunately, our mum arrived with a towel to protect his modesty as we began our walk of shame across the beach.
5. You spent a very unhealthy amount of time in the sun. Without sun protection on.
Every summer, upon immediate arrival at our destination, our parents would produce a bottle of sticky oil (sold to us as suntan lotion) and a mysterious formula called ‘Sun In’, guaranteed to bleach our hair. The phrase ‘you have a proper Spanish tan’ was regularly used on our vacations as a compliment. As a consequence, we appear in most vacation photos as entirely unrecognisable, flaunting mahogany tans and luminous green-tinged hair.
6. You were victim to your parents idea of ‘relaxed security’ whilst on holiday.
At home in the UK, security was of the highest importance to my parents. Windows were shut, doors locked, and house alarms set. But not when we were abroad. Our parents marveled at what they thought was a more relaxed, continental approach to safety: leaving the villa door open to let the neighbours stop by. Sadly, no neighbours came by, but we did have one guest — the local burglar. Claiming to be a cleaner, our Dad caught this lady rifling through our things, before shouting at her in a confused mix of French and Spanish to get out immediately. We don’t know who was more scared, her or our vigilante father.