I could have been here
Being a travel writer is hard sometimes.
Like when you’re invited on a famil somewhere awesome, and you have to say no.
For those not in the trade, a famil, sometimes known as a junket, is an invitation to go on an all-expenses trip to a holiday destination. The idea is that you get to experience resorts, hotels, attractions, food, activities, and other fun things that are likely to appeal to visitors. So you can then write about them, and hopefully attract more people to visit.
My wings were clipped when I had children, but then I started writing about holidays with kids, and family destinations. So my kids often get to come too. For the win!
I must stress these trips aren’t always fun though.
Sometimes you’re travelling with a group of journalists and bloggers you may not know. (Or like. No offence.) Or you’re being dragged by well-meaning PR people from one activity to the next. Because they want to get bang for their bucks, and you can’t blame them, they have you up at the crack of dawn and on the go from morning until late at night.
That’s okay if you’re single perhaps, but not if you’re pregnant, or travelling with kids, who just want to hang around the resort or need to sleep in after a full day of driving the day before.
You can’t do what you want when you want. You don’t choose where you’re staying, and you’re usually not with your family. You have to be at this point by this time, and do this activity. Then be at the next point a few hours later. That can be difficult for anyone to accept, let alone for kids (especially ones on the spectrum). Luckily mine have grown up joining me on press trips and are pretty used to it by now.
(I remember a whirlwind pre-kids press trip to New Orleans, where I naughtily skipped an activity to feverishly fit in some shopping, while a few of the male journalists just disappeared from a walking tour into a bar! Very unprofessional, but the PRs had left us no free time at all. Who could go to the US without shopping, said the girls? While the men thought a trip was unthinkable without sampling the drinks!)
And when you’re freelance, you’re also taking time off from making money, and hoping the hell you will sell enough stories to cover the time you’ve taken for the trip.
It’s not exactly a free holiday.
But still – it beats sitting in an office. And when you’re a Sagittarian like me, travel is irresistible.
And so it really hurt last week, when I had to reluctantly turn down the chance to travel around the Whitsundays.
The occasion was Tiger Airways’ first flight from Sydney to Whitsunday Coast Airport, and the famil was to showcase the best of what the Whitsundays had to offer. Sailing, islands, Whitehaven Beach, seafood and more. Even better, some lovely writers I knew would be there too.
But now I live in country Queensland, I would have had to add on the 3-4 hour drive to Brisbane Airport, an overnight stay in Sydney, as well as the Whitsundays jaunt. Although I had wonderful people willing to take on the kids, it was the last week of the school term, and I felt it was too long to be away from the children, and too much to ask others to care for them at such an important time of the year.
And yes, it stung as my friends posted photos of pools, the ocean, romantic restaurants, and the wonderful time they were having in the Whitsundays.
Lover's Cove, a restaurant on Daydream Island. Photo by Aleney de Winter, BoyEatsWorld
But you know, the best
job role in my world
has been mothering, and if I’d gone away last week, I would have lost countless
opportunities to be there for my kids.
Chase, in his first term of high school, was doing assessments and exams.
He also raised $200 for the Go Blue For Autism Day by dying his hair blue and painting his fingernails blue. I wouldn’t have missed that for the world.
Harmonie received awards for attaining diamond status for behaviour and learning at her school, and also for achievement of doing volunteer work. It meant a lot that I could be there to see her receive her awards and share a special morning tea and cake in celebration.
Her class had also asked me to come in for a couple of days, to help them with short story writing. This included a question and answer session about writing stories, editing, and publishing.
The kids were all so imaginative, I didn’t feel the need to alter any of their stories – just perhaps suggest a few verb or adjective changes here, and correct a few spellings and errors there. One or two stories were surprisingly violent, and a couple heart-wrenchingly revealing. And some were delightfully quirky and funny.
The question and answer session was the most entertaining thing I’ve done in ages. Harmonie said I looked nervous, but I wasn’t at all.
Rather, I was just trying to think of age-appropriate ways to answer their very clever (year 6) questions.
For example, one boy asked me what story I was currently working on? Since it was actually about the benefits of orgasms, it took me some time to reply. Eventually I came out with something about the last story I’d written. Which was kid-safe and almost the same, don’t you think?
That over, and having being treated like a rock star, I walked in the door at home, ready to meet some deadlines, when the phone started ringing.
It was Mr 13’s school. I wasn’t to panic, he was okay, but he’d been pushed by a student, fallen over, and had a really bad gash to his chin. It would probably need to be stitched, but they hadn’t told him that.
I rushed to the school, to be met by the vice-principal who told me roughly the same version of events, and reassured me that it would be investigated. Chase was dazed and confused. There was blood everywhere – on his chin, shirt, legs and socks. He was also complaining about pain in his shoulder, hips, knees and wrist.
Our medical centre was wonderful. Staff found a room for him to lie down, and sent a nurse in with ice until a doctor could see him.
Chase is on the autism spectrum and has a needle phobia. He was in shock by now; cold, terrified, and his teeth were chattering.
The doctor said his chin would need stitches, and his wrist would need an x-ray. His wrist was more painful than anything, but the thought of a needle and stitches sent his panic levels sky-rocketing.
I won’t go into more details here, but it was a really traumatic afternoon. At the end of the day, Chase ended up with a broken wrist in a cast, and five stitches in his chin.
It is times like these that being a single parent hurts more than anything in the world.
All I could think of was: ‘Thank God I didn’t go away. Thank God I was here.’
Of course, you can’t be there all of the time for your children. But you try as hard as you can.
On another note, last week I actually changed my Facebook status. These days, that makes it official, right? Yes, I am actually in a relationship.
My John has already met the family, been there in a crisis, and has the approval of the kids and pets. Oh, and me as well.
It took one text for him to to drop everything when Chase was hurt, and when I later needed a shoulder to cry on, he turned up, magically knowing I needed him.
He bakes cupcakes with Harmonie, plays computer games with Chase, but is there for me too.
Hannah Kitteh, who hates new people, especially men, has included him in her massage routine. Kit Kat smooches him for a feed. Lucy has claimed his lap for nap time. Harmonie, who hates sharing me with anyone, asks if he can come over. Chase just wants him here all of the time.
How does this all fit with the context of my blog? John makes me happy. Happier than I've been in a very long time.
One woman’s, one family’s, pursuit of happiness, has suddenly become a lot easier.So staying home from the Whitsundays wasn’t such a bad thing after all.
In fact, it was probably the best trip I never took.