1. Book 6 different hotels for 8 different nights.
Zowie. We were all over Japan, mucking here and there, spending a night each in different places. Sometimes, it was HOURS between locations, so to pass time we did:
2. BUS KARAOKE
Why, yes! Those *are* faux-chandelier sconces! Our group of 18 was all family members with the exception of 2, so we chartered this cush vehicle, which also came with drop-down video screens, which beeped as they came down, sort of like a truck backing up. Those alarms, obviously, are meant to warn you that SOMETHING IS COMING and that you might want to GET OUT OF THE WAY.
I will only say that it was either a stroke of genius on the bus engineers’ parts or some kind of ironic remark, because, see, when a bus containing these screens is roaming along on mountain passes, and the screens start to come down, you cannot really GET OUT OF THEIR WAY, even though something which may squash your eardrums silly is COMING.
After we’d got over the fact that none of our family can carry a tune (well, except my dad’s sister, my aunt, who has sung in choirs before and nearly blew out the bus’ sound system with her contralto), we kind of enjoyed ourselves, even joining in with some Motown classics between the Taiwanese and Japanese tunes, just to give folks a break. Guess what? Taiwanese people love sappy love songs.
Best part of this? Watching my late-60s uncle croon a Taiwanese love song to his wife. Who studiously ignored it. So sweet. Sigh. I have video, but I am not going to post it here (c.f. “eardrums,” above).
3. Foisting exotic foods off onto someone else
We ate like pigs on this trip. It was lovely, fantastic food, and I wish I could have eaten it all, but there are some things I am morally opposed to that I just can’t bring myself to eat.
Case in point? Shark fin. This I quietly scooted onto Cousin Max’s plate while I thought no one was looking. (We also call Cousin Max “Porkchop,” because at one point he gamely ate five porkchops for lunch, after having them all foisted on him by our uncles, who each claimed they could not eat such rich meals.)
Never mind. There was all this to eat and ogle besides the one shark fin.
And anyway, the point is not all the food, or the fifteen gazillion pounds I gained, but rather the fact that, when traveling in a family unit, you can Foist Food Off Onto Others and not be judged for it. Well, unless the family is your parents. In which case, yes, you’ll be judged, but it’s okay–they’re your parents.
4. Listen to your dad read poetry.
Well, unless your dad is a poet. Mine isn’t. Mine a doctor. All four of his brothers are doctors or dentists or pharmacological whizzes. They are, in a word, science-y. And yet, they all harbor this poetry thing, probably because our great-grandfather and grandfather were poets.
Which, by the way, is the whole reason we went to Japan in the first place. Great-grandfather wrote some poems while he was studying in Japan, and both he and my paternal and materal grandfathers studied there, and so did my paternal grandmother and great-aunt. In short, Japan has a big place in our family’s history. So we went and stood in front of the universities that they had studied at, and took pictures, and walked the trails that they had walked, in some cases, and stared at the active volcano that great-grandfather climbed on horseback.
Yeah, this one. Mt. Asawa. From great-grandfather’s point of view, loosely translated, as he looked into the crater,
“The lava bubbles, bursting like red lotus blossoms,”
“The clouds in the blue sky beyond, sailing ships upon an ocean.”
Yarrrrs. Scientists, it seems, have nostalgic lyric hearts.
5. Forget all the creature comforts
Well, not all of them. Some of them. Like, say, Tiger Balm, for itchy spots or bus-caused nausea. Or tissues, for going to the loo with. Or small change with which to buy postcards and souvenirs or drinks or ice cream.
Why do we forget all these things, even if we are, ostensibly, fully grown adults? Because when you are traveling with a bunch of relatives, some part of you always knows that someone will have what you need. Your uncle will buy you an ice cream cone or a coffee; your aunt has Kleenex somewhere in her mom-bag; your Dad definitely has Tiger Balm, if not a full set of antibiotics. Ma will buy you postcards after barking that you’d better fill all of them out and send them and not let them lie about in a drawer. (Secretly you know you will put one of them up on your wall, at least, and not mail it.)
You cannot even be arsed to make sure you have a guidebook, because part of you knows that your brother, who lives in Korea and whom you are planning to visit before Epic Bus Karaoke Tour 2014, has been to Japan and probably has a guidebook you can poach.
And perhaps this group reliance is the most rewarding thing about a Family Trip, even if most days are like
6. Herding cats
What’s your favorite thing about family vacations? Tell me below in the comments.