How you know you’re not on a famil

Ahh famils. I remember them. Welcome notes from hotel GMs. Sparkling wine in melty ice buckets. Chocolate creations inscribed with my name, courtesy of the pastry chef.

There was a time when I was spoilt with a capital ‘S’. I received gifts just for showing up, and was then whisked around destinations in VIP fashion. Long days spent exploring – often with people handing me perfectly tailored almond flat whites or local wines at every stop – were followed by expert massages, sunset drinks and 5-star dinners hosted by impressive people.

Sure, it was work and I was often jet-lagged, exhausted or suffering from heartburn (see aforementioned coffee/wine consumption) but my god, it was fun.

Now, years later, I am just a regular bum. I book cheap accommodation on Expedia and rely on recommendations from locals that I accost at the checkouts.

The last place I stayed overlooked an overflowing dumpster in a carpark. I was checked in by a lady who, if I am not mistaken, was off her face on heroin. Considering the heritage nature of the destination, it was appropriately old-fashioned.

Between the assault of polyester sheets, Winfield Blue aromatherapy, Bushells tea and dishwashing detergent shampoo, I pay for my own outrageously priced meals, find my own way around, and deal with people who really don’t know who I am (that’s a joke).

The upside of all of this? It’s real. I am not experiencing the destination in an artificially positive light. Maybe that’s why self-funded, low-life, non-famil trips seem to throw up the shiniest gems. Like prospecting for gold, when you find something on your own, it feels like a surprise win.

The accommodation sucks, the food is expensive and the experiences are ungilded by free plonk but the op shops are treasure-laden, the kids’ parks are cheerful and the locals – like the orange-haired woman I bailed up in the bakery – know what they’re talking about.

I miss famils and I would go on one in heartbeat, but travel – any kind of travel – is still my greatest love.

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