Why my family fears holidays (and why I took one anyway and got stranded in Bali).


This isn’t the first natural disaster to hit a Laurie holiday. As Meshel sits in Bali hitting refresh on her airline’s website, she reflects on the two calamitous family getaways that taught her to just get on with it.

At the time of writing, I am one of thousands of Australians awaiting a wind change that might blow some volcanic ash away from Denpasar so that we can come home from our school holidays.

The airport is full of tired Australians who have carefully budgeted their rupiah, their prepaid phone credit, and their disposable nappies to last them until the exact moment of take-off, only to discover that moment has been postponed, indefinitely.

It’s a bit of a disaster, really. We all know there are worse fates in the world, but the disastrous holiday is a special kind of calamity that lives on in hearts and minds forever. I myself am a survivor of a family that vowed to never again attempt a holiday. It took everything I had to try one with my own children.

Read more: Bali flight delays leave Melbourne family stuck in Indonesia with ‘an hour’s sleep, crying kids and a monkey eating our breakfast’.

“You know what happens when we try holidays,” my mother warned as she handed me a chemist bag full of gastro medication and sunscreen. I swear she wiped a tear from her eye as she slipped in a pamphlet about dengue fever in under 5s.

Her dread was not unwarranted. We went on two holidays when I was a kid. Money was tight and in any case my dad doesn’t really believe in holidays. He resents people who take them, but then he also resents men who ride push bikes and buy chewing gum. He’s a man of firm opinions.

On two occasions he capitulated to mum’s nagging about family holidays. The first time we were to drive the three hours from home base in Toowoomba to Paradise central, the Gold Coast. We kids had heard about the water-skiing spectacular at Sea World, we’d seen rulers and pencil cases from Dreamworld, and finally it was going to be our turn.

Well, a few days before departure the weather man started making noises about a cyclone heading that way. People were cancelling their trips left, right and centre, but not us. Mum had paid for the unit in advance and there was a no-refund policy in place so the Laurie holiday was on, come hell or high water.

I’ll never forget, as long as I live, the stream of cars driving away from the Gold Coast as our old Falcon pushed against the tide, driving further and further toward the eye of the storm. By the time we reached our unit, palm trees were bending to kiss the tarmac at our feet, rain was pelting us horizontally, and trampolines were flying free toward new homes in neighbouring suburbs.


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We crashed through the front door of the unit to find it smelling of dead fish and mouldy dreams. Mum did her best to stay positive. She found some bleach under the sink and scrubbed the place clean, she unpacked the groceries she’d brought from home, and fiddled with the TV until Dad could watch the news.

We only lasted a week in the end before the baby got sick and we had to come home, but mum was undaunted and on she nagged until a mate of my dad’s told her about a unit he owned a share in at the Sunshine Coast.

It was in a grimy grey tower beside the Maroochydore highway. Mum packed up the three kids and made the 20-minute trek to the beach every day, where we no doubt whinged and carried on about everything and made her regret every decision she’d ever made in her life.

Related: The 11 emotional stages of getting away for a mini-break.

Meanwhile, our father sat on the balcony, depressed and despondent, drinking stubbies and counting the cars visiting the Big Rooster chicken shop below. He counted the average number of occupants per car, surmised the most likely menu items each individual might order, and made some phone calls to the suppliers he observed making deliveries to the shop regarding costings.

By the time mum returned home from the beach – sunburned, exhausted and wondering how she’d failed so badly at parenting that she’d ended up with such ungrateful, revolting spawn – dad had something of a presentation ready for her, a sort of profit-and-loss statement about the chicken shop. There’s no disputing she’s a very lucky lady.

She is definitely a very tenacious lady, and it’s moments like these, as I sit here hitting refresh on the travel announcements page of my airline’s website, that I think about what my mum would do. I reckon she’d accept reality as it is and not waste time or energy on thinking about what she wished was happening. I reckon she’d just put one foot in front of the other and get on with it.

After all, there are certainly worse fates in the world.

Meshel Laurie is a stand-up comedian of 20 years’ experience, a radio and television broadcaster, and a writer.

This article was originally published by ABC News.

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Read more: 

The one thing you can’t forget before your next trip to Bali.

“We took our kids out of school for a year-long holiday.”

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Six questions to ask before you take a holiday with teenagers.