There is nothing like travelling with my family to try my patience. For me, travelling has always meant weekend getaways with my guy friends or deeply introspective, long-term voyages that I’ve undertaken by myself. In both cases, the families I’ve encountered on the road have most often been sources of amusement. And that was the way things might have remained—until I planned a two-week trip to the UK with my parents in a fit of mad familial loyalty. The plan was to visit my brother and his wife in the quiet town of Swindon and spend some time in London after.
For people who don’t know my parents, this might not seem like a recipe for tension. While my folks are among the sweetest people imaginable in most situations, they have certain qualities that travel only exacerbates. For example, my father is a notorious planner who takes cruel delight in boiling every endeavour into long lists of tasks and sub-tasks. Mum on the other hand, is as carefree as a will o’ the wisp. While applying for our British visas, my father showed up with a novel-sized binder of documents (originals plus 9 copies) and my mother casually wandered into the restricted area of the VFS office. Meanwhile, I regressed slowly into a sulky 15-year-old.
It is a testament to the wonder and beauty of the English countryside that we were genuinely distracted enough to enjoy ourselves immensely. My father found joy in the orderly and regular life that Britons lead. He was hugely impressed by their impeccable manners and the fact that the trains all ran on time (he checked). We took picnic lunches by babbling brooks, walked over gloomy fens, and drove along steep, misty roads that excited my mother to no end.
Of course, it couldn’t last. At some point during our trip, I blurted out that I was yet to book our stay in London. My plan had always been to book an Airbnb apartment in the centre of the city, and if my previous experiences with the service were anything to go by, I had nothing to worry about. But for my father, not knowing where we were going to stay instantly meant we were homeless.
Vahishta Mistry is proud of his ability to adapt to anything. A few years ago, he quit his job, sold his apartment, and lived as a backpacker. He's now saving up for a farm in the mountains. He tweets as @vahishta