When you're an expat and you go home for the holidays, the last thing you actually have is a holiday.
For me a holiday is when you go somewhere new, stay in a hotel, apartment or holiday home, or even camping.
We used to holiday in the UK, mainly camping and made several trips abroad with the kids to discover most of France, the West Coast of America, Turkey, Tunisia and Egypt.
When we moved to South Africa, I wasn't working and made 2 annual trips to the UK alone each year, Peter combined an annual trip with work and we stayed with family and friends. It worked, they were trips of 2-3 weeks and the family came out to visit us. We also holidayed in South Africa with trips to Cape Town and Durban as well as camping in the Drakensburg Mountains and Kruger and weekend trips into the countryside to lodges.
The end of 2014 we relocated to Dubai, In 2015 I travelled to Canada for 3 weeks and back to South Africa for 6 weeks and we spent 2 weeks together in the UK.
Since starting work full time in January 2016 we haven't had a holiday other than 2 long weekends within the UAE.
I've returned from 7 weeks away last Friday, having spent 8 days in South Africa, traveling around and 6 weeks in the UK, including 5 days with friends in Munich.
Peter joined me for the last 3 weeks of the trip when we picked up car hire and travelled as far as Cumbria, Leeds and down to Lyme Regis, via South Wales, Gloucestershire, Worcestershire, Bristol and Bath. We managed to see 4 of the 5 children. Child 4 of 5 drove down from Northern Ireland to meet me in London for a few days when I first arrived. The rest of time I relied on public transport, trains and buses which isn't easy when you're lugging your suitcase also.
We stayed in a hotel for 3 nights in Malvern while we caught up with friends and sorted out some issues with the house we rent out and a night in Birmingham to watch the football.
We've decided we're too old to be living out of suitcases, sleeping on sofas and in spare rooms, we've used friends and family as a base and left our suitcases with them when we've visited other people just using our hand luggage, but we really need a base of our own, to have some privacy, to be able to unpack properly, to leave a mess, shower when we want and eat what we want when we want, without having to think about other people and trying to keep out their way.
The teen is with us in Dubai till the end of August, child 3 of 5 is coming out on September 1st for 2 weeks with his girlfriend, we have friends stopping over later this week for a night. We've had visitors most months this year, who have their own room, bathroom and wardrobe, complete with hangers, hair dryer etc. There's a friend coming over end of November for a week, followed by my Mother for 3 weeks and children 4 and 5 and a niece are with us over christmas and the new year.
We've explained that now I'm working they will all have to entertain themselves, our lives are different now, we can't take time off to take them places during the day, they'll have to fend for themselves and in the evenings we'll go out occasionally, but not every night and we won't be sitting up drinking into the small hours, as we're not on holiday.
The problem is when we go to the UK, people have work, routines and while they do go out with us some evenings or sit up late on weekends having a drink, they don't in general stop what they normally do, watching their TV programmes, going to work etc. They also don't have the space or in some cases an actual bed for us to sleep in, so we can't stay with some of our family and friends, which means we are completing long journeys on day trips or having to fork out for a hotel or B and B's. We're really looking forward to having a base in the UK so family and friends can come and visit us for the day, evening or even the night as long as they don't mind sleeping on the sofa for a change, rather than us.
My next break after Christmas will be over the Easter holidays, I'm planning a return trip to South Africa while I'll stay with friends in various places and live out my suitcase and then it's the long summer holiday where it's just too hot to stay in Dubai. I'll return to the UK the end of June till the end of August and Peter will join me for 3 weeks towards the end.
Peter will probably be in the UK and Europe for business over the next few months and he'll be doing a lot of travel around the Middle East and in Africa. We're both hopeful we can have a few long weekends away to Jordan and India, in-between visitors and work.