activity based holidaying
We are halfway through a lovely Mark Warner holiday on the island of Rhodes, Greece. I should start by saying that I love these holidays and I am not knocking anyone who comes on one. This is maybe the sixth time we’ve been to a MW resort and I have had a fantastic time every time we’ve been. For anyone not familiar with this particular holiday provider, they specialise in activity packed vacations designed largely for families who are looking to escape whatever very hard job (banking, lawyering, being a doctor, wife / husband of the aforementioned, etc.) they do for the rest of the year. The staff are always fantastic and super helpful, and hence we’ve been back numerous times. This year they are particularly heroic. After two seasons of limited capacity they are all working non-stop throughout and are doing everything they can to make peoples’ long-overdue holidays live up to their expectations.
But these holidays do attract certain types of people. The first is over-worked, knackered parents as the childcare is fantastic. Not only do they take your little darlings and entertain them during the day, but in the evening you can leave them with the nannies who will watch a film or play games with them and then put them to sleep. To sleep! No bedtimes! You just stagger in half-cut later on and carry them to bed. We started coming when my daughter was a toddler and discovered for the first time that as a couple who both work we could actually have a break. As a Scottish guest we met a couple of years back put it, “there could be rats the size of f**king dogs, you’d still come back for the childcare”.
The second type of person are super keen, type-A, competitive sporty types. Husband falls a little more into this category and has been cycling, stand up paddle boarding, sailing and playing tennis for the last week (once all on the same day). For the most part they are all lovely people, enjoying tell each other about their latest 75km cycle or that they windsurfed to Turkey, but there is a bit of an expectation that everyone is there to do something outrageously active and adventurous. Someone last week wanted to know what my ‘thing’ was. Um, lying on a sun bed reading a book? Knitting? He seemed very confused by that.
The third and by far the least tolerable are extreme combinations of the first two. The CEO with four kids who’s an Olympic standard triathlete, torturing their kids for two weeks. “Will, work harder! We’re going to nail this front crawl! Then work on your tumble turn!” (Will is 3 years old and was quite happy splashing around in the pool until Dad came back from kayaking). Some of the mums are just as bad as they spend half their time playing tennis back home so come out here aiming to smash the women’s singles final on a Friday (yes, there are tournaments with prizes).
As someone without a ‘thing’ and quite happy to just pootle about there is a small part of me that finds the keen-bean pressure cooker element of these breaks quite uncomfortable. It has taken a number of years for me to get comfortable with the idea that really no one else gives a toss if I learn scuba diving or go wakeboarding and I’ll never see them again anyway. But, it does tend to encourage me to do something other than just lie on a sun bed or stuff my face with ice-creams for two weeks and if I’m honest, deep down I do quite enjoy the feeling of having achieved something. Last week we did a sailing course which after the horror of capsizing on the first day was good fun and I felt like I really learned something. And, focusing on something intensely for three hours a day (yes, I did think that was a bit much on ‘holiday’) quickly made work and the real world a distant memory.
Everyone looks for something different on a holiday and this sort of thing might not be for everybody, but for now I’m feeling incredibly lucky to be away somewhere sunny and am going to make the most of it.