Your family on the road

family-trip-pix-2This is one topic I have avoided for a while but I honestly cannot dodge it anymore. If it is coming a bit too late, blame it on my muse. But there is another reason. Ghana’s travel infrastructure and tourism resources have mostly being designed with but one thing in mind- family. And why am I talking about it now? Because it is the school holiday season and our young ones have free time on their hand.

What better time for the entire family to be involved in fun and learning activities? Besides, the energies of these youngsters are waiting to be put to good use. And one interesting way to engage is to travel together hopping from place to place. (Please don’t get me wrong, I am not talking that odd hometown trip).

But back to our national tourism situation, because a good road trip experience requires systems and services that respond to the needs and interests of travellers. Which of our major countryside routes have decent stop-overs or motels? How many times have you entered a restaurant to realise that there is no children’s cutlery or children’s furniture or even children’s food?

Many of our hotels are no better and getting a decent washroom at a tourist’s attraction is like asking for the moon from a kindergarten kid. The entire tourism service posture seems to say ‘Please stay at home, family people. Just watch TV and go to church on Sunday.’

And I have not even entered the realm of folks with special needs- vegetarians, the physically challenged, and the elderly who want to tour our country. Like many things in Ghana, we will get there, wont we?

While this sad status quo is not the main reason for today’s forum, let me hazard a guess and say that the situation is this bad because not enough Ghanaians are going out there on leisure trips, anyway. Because we do not venture out, these services are not really tested nor are they challenged. Thus when the few ‘tourists’ who are normally foreigners, experience it and complain, their worries are seen as the aliens that they are.

Let that same complain come from a fellow Ghanaian who has dared to do a tour and the poor fellow would be vilified for asking for the right things. He or she would be dismissed and silenced with that silly, old Ghanaian label ‘too known’.

The truth of the matter is that family time on the road can be such an amazing experience. Even for childless couples time away from familiar circles while travelling from place to place works magic for fun and bonding.

It involves days of travelling, staying in hotels, eating out and visiting places of interest. It also demands a fair understanding of the area you are choosing to visit. What’s the current weather situation, for instance? How about power and internet supply? Also to be considered is the issue of safety and security.

Remember this is not a one-day excursion but days of staying away from home. Thus when you get to a destination, how does the family proceed to move from place to place? Are there local taxis that ply the attractions, for example?

Then to be considered are issue of individual interest. If your family is made up of members who share similar interests that makes it a simple trip to plan, doesn’t it? However, when like normally happens (especially in my family), everyone happens to have different tastes that calls for an all-inclusive approach. Planning for such a scenario also requires, well let’s face it, compromise.

When the entire family leaves home it implies one thing, a soul-less house. How empty are you going to leave that abode? Going out there for fun and coming back to a burgled home would not exactly be the perfect holiday.  Based on your own assessment of the security situation of your nieghbourhood, you could decide on a number of safeguards.

You could close the house and ask a trusted neighbour (pray about this) to keep an eye on it. A relative could also pass by once in a while to verify that all is well around the house. An alternative is to allow a trusted relative or neighbour to come in to stay (pray about this one too). If you choose this you need to show the person how everything works in and around the house. You do not want your holiday to be interrupted by calls asking for where to stash rubbish, how to change gas cylinder or (God forbid) how to lock the front door.

A third option is to allow an adult member of the family to stay behind- ouch! (You have to pray over this one too, of course!) One does not want a teenager to turn the residence into the latest party address. Or an adolescent to re-enact Ghana’s version of ‘Home Alone’. If this last option is adopted, it must be understood that it has to rotate so another adult member of the family gets to stay home next time around.