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Nothing tests the ties that bind quite like bailing out a sinking

rowboat with a plastic sandwich bag. I can say this because I

personally tested this theory with my family while we were in

Giethoorn, in the Netherlands, last year. Our boat was going

down, and with it my dreams of the picture-perfect day I had

planned for a place that had long been on my bucket-list.

The surprising thing was that in losing that dream, I gained

something much more valuable: The affirmation that my kids

were going to be alright.

Our trip to Holland was about more than exploring a new

destination, it was about chasing down roots. My husband’s

parents emigrated to Canada in 1959, with his three older

brothers. My husband, made in Canada with Dutch

ingredients, had only been to Holland once. For him, this

trip was profoundly personal; since his parents passing,

he had felt a calling to return. That we would be travelling

with all of our children added extra meaning for him.

As a blended family, our oldest son Alex, grew up with two

families with opposing views on missed school time. We

have always viewed travel as an education in and of itself, his

mother felt that travel was best left for school breaks. Neither

of us were wrong, but the result was that we didn’t get to

take Alex on as many trips as we would have liked over the

years. Our trip to the Netherlands, marked the first time we

would travel as a pack of five in almost 10 years.

We began our two-week holiday in The Hague, for no other

reason than we didn’t know where to begin. It’s only in

looking back that I realize it was the ideal entry point. Sitting

under an umbrella in the historic Plein on our first day was

the perfect way to adjust to the Dutch way of life. Feeling


By Candace Derickx

Sometimes the best memories from a family vacation aren’t made

visiting historic locations or absorbing a new culture, but rather, when

everything is going wrong.


immediately at ease, it wasn’t long before we let our teen girls

head off to explore the shops – while the rest of us got down

to the serious business of finding the best Dutch beer.

After a few days exploring The Hague, we were ready to

conquer the city. I would love to tell you that the highlight

of Amsterdam was seeing the historic canals, or wandering

through one of its many museums, but for my family, the

highlight was slightly more low-brow. On our second day in

the city we found ourselves traipsing through the Red Light

District, completely unaware of where we were. I think we

were expecting a big flashing neon sign to let us know we had

entered, but it was the ladies dancing in the windows right

beside the historic church that tipped us off. Over a year later,

we still collapse in giggles looking back at that moment.

Our second week in the Netherlands was about finding those

family roots, and we hopped a train to Arnhem where we met

up with my husband’s family. It had been 30 years since my

husband had last seen his Dutch family, and they had never

met me, or our children. It could have been awkward and

uncomfortable, but sharing stories about loved ones bridged

the gap immediately. I couldn’t help but wonder if in 30 years,

our children would be meeting up again to connect their

own families.

Over 14 days, we travelled more than 1,000 kilometres

through The Netherlands. From The Hague, to Amsterdam,

to Arnhem and Nijmegen, to Apeldoorn and Willemstad, the

entire trip went off without a hitch, until Giethoorn.

It was in Giethoorn, at the end of our vacation, that we found

ourselves on a sinking rowboat, with nothing more than a

sandwich bag keeping our boat and thousands of dollars in

phones and photography equipment from a watery fate. It

was in that moment, with an irritated husband, two panicked

teens, one exasperated young man, and a stressed-out mom,

that our family dissolved into hysterical fits of laughter.

Looking around, I knew in an instant that it wouldn’t be the

historic places we had seen, or the culture we had immersed

ourselves in that would make a lasting impression on the kids.

It would be this moment that would make our children turn to

each other years down the road and say, “Do you remember

that time in Giethoorn?”

And suddenly, it was all worth it.


Ultimate Family Vacations | SPRING 2018

SPRING 2018 | Ultimate Family Vacations