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
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
GIETHOORN VILLAGE VIEW
AUTHOR AND HER BLENDED FAMILY
AUTHOR’S STEPSON, ALEX, IN THE I’LL-FATED ROWBOAT
HISTORY AND HYSTERIA