According to my Instagram we’ve just come back from an incredible, month-long family trip to Japan. We covered a lot of ground – pretty pastries in Ginza, a wild ten-year storm in central Hokkaido, chest-deep powder snow, icy streets and bowls of steaming ramen tucked away in hidden alleys.
There were many hashtag-able moments. So many, in fact, that the 12-year-old had to step in, cautioning me about the unwritten rules of Instagram – flow, consistency of theme, crafting the perfect caption and, above all, restraint. One post per day. Tops.
With this in mind I ended up with a pretty impressive array of pictures, resulting in many likes, new followers and complimentary comments. It was the #tripofalifetime.
We all know that social media is BS and contrary to the curated story I presented on Instagram, the holiday was often no picnic. Of course there were fantastic experiences and pinch-yourself scenery (most of which were documented, cropped, polished and posted) but there were also plenty of outtakes deemed completely unfit for social media consumption by the pre-teen.
Maybe the old cliché about a picture being worth a thousand words was made for the social media era – although I don’t need a thousand words to demystify the story behind some of the misleading images I posted.
A lovely pic of the teen and pre-teen sharing a moment on the chairlift. Just as well I took my phone out in the -15 degree cold because it was the only time it happened. One grudgingly-agreed-to run together. You may also note that the teenager has no helmet on. This became the source of several ‘heated discussions’, an ultimatum and a week of moody-teen/parent residual anger.
A snowy streetscape before a day of ice-skating – #familytravel bliss, right? This was the start of an hour-long trek to find the ice rink made famous by the Sapporo Olympics. No wifi meant no Google Translate and no map. We eventually found a 70s relic that looked like it was about to collapse.
Living the igloo life! What you can’t see behind this picture is the massive outlet shopping mall in the middle of an industrial area. Getting there was an hour-long bus ride, sardined with half the population of Sapporo and their wheelie-bags. The husband, who was still on Honshu and spending a week of quality dad-and-son time with the teenager (and that’s a whole other blog post), had seen an ad for heavily discounted Sorel boots, and we’d been tasked with bringing a pair home. Long story short, we went to the mall and all we brought back was this pretty photo.
The happy family shot. That big smile on my face is due to sheer hysteria and joy in equal measure: hysteria at the end of four weeks of living in Tokyo-sized hotel rooms with this lot; joy of being the cause of discomfort to the offspring as payback for the said four weeks. Naturally I am the source of butt-clenching embarrassment in so many ways but asking a kind Japanese guy to take a picture was the last straw for both of them. (Please note: teenager is wearing a helmet.)
The journey home. Apparently it’s best to #travellight when snowboarding by limiting your luggage to just a board bag and backpack. Those snowboard bags and the suitcase we named Big Bertha weighed a combined total of over 150kg. By their design snowboard bags are difficult to manoeuvre, particularly for kids and particularly on public transport. Our departure from Japan involved lugging these on and off a bus, a crowded train, another bus, two planes and another bus. It was no picnic.
Just as the lovely Jess Rowe has made #craphousewife a beacon of truth in the manufactured perfection of Mum-stagrammers, I’m proposing a new hashtag for the legion of travel bloggers and their endless posts of family holiday bliss. Family travel is hard and I’m disappointed that I was sucked into the fakery. Having seen the error of my ways, however, I’ll be stripping away the gloss next time to include the outtakes and tagging #familytravelsucks where appropriate.