“We haven’t seen any turtles this year so far,” said the Malaysian boatman, casually slipping this knowledge to my wife and I half way from our Borneo resort to the conservation island known for its splendid shelled creatures. Of course we’d already paid for this trip so we could hardly turn back. But it wasn’t really the news we wanted bearing in mind that it was mid-April and therefore several months since any turtle activity had been noted.
So how fortunate were we to see that not only had eggs been laid on the beach, but that they had all hatched the night before we arrived? We counted 40 perfect turtle babies writhing in their netted enclosure, only a few hours old and longing for the sea. Our guide allowed us to take a couple of the little ones to the water.
We named the new little creatures before waving them goodbye. By the time the next set of visitors arrived the babies were either in the sea already or in the incubators. Not the same. It’s a phenomenal, fortunate memory from 2009 that is irreplaceable and probably unrepeatable. And it’s all ours.
Favourite holiday memories come in many shapes and sizes. For some it might be the trip itself, especially if shared with a loved one. It might be a special meal, or a moment. It might be individual such as the example above, or communal such as a sporting, musical or political event where one can say “I was there.” It might just be a recollection of happy times with people who are no longer in your life.
Travel is what you make it, and the type of holidaymaker you are will obviously dictate the highlights that you take. Not everyone, for example, would enjoy experiences such as phenomena ‘worth travelling for’ described in Wanderlust magazine. Some would love the thrill of the anarchy and danger, while for others - perhaps 99% of travellers – 24-hour darkness and tornados are geophysical experiences that are best experienced online, not at close range.
Conversely, those adventure seekers who love travelling off-the-beaten-path might loathe the poolside, bar-dwelling holiday, or beloved British weekend trip.
These conjure different memories which might include an engagement announcement, a simple night of drinking with good friends, or the first word or step of a baby – all of which are just as worthy as seeking freakish weather phenomena or land formations detailed in Wanderlust.
Many young people’s favourite memories are built in the first holiday they experienced away from the watchful eyes of parents, ramping up the level of exhilaration and sense of freedom and novelty.
Whether one can fully remember an inaugural trip to Ibiza, Glastonbury, Las Vegas or similarly raucous venues is open to debate, but these are holidays, parties, bonding exercises and chances to let off steam – and the hi-jinks will be spoken of for years to come.
Freedom is often a common theme in great holiday memories. Nature and animals are others. For example, marketer Becca Carey has travelled across the world but nothing tops a certain quiet stretch of beach in Vietnam.
Becca said: “The Ha Long Bay Castaway Island tour was just amazing. There were many highlights, but imagine waking up every morning on your own personal island, renting a kayak and discoing deserted beaches and coves & skinny dipping in the sea at midnight to see the illuminous plankton!”
To most holidaymakers – although not all – rare wildlife is revered and magical. How many young people dream of swimming with dolphins or sharks? How many of any age yearn to see the mighty lion or elephant in their natural habitats of Africa, or the whale crashing through the ocean waves? To take it a stage further, how many diaries, calendars, mugs and canvas prints, possible through the increased popularity of companies such as Photobox, boast memories of not only people, but our fellow species from across the planet?
Inevitably though, people are the main protagonists in good memories. Whether stumbling upon a lizard that has never been seen before in the wilds of a Polynesian jungle or playfully strolling with donkeys on Skegness beach, chances are that the memory will be better if you’re sharing it with someone else.
Even the worst, most dismal holiday can be redeemed somewhat if, as a group, you turn it into fun. These horrific holidays featured in the Guardian share several features; horrible weather, boredom, but most prominently, smiles. These are the abominable trips that are hell at the time, but grow fondly in the mind over time, to forever be recounted in tales starting with, ‘Do you remember when we went to Cornwall and it rained all week…?”
And then, one can take the whole holiday memory one stage further. Trish Burgess is an accomplished travel blogger and a founder member of the Family Travel Perspective, writing on family trips to Helsinki, Barcelona, Cyprus and many more in her Mumsgoneto… blog.
Despite her more recent travels in vibrant and chic European hotspots, her favourite holiday moment is nearly three decades old, but stays with her every day… literally.
Trish said: “It wasn’t a very auspicious start to a holiday, tagging along with my parents on a last minute break to Tenerife at the age of 23. But they were paying, the sun was hot and I wasn’t at work.
“Things started to look up on the second day when two very attractive young men wandered down to the poolside. My mother spotted them first and we both picked our favourite, though I can’t say my Dad was thrilled. I had my eye on the blond one and followed him into the water, bobbing about in the shallow end until he swam my way.
“Our eyes met and we both knew there was chemistry fizzing between us. A week later, the holiday over, we resolved to keep in touch. We did. We were soon married and 27 years later Dougie and I are still together. The moral of this story? Never turn down a free holiday with your parents, no matter how old you are.”