As a child who grew up in the county, hotel stays were few and far between. In the early years, a trip to the city meant camping out in Aunty Ivy's living room. A few years on and we'd graduated to renting a flat by the beach for a week over the summer. There were family negotiations that were made "you can have a video recorder or we can go to Adelaide for a week?" We couldn't afford to do both. Hold on, as I'm typing this, I'm wondering if my children actually know what a video recorder is? Sheesh.
For my father, as time rolled along, his job became more senior and there was travel required. By the time I hit my teens my parents had become quite au fait with the corporate room at the Adelaide Sebel or Gateway Hotel. And then came the big event. We all stayed in Melbourne at the Hilton. I sincerely thought we'd hit the big time. This was not only confirmed by the fact that you got fancy stationery and a free pen in your hotel room, but there was a pool, a freezing cold pool. On the first night of our stay my parents had a work dinner and were struggling with a healthy amount of guilt about leaving me behind. This was fabulous for me, as they chose to wash away the guilt with an "order yourself something from room service".
Three desserts, I ordered three desserts that evening. After I'd written several letters on the fancy stationery to all of my friends describing the view of the city lights from my room. I began to flick my way through what seemed to be an abundance of television stations, I mean FOUR stations?! How did these city folks choose what they were going to watch each night? I soon discovered what everyone else knew, it was all rubbish, so I hopped on the phone and started talking to the very nice people at reception desk. An extra pillow, another dessert, some more stationery, another dessert. Time. Of. My. Life. Well, until my parents came home and my Dad snored so loudly I had to sleep in the bath.
Obviously the world has changed. Country kids now hit the city with far more frequency. If you show any talent in sport it's highly likely your parents will spend their weekends ferrying you to town for some sort of talent squad. The divide has narrowed, opportunities are now explored in many areas, and with Internet specials and hotel deals, city stays are becoming more frequent.
For the expat child, hotels often become temporary homes until new homes are located. G and I spent months in a hotel room in Jakarta due to a complete ballsup with our housing. I watched other families arrive excited about room service, swimming pools and buffets, only to leave a month later with children who just wanted a peanut butter sandwich, a backyard and basket hoop of their own.
In Doha we live in a concrete slab. Actually, we live in a concrete slab within a concrete slab. We've done the very best we can with our house by taking down curtains and making everything as bright and white as possible. G has grown an amazing garden (we had our first home grown cucumber this week) and we have a wall of flowers in our backyard, but we still feel a little claustrophobic on the weekends. G's company contributes towards a club membership to allow for us to use sports facilities elsewhere, and this weekend it was time to choose where that might be.
I'm embarrassed to tell you that all of the options (apart from golf club membership) are 5 star hotels. I shouldn't be embarrassed, because our guys miss out on so much of the regular world that this should be seen as a consolation to what they're missing at home BUT - I'm embarrassed about how much they're taking it for granted.
When we first arrived in Doha we did the tours of the all of the hotels while our children gushed over the facilities. We'd been in North America for four years where the highlights of family dining involved wearing a set of moose ears at Montanas, or stopping for an impromptu night of fajitas at the local Mexican. Our arrival in Doha kicked off with two weeks at at hotel offering 12 restaurants, two pools and a suite with it's own dining table. "Mum, this is better than Disneyland" the third little traveller announced.
It appears he's forgotten.
After we'd all piled into the car to make our way to a hotel to have a look, the little travellers began to lodge their complaints. "It's boring going to the hotel". They then reeled off a list of hardships. The hotel we chose didn't have a beach but someone else's did. Some-one didn't care about the indoor pool. Some-one else didn't have any friends there. And just when the next complaint was about to arrive, G lost the plot. The car came to a screeching halt on the side of the road. G threw his arms in the air in disgust, told them all to get out and then he came out with what has to be the biggest cracker of a 'Dad's' sentence I've heard him say;
"Bloody hell! You bloody kids are so bloody spoilt it's bloody disgraceful!"
They all looked terrified. G doesn't lose his cool all that often. Their little faces looked back at him in shame. I watched their eyes move from the floor, and then back to his face and then back to the floor.
"I should make you all walk home. How bloody dare you. Spoilt, so bloody spoilt!"
"You will all smile, you will all change your tone. You will all be grateful. Do you understand?"
They all nodded in silence. I looked down at my lap, telling myself that that sentence had to be recorded somewhere.
The car slowly moved away from the curb and we were back on the road, everything remained eerily quiet.
And that's when the fourth little traveller spoke.
From the back seat, a tiny little voice said "I weally like their Hawaiian burgers".
No-one said a word. G and I tried desperately not to laugh.