Flap packets and other travel tips for 21-year-old daughters

“You should have brought a deck of cards,” my wife said on the way to the airport. Deb did the Europe thing 25 years ago with a friend, almost at the same age and along the same route that our middle daughter Katie was set to embark on. Deb knew a thing or two about touring Europe by rail, namely you’re going to want a deck of cards. Also: if you accept a stranger’s offer of a place to spend the night, be prepared to wake up to find that stranger staring at you.

“I thought about it,” said Katie about the cards.

“The good thing about playing cards,” I said, a bit sarcastically, “is you can buy them, oh, anywhere.”

The women didn’t comment.

“Of course,” I went on, “if you buy them in England, you have to call them ‘flap packets.’”

“What?” Deb turned to me.

“In England. Playing cards are ‘flap packets.’”

“Really?” Katie said from the back seat.

Deb looked at me, her wheels turning, and then saw me smirking. “Stop it.”

If I hadn’t smirked…

But they could be called flap packets. Why not? There are all kinds of things Katie doesn’t know.

I could have told her, for example, to be sure to tour the famous German coleslaw mines, or as the Germans playfully call them, “der Pitten-Excavashun Vittersaurkrauten.”

Or to take in the remains of the Encyclopedia Britannica labour camps in Corset-on-Plumpington with their iron gates emblazoned with the motto “The Truth Will Set You Free, But Not Here,” although most of the installations were destroyed when they were liberated by the Wikipedians in 2001.

Or to be sure to visit the Musée des Beaux-Escargots in the picturesque village of Longue-Jean-d’Argent and take a cellphone picture of tourists taking cellphone pictures of Monet’s famous “L’ampoule dans la salle de bain est brûlé.”

“Ahh,” I could have said, “I envy you waking up in Bulgaria with the golden morning sun beaming through the rippled pane of the rustic farmhouse as you ask yourself, ‘How the hell did we end up in Bulgaria?’”

Or encouraged her to head up to Scotland for the running of the scrod and the tossing of the sporran. Springtime in Scotland, where they say, ‘March comes in like a lglottlhch and goes out like yheclgccedh.’”

I could say all these things because Europe is a big, empty canvas for Katie. She has been there once on a class trip, chaperoned and herded from city to city, site to site. But this time, it’s just her and a friend travelling for three months with only the vaguest of agendas and even less preliminary research.

What Katie does have is: a brand new backpack; a round-the-neck money pouch; an AC power adapter for weirdo European electrical sockets; a quick-drying travel towel, which is very Hitchhiker’s-Guide-to-the-Galaxy of her; Quebecois French, a smattering of Italian and (as they say) a dusseldorf of German. Her friends also gave her a rape whistle, which was both thoughtful and terror-inducing.

Yes, I should be terrified that she’s touring Europe without a plan or chaperone or the good sense to know when her own father is pulling her leg. I should be terrified also because we co-signed her credit card. (Out of sight, out of money, as they say.)

But I’m not terrified, not at all. In a couple of weeks, somewhere in Ireland maybe, Katie will turn 21, the globally accepted threshold of adulthood, fully formed pre-frontal cortex and all. This is the perfect age for adventure – young enough to embrace the unknown, old enough to rely on the moral compass that her parents, her friends and experience have helped calibrate.

Yes, the world’s a scary place, but if there’s one thing we’ve learned in this sad, old world, it’s that it’s scary everywhere, even just down the block. So why not be in a scary place that’s overseas and wonderfully foreign, where people say, “Ach! You’re Canadian! We used to like you. Ah well, come let’s buy you a pint anyway.”

Plus, I can joke all I want about the nude beaches on the Norwegian fjords, because the truth is my children are travelling to places that I, in 49 years, have never been. I’m not terrified. I’m jealous.

Besides, I just checked; those nude Norwegian beaches? Those actually exist. I guess the joke’s on me.

katie abby


About rossmurray1

I'm Canadian so I pronounce it "Aboot." No, I don't! I don't know any Canadian who says "aboot." Damnable lies! But I do know this Canadian is all about humour (with a U) and satire. Come by. I don't bite, or as we Canadians say, "beet."
This entry was posted in Family - whadya gonna do?, It Really Did Happen! and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

42 Responses to Flap packets and other travel tips for 21-year-old daughters

  1. Paul says:

    The coleslaw mines – Bwahahaha! Man you must be a challenge as a Dad – one never knows if you’re joking or serious ; and that very fertile imagination (Whif, Whif – is that what I am smelling here? – oh, yeah the fertile mind.) I am sure your daughter will have the trip of a life time Ross. It is so great that she gets to experience this with a friend. I did the school tour thing too, but never got back.. Even the school tour remains burnt in my mind. Good times.

    I wish her the very best of jouneys.

    • rossmurray1 says:

      Thanks, Paul. She is very excited and so far so good in the brief communications we’ve had with her. She and her friend are two tall blondes; when they get to Norway, they will be among their own kind.

  2. I initially read your title as “Flak jackets” and wondered where the hell you were sending your daughter. I loved the Hitchhiker’s towel reference. I envy having the mindset that adventure is always just around the corner, because it really is. You can be proud that you’ve raised a child who wants to see the world and has the confidence to do it. And doesn’t believe half the stuff you tell her.

    • rossmurray1 says:

      I probably should have linked the towel-reference to some Douglas Adams website or something, but then, nahhh! Let those who get it get it.
      Yeah, she’s a smart kid, and this is great for her. Thanks, Michelle.

  3. Lynn says:

    How exciting for your daughter! Wishing her an amazing adventure:)

    • rossmurray1 says:

      Thank you, Lynn. She’s having a good time so far.

      • Lynn says:

        We have met a number of “young people” on our travels to Europe. Their experience enriches them in so many ways. Meeting like minded people from all over the world, doing exactly what your daughter is doing. I am sure she will have stories to last a lifetime!

  4. pinklightsabre says:

    Along with the rape whistle, don’t forget the bear bells. The bear bells scare off the rapists because it sounds like Santa Claus and reminds them the louses they are at heart. That’s bad, sorry. All kidding aside, what an exciting time for your family. But your daughter can blog about it and learn from one of the beast.

    • rossmurray1 says:

      Well, I laughed anyway…
      Not much of a writer this daughter. My eldest, when she spent six months in Thailand, wrote some dispatches that were rich in detail and semi-drama. The best I could do was convince her to take a notebook to jot down her travelogue; she’ll want it years from now, I told her.

  5. Karen says:

    You really taxed my high school French with “L’ampoule dans la salle de bain est brûlé.”

  6. ksbeth says:

    i am very, very excited for her adventure. please recommend the brussel sprouts national royal museum, where they originated, if she is in the area.

  7. byebyebeer says:

    I guess I’m the only one disappointed the last link doesn’t include pictures.

    Exciting times for your daughter! (cute picture too!) Something in the last year or so switched and I’ve started feeling depressed about all the places I haven’t been and likely won’t get to unless I, you know, get there. I got my passport last month. Step 1, I guess. Maybe we’ll take another trip to Niagara Falls, which, last time we went only required a driver’s license. These kids make it look so easy.

    May our children out-adventure us, and safely so. There are definitely worse problems to have.

    • rossmurray1 says:

      Indeed. As for the dearth of photos, if there had been any, I would have added a NSFW, although in this case, with those frigid fjords, it would stand for “Not Safe For Willies.”
      Get travelling! I’m heading to Newfoundland this summer, which I’ve never been to, though I grew up in Nova Scotia. Never too late.

  8. Now I’m feeling nostalgic for my youthful travels to Italy and Greece. One day my children will travel. I just hope I’ve had a few more of my own trips before then or they just might have an old lady tagging along!

  9. Th bathroom light is on? That Monet. Always getting one over on us. 😉

  10. goldfish says:

    I’m a fan of getting a total sucker on the line with some random, made-up (but it might be true!) bit of trivia, then ruining it as I cannot help but form a smirk. I have a terrible flap packets face.

  11. markbialczak says:

    I leave this post with the feeling that dear daughter will return in three months with a whole new vocabulary to teach you, dad Ross. Some of which, as you hint, you will not want to learn. Lucky Katie. Enjoy the ride, young lady.

  12. Good God! A rape whistle!? Lock her in the basement before it’s too late! That’s what I’m going to do with my daughters in a couple of years. They’ll thank me in the long run for caring.

    When I got on board my Coast Guard cutter, they instructed me to look for relative baring grease. I saw right through that one. (After about an hour.)

  13. Trent Lewin says:

    I’m jealous too… but I’m going with my little ones to UK in summer, and that’s going to be a blast. Watching them go off by themselves to turn 21? That’s going to be tough. I will probably send them with an army of their own Wikipedians. By the way, ‘scrod’ sounds like a super dirty word. It could be just me (and likely is).

  14. full xxx movie says:

    nice tips

  15. Elyse says:

    Oh I hope she has a blast. And that she comes back soon so you can relax!

  16. Ellen Hawley says:

    It’s too cold in Norway to take your clothes off. They swim fully clothed.

  17. Pingback: She couldn’t just get a T-shirt… | Drinking Tips for Teens

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