Memories for life

Working with your family, vacationing and doing fun things? The Van der Valk family can't get enough of it. For decades, Ineke Luiten-Van der Valk, third generation, has organized the annual family camp, the New Year's dive and other activities for the family.

Text:
Eva van Meijl
Photography:
NoPoint studio's

'For almost forty years we have been going to camp with our family. It's always one big party. It started in 1986, when my neees Rick and Jan Polman saw a flyer in the Hotel Eindhoven sports center about a survival camp. They thought it would be cool to go there. Their mother, my sister, said they could only go there if Aunt Ineke went with them. I like things like that, so we rounded up some more cousins and went. That was so much fun that everyone wanted to go again the following year. It became a tradition with more and more family members coming along. Whereas the first few years we went with an organization, pretty soon we started organizing it ourselves. Sometimes we went with as many as three groups a year. The elementary school age children to the Ardennes and the older ones to the French Alps. When you have a large family, some of whom live abroad, you don't see each other every week. Super fun to see each other at such a camp. Those first years we really went back to basics. Nowadays we take a more luxurious approach. You can't expect the over-sixties to sleep under a plastic sheet, dig a hole in the ground to use as a toilet and wash themselves with water from a stream. By the way, I personally loved that and it was quite an experience for the children as well.

Such a camp really brings everyone together

During our family camp, we get out into nature with activities such as hiking, canoeing and climbing. A week without television, coke and chips, and lots of talking with each other, that's worth a lot. A camp like this brings everyone together. We make memories we will never forget. We experienced the craziest, fun and sometimes nasty things, like burns, big cuts, lost children and hospital visits. Fortunately, things always came back to normal. Besides, suffering together creates a bond. As a group, you drag each other through it. If a child is sitting on a mountain, crying with excitement, and the help of another child gets him or her past a difficult point, that is a fantastic moment.

It's about helping each other, pushing boundaries and gaining self-confidence. You see a child grow in such a week, which is wonderful. You also really get to know each other better during the camp. That also makes it easier to look each other up later, while working in the hotels. Besides the survival camp, we have done other fun things together over the years. My brother Jack and his wife Corine have been organizing a Luiten week since 1990. With all the families of the Luiten-Van der Valk-family we go on a trip together. At first, this was during the autumn vacations, but now it has been moved to the summer vacations and we go out with more than seventy people. Four generations are together then, with the oldest now over seventy and the youngest just a year old! We have also been organizing the Tour de Toucan, a combination between a rally and a tour ride, since 2015. And we are holding a New Year's dive for the fifth time this year. My mother, Ina van der Valk, had her birthday on January 5. I thought it would be nice to do something around that day. We always used to go to the beach at the Wassenaarse Slag as children, near Hotel Bijhorst which is now called Hotel Den Haag-Wassenaar. That's where I grew up with my brothers and sisters. I chose that spot for our New Year's dive. Every year there are about thirty family members who are just as crazy as me to go into the ice cold water. I just didn't think it could be this cold. The first time, our feet almost froze off. But when you then drink hot chocolate together to warm up again, you are especially happy and proud. Especially because you do this together as a family.

After the hot chocolate warms you back up, you are especially happy and proud
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