This is going to be a very personal post, but I’m hoping it may resonate with some of you. These days, when I get asked whether I’m going anywhere on holiday, I kind of groan internally and roll my eyes. And when I clarify, that, no, I’m not planning on going anywhere, the question arises of why not? Then I start squirming with my internal reasons which to externalise would sound of a negative mindset, a world weary attitude and a case of being distinctly disillusioned. You know the sort of thing, like, what sort of a world are we living in anyway, with the planet being trashed, religious war-mongering and the natural disasters, and social deprivations…the list could go on.
I haven’t always been this way. I’ve had some much appreciated holidays where I’ve immersed myself in culture and nature respectively, eagerly soaking it all up with shining eyes and sharp intakes of breath. The best were a tour of Italy, a stay in Venice, a few days in Paris, and a road tour of some of the national parks in the American states of California, Nevada, Colorado and Arizona, followed by two holidays in Dalyan, Turkey, where this location in particular, I found so compelling it became the setting for my novel. And there was the tiny Greek island of Meganissi and a bit further back in time holidays here in Scotland visiting the wilder climes of the Highlands and Islands. Nothing disappointed in these holidays, I was able to indulge my romantic side, everything was magical- the art, the museums, the architecture, the sights, the landscapes, and the flora and fauna – and the money was well spent with no regrets.
And it is very true to say, as the inimitable Shakespeare did, in Henry IV Part I:
If all the year were playing holidays,
To sport would be as tedious as to work,
But when they seldom come, they wished for come,
And nothing pleaseth but rare accidents.
We need change, we need interesting diversions, or ‘accidents’ away from our daily routine, we need a balance between work and leisure. And it surely must be true that travel broadens the mind (though they say it depends on the mind in question).
Mark Twain wrote: “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.”
I’m in full agreement with this, and I certainly benefited from this attitude when I was younger, but to turn this around a little and now being of middle age, I’m currently more in sympathy with these sentiments from writer, Jilly Cooper:
‘’I’m not wild about holidays. They always seem a ludicrously expensive way of proving there’s no place like home.’’
And from Margaret Fuller, American journalist, critic, women’s rights advocate, and author of Woman in The nineteenth century, 1845, with respect to what you can achieve in a home of your own making:
‘A house is no home unless it contain food and fire for the mind as well as for the body.’
And as creative people, who don’t necessarily have 9 to 5 jobs that are a means to an end, with a need to regularly escape from in the form of a booked-ahead holiday to wish away our time for, we can feed our creativity at home by doing our art. We may have more to sustain us at home than most, because home is our working environment where we get to express ourselves by doing our creative work, whatever form that may take. So you could argue that we are lucky enough and in some ways privileged by being able to do this and not have the same need for time away from our home environment .
Everything changed for me regarding my attitude towards holidays when I hit a mid-life phase of questioning, with an urgent need to make changes in my life. I decided a holiday might help, so my hubby and me impulsively chose Cyprus at the suggestion of our local travel agent, with no awareness of what the place was really like. As long as I can snorkel, I said to the agent, and as long as we can get into the north of the island by car, where there are some tantalising-looking beaches to explore, then it should be fine. Well the answer was yes to both these provisos, and off we went for 10 days, leaving our cat, Ziggy, in the care of the neighbour next door, much to his disgust I may add.
But everything went downhill, as they say, because Cyprus became a helliday, not a holiday. The romantic idealism in me, inspired by websites describing goat tracks to meander down to isolated beaches, and rustic ruins to explore on the island, was well and truly squashed, flattened, and stamped on. And my hubby, who takes some persuading to go on holiday in the first place also faltered along with me. You could say we crashed together. In a nutshell, it was a resort holiday, and we hated everything about it. The overwhelming feeling I had, as we drove back from the mountains from lack lustre villages with nowhere to have a coffee, in our too-expensive-a-hire-fee car, was that of sheer stupidity at not having realised we had chosen the very type of holiday that would always have been anathema to us. The beach front was a Legoland of hotels, with the hoards of collapsed parasol ‘shrouds’ looking like grim reapers marking and haunting their territory. We found some little coves after a lot of bussing and walking, but they were crowded and busy, and when I ventured onto the main resort beach, being determined to salvage something from the holiday, I snorkelled amongst floating plastic bags and the odd condom. There was no access to the north of the island because the Turks were still patrolling the border, after the Greeks had been turned out, leaving the ghost resort town of Farmagusta cordoned off behind barbed wire, with tattered beach towels still hanging over rusting hotel balconies. And when we tried to find some rustic ruins, as described in a brochure or two, there was no signage to follow, and at one point we found ourselves in a local shooting range in a quarry, and further on, snarling dogs, so back we came to the confines of the resort.
It was when I watched some TV, and caught sight of some international world news channels, the disillusionment was complete. There was no going back now from this. Seeing news of underprivileged people starving in Eastern areas of strife and fear one minute, then adverts for Western ipads the next, struck me to the core. Then the days crawled by, as my hubby and I counted them off, desperate to leave, until before long we were waiting to spot our luggage on the airport carousel – round and round and round it goes, when you spot your luggage nobody knows – the final tedious nail in the coffin of our helliday. Well, okay, we’re not exactly patient types in this respect ;>)).
So nowadays I try to make the most of my home life, where I get to do my writing and painting, and get out and about to counterbalance this with some volunteering in social care – also providing good experience if I ever decide I’ll have to go get myself a ‘proper job’. Me and my hubby live in a rural place, with access to my own kind of wilderness right outside the door where I make the most of it, considering myself very fortunate indeed. When we need breaks or a change of scene, we use what we might otherwise have saved up for a holiday, to go for lunch or go to the coast for the day. This is our leisure time. I wouldn’t say never to any more holidays, but I would reclassify them as ‘travel opportunities’, to dump the baggage of my expectations before I get there, so I can stand a chance of being pleasantly surprised. And I’ll have to find some lady friend companion/s to go with because my husband can’t take any more!
Here’s hoping you’ve had some great experiences with your travelling, and not too much of a mixed bag. And if you are going somewhere soon, I do sincerely wish you Bon Voyage.
Comments always welcome.
(Gif from Giphy.com)