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On going on Holiday

by Frank Schnittger Mon Jan 28th, 2008 at 10:15:24 AM EST

Like most of us, I suspect, I often dream of "getting away".  It usually involves some travel, sightseeing, connecting with new cultures, but also liberal doses of sun, sea, food, drink, and generally lazing about.  The reality is often different.  I get bored after a few days of hotel/resort life.  There is only so much food and wine you can consume.  Sight seeing is great for a while but you don't really connect with different cultures unless you know people in your destination.  Pretty soon you find yourself watching CNN and BBC World which you wouldn't dream of watching when at home.  You start looking for internet cafes or reading books you could just as well have read at home.

But there is also another pattern which emerges from my trips away:  I start to daydream about what it would be like to live in my holiday destination - enjoying the weather full time, buying a holiday apartment and perhaps doing some part time work - e.g. opening an internet café or some such enterprise as I spend so much time on the net anyway.  It becomes an exercise in rethinking my life from a "blue skies perspective" as the management consultants like to say.


My conclusion is always the same, or at least has been to date:  I'm better off where I am, close to family and friends, and those bits of work which come my way.  I get bored after the week and am glad enough to get home, to sleep in my own bed, shake off the dietary excesses, and get back into the social life and routines of a seemingly humdrum existence.  Until the next time...

There is only so much musing on The Meaning of Life that you can do as you lie on the beach or go for a walk.  Bob Geldof's autobiography is called "Is that it?" and the title seems to sum up the vague sense that all those youthful idealistic dreams have come to naught - or at least what I have now is all I have to show for them - and there is no other universe I where things could have turned out very differently.

I begin to wonder am I the only person who feels about it in this way, and for whom holidays tend to be the venue for doing a rerun of life's key decisions and whether I would make them differently now, if given the chance, and how things might have turned out then.  Usually, I come to the conclusion that, on balance, I got most things right - that the risks were on the downside as the economists like to say - and that this IS as good as it gets.  

But I would like to hear from you others out there in cyberspace, do you engage in such philosophising, particularly when on holidays, and what conclusions do you reach?  Without getting too personal or mawkishly sentimental, has life fulfilled your youthful dreams, was it ever meant to, were they not supposed to be hopelessly unrealistic, and all the more fun for that, or have you had to taper your expectations rapidly downwards in order to make emotional ends meet, so that you border on the cynical when you see today's younger generation indulge in something of the same?

This may seem to be all to much a "mid-life crisis" type of topic, but to be truthful, I have done it all my life, and don't expect to end it any time soon.  We all need to take time out, to take a long and considered view of where we have ended up, and on whether we ought not to be considering a radically new departure in our lives, even if the answer is almost always in the negative.  So what is your experience?  Answers on a post card please, to the great god of wishful thinking in the blue sky...

Poll
When on holidys, do you predominantly tend to look for:
. 1. Boys/Girls/Men/Women to have fun with. 7%
. 2. Try to work out the meaning of life (at least for yourself) 15%
. 3. Just enjoy lots of sun, sea, sand, sex etc. 0%
. 4. Loads of food, drink, and all night parties 0%
. 5. Travel and adventure 23%
. 6. Local culture, artisitc and intellectual pursuits 30%
. 7. A change of scene, to rest, relax, and totally switch off 0%
. 8. Work on volunteering projects 0%
. 9. Sport and physical exercise 7%
. 10. None of the above 15%

Votes: 13
Results | Other Polls
Display:
Some of us up North suffer Vitamin D-eprivation. But it has been 2 years since I went somewhere sunny to relax, and even then it was work - planning the TV series poolside.

You can't be me, I'm taken
by Sven Triloqvist on Mon Jan 28th, 2008 at 10:23:01 AM EST
I like to spend a few days, but only a few days in the resort life. I sometimes find it hard to escape from the world and a resort works for a short time.

Both my wife and I do not like spending too long at a resort. We like to look at cities, explore and try to understand different cultures. Our choice on a very belated honey moon was to spend two weeks in London, walk the Camino from France to Finisterre , then a quick few days in each of various Spanish cities, a month in Manchester, and back home.

The walk across northern Spain combined a lot, celebration of life (my wife received a clean bill of health after taking some very nasty medications - we got the news while in London), sight seeing, understanding history, experiencing history, understanding culture, an attempt at reconciling myself with Christianity, spiritual growth, philosophy, and so on. I have read books on the nature of cities, and I found myself studying what I was seeing. Did it fit what I had read? How does my own participation in the Camino fit into the pattern/dance of city life and existence? Also we talked about how one could work and live in the villages, towns and cities along the Camino, how people did things a thousand years ago, and the real differences between Canada and Spain - attitudes that run deep - into the nature of what is family. As well there was a certain ugly mystery that coted Spain almost like a fog (a plaque here, a memorial there, a street sign, a prison...) - the Spanish Civil War - and reflections of the same type of  silence of the embarrassing past with the cruceiro for the Spanish Armada in its rather poor repaired state in the middle of nowhere attesting to the same silence from a different time. This caused me to reflect on Canada and our own attempts at hiding the past and myself and what do I hide from myself? In some ways the differences of Spain helped to form new ideas about cities at home. Either rightly or wrongly, I think I have a bit of a feel for part of what is Spain and where did it come from. I don't feel like I came and saw a few things and that's it.

We spent about 5 days in Barcelona. We tried to do three museums a day. In five days I was burned out. What I really learned from 5 days in Barcelona was that you can not understand much about Barcelona in 5 days.

We spent a month in Manchester visiting my father-in-law's ex boyfriend. We rented an apartment. It was quite different from the Barcelona experience. I was not so overwhelmed. I enjoyed going to all the various museums - taking day trips to the surrounding cities and attending the local Quaker meetings. The ability to connect with a person and a community really improved the experience. I felt like I left with at least a limited feel for the city.

I concluded that to really understand somewhere, a month is not enough. A year maybe. I really wanted to go home at the end of 4 months. I am not really happy about the city I live so I guess I don't make that type of connection.

We did not watch any television that I can think of, outside of stuff in bars. I don't feel like there was time. We were doing too much.

Hope this covers what you are looking for.


aspiring to genteel poverty

by edwin (eeeeeeee222222rrrrreeeeeaaaaadddddd@@@@yyyyaaaaaaa) on Mon Jan 28th, 2008 at 11:34:32 AM EST
Yep - my feeling is you really have to live and work in an area for at least a few months and get to know some people in a more than casual way if you want to get to know an area, and if you want a change of scene/lifestyle, then a short holiday isn't going to do it for you.  Having said that, some of our longer/more memorable holidays have been key moments in our lives as a family.

"It's a mystery to me - the game commences, For the usual fee - plus expenses, Confidential information - it's in my diary..."
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Mon Jan 28th, 2008 at 03:13:34 PM EST
[ Parent ]
You can't quaff Barcelona, just as one can't quaff Paris, London, Rome. It needs to be savoured with love, relished like wine, zipped with a casual touch, time and time again. Take a few days of Barcelona, dwell without a map, get lost in the calles and emerge at hidden treasures. Visit a museum, don't visit a museum, who cares. Eat. Drink. Snooze. Leisure. See the moon rise. Make love, go clubbing. Return a few years later, repeat. Barcelona, pearl of Catalunya treasures!

</lyric>

by Nomad on Tue Jan 29th, 2008 at 04:56:32 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm not very good at being on my own, so I tend to only visit places if I'm meeting other people. thanks to the friends I've met on eurotrib I've travelled more in the last year than I had in the 30 years previous.

So generally holidays will be spent with other people. Persuading them to have beers they never intended and visiting places I never imagined.

I can't imagine going to a resort, or even sight-seeing because that would be on my own and I don't go there.

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Mon Jan 28th, 2008 at 04:36:50 PM EST
What's a holiday ?... (just joking)!

In short trips, I favor the local café over the museums... Much more chances to meet someone who'll show you things you wouldn't have seen otherwise...

A leftover of some of my urban studies in difficult districts. You just sit in a café and write, and drink, and write, and... Then you start all over again the next day... At some point, someone will ask what the hell you're doing here... You get him a drink and discuss, some other friend of his will also want a drink, etc...

After a few days you have access  to parts of the city you wouldn't ever have dreamt to see... And you have a much better viewpoint on the local problems (Meet my grandmother, my son in law, etc...)!

On longer holidays, it's about the same technique, this time with choosing the same spot for several years... Things get easier when you know most of the people, and when they get you drinks this time :-)

Of course it's quite demanding on your liver...!

"What can I do, What can I write, Against the fall of Night". A.E. Housman

by margouillat (hemidactylus(dot)frenatus(at)wanadoo(dot)fr) on Mon Jan 28th, 2008 at 05:52:59 PM EST
When I was a child, I took many long trips with my parents.  Being Americans based in Los Angeles, these were driving trips to various national and state parks on the Pacific coast and in the desert southwest.  I was a kid, so I was either enjoying new scenery or bored out of my skull with sitting in the car forever.  I read a lot.

Then I spend 12 years in college and grad school, and never took a vacation or holiday of any sort.  I studied, and did nothing else.

Since quitting grad school, I've traveled quite a bit more.  Most obviously, I live in Japan now, and have for the past three and a half years.  Aside from that, I've spent two weeks in the UK (Orkney, Inverness, and Cambridge), three weeks in China (Shanghai, Hangzhou, Suzhou, Shaoxing, Putuo Shan), and a month in Thailand (Chiang Mai, studying).

All of my trips have been solitary.  My friends have always been off doing other things, and I am always single.  I also don't meet people when I'm traveling, for a variety of reasons.  However, I find that when I'm by myself, I have dead-on intuition for finding interesting things to do, but that if I'm with people, I'm too worried about leading them down a blind alley to exercise my talents appropriate. When I'm traveling,  I don't really like to plan much of anything - I'll go there, and figure out what I want to do there, and often times I just end up walking in an expanding circle for hours at a time, seeing random stuff.  This is fun.  The resort thing seems pointless, both because they are quiet and boring, and because they tend to be in sunny places that don't agree with me so much.  I don't tan, and have weak eyes.

The UK trip was a lot of fun.  I was energetic, and did a ton of random sightseeing.  I don't really care if I don't know so much about the area, I just like going to new places and seeing stuff.  The first week was Scotland.  My main goal was to get up to the Orkneys and see Skara Brae, for silly personal reasons, so I did that, then spent some time in Inverness and saw some stuff.  I had nearly a week of sunny weather in Scotland, which people have told me is a sure sign of divine favor.  The second week was in Cambridge, where I stayed with a friend doing his doctorate in philosophy, and saw the cathedral at Ely.  This was a good trip.

The China trip was hard.  I did solid sightseeing in all the appropriate parts of the places I visited, but found that I was really suffering from a lack of energy.  I read a lot in coffee shops.  Being in China by myself, not speaking Chinese at all, was really hard, and it just drained me.   That, and spending most of every day walking. I'd been planning a more ambitious trip, but found I just didn't have the energy to arrange anything.  About halfway in, I got sick, fought the illness off, and then suffered a resurgence shortly before I was supposed to return, and spent my last day in Shanghai in the hospital.  Blarg.  That trip nearly burned me on travel, not because I didn't enjoy some things, but just because it was so hard.

More later.  Gotta go to work.

by Zwackus on Mon Jan 28th, 2008 at 06:35:53 PM EST
Wow, you study hard and holiday hard, and seem quite driven. Is the concept of a holiday as some time out just to relax foreign to you? Can traveling with others not be fun as well - and make the whole business less stressful?

"It's a mystery to me - the game commences, For the usual fee - plus expenses, Confidential information - it's in my diary..."
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Mon Jan 28th, 2008 at 09:33:14 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I'd like to think the studying hard part of my life is mostly over, but one can never be sure. :-)

I have to say, I'm not too big on relaxing while on holiday.  I think that probably has to do with the fact that my normal schedule and routine is so simple, and demands so little from me.  When I get around to going on holiday, I'm itching to do things.  And to eat.  Actually, one of the things I love about traveling in Japan is that most every little town and village has a local delicacy of some sort, and they're usually worth trying.  Unless it's natto or crickets or bee larvae or something.

And, in general, I have a basic inability to be really comfortable and relax if I'm not doing something important or productive.  I know this is an unproductive neurosis, and I do try every so often to work on it.

So, usually my holiday MO is to start out with a flurry of activity, including lots of walking randomly, and then gradually wear myself out.  Then I'll take it easy for a little while, and then go somewhere else and wear myself out again.  Repeat until trip time is exhausted, then go home to rest up.

As to traveling with others, I really can't say, as I've just never had the opportunity.  I'll likely get around to trying it sometime, but who knows.

by Zwackus on Tue Jan 29th, 2008 at 12:12:29 AM EST
[ Parent ]
and saw the cathedral at Ely.

Sung there.

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.

by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Tue Jan 29th, 2008 at 08:21:29 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I begin to wonder am I the only person who feels about it in this way, and for whom holidays tend to be the venue for doing a rerun of life's key decisions and whether I would make them differently now, if given the chance, and how things might have turned out then.

Like Zwackus, I can't relate.

For me, travel is above all about seeing places.

I do notice that for many people, travel is about getting from point A to point B, and then have experiences of whatever kind (people/fun/food/culture/places) at point B. But for me, seeing places goes as far that the actual journey (getting from A to B) is the highlight. One of the reasons I won't drive cars and prefer trains: I would have to watch the road instead of the landscape. But this can get me into trouble if I travel with other people, or if my co-passengers are of the type for whom travel is about talking to strangers :-)

As can be surmised, the concept of travel to relax is alien to me, and I don't like the false tranquility of resorts either. I also don't like pre-arranged group travels: when I travel, whether alone or with friends/family, it's usually me who does some organising: and that doesn't just mean hotels/camping places, but seeking out routes and interesting sights along the way and at stops. (I guess I differ in that from Zwackus: I usually know in advance what's to see.) Oh, and a good map is always a necessity.

A special thing about travel is the languages spoken around me. Not understanding a word can be fun, creating a strange detachment allowing observation from outside, but everyday use of languages one normally only reads or sees on TV is also fun.

Without getting too personal or mawkishly sentimental, has life fulfilled your youthful dreams, was it ever meant to, were they not supposed to be hopelessly unrealistic, and all the more fun for that, or have you had to taper your expectations rapidly downwards in order to make emotional ends meet, so that you border on the cynical when you see today's younger generation indulge in something of the same?

Well, being the flaming leftie and the career changer, I of course (1) am way short on fulfilled dreams, (2) tapered my expectations to stay sane (OK that's debatable), (3) didn't taper the dreams themselves...

I must admit I do react with cynism to youthful enthusiasm (and also fear that that enthusiasm could turn into a negative once confronted with reality).

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Tue Jan 29th, 2008 at 03:46:09 AM EST
Ah... The traveling companions... A subject by itself !
Between the "me, myself" and "the bunch" there is place for "the intimate(s)",  the "Moomin family", the "Moomin family + In-laws"...

Each group or sub-group has his constraints in "social noises" that keeps the group coherent, but distracts you from the view  (It is impossible to take a decent picture when someone is talking to you)!

But then maybe the "Holidays" are necessary, either to escape those socializing structures or on the contrary to find new bonds ?
Usually, holidays are exhausting... The change in one's pattern and schedules, plus the climate and exotic food, sums up in keeping some time at home to rest from the holidays !

The word itself, has some meaning, as in english it seems you're about to deal with some pilgrimage, while in french, "vacances" (as in vacancy) tends to indicate  the unplugging of ones hard disk...!

Traveling is quite new, as a social behavior, and goes in par with the sightseeing stuff, while enlarging our CO2 footprint!
The old "Kilroy was here" sort of graffiti is renewed by the postcards we send to team workers, and we wouldn't be able to sustain our rank in society if we didn't "see" (like in "seeing Naples and die") such fashionable site!

Isn't it strange to consider that our grandparents didn't even know about holidays and that most of them still lead full lives ? Do we really need that "organized break" for our mind's health, or is it another form of "spending spree" that goes with some discourses on global economy?

I've often been "on the move", since I was a toddler (not my choice), and lived in several countries (as many here)...Travel is usually for work reasons, and holidays is for another sort of work, filing in what couldn't be accomplished in "work time" !

In fact, my "holidays" are when I can look around me with curiosity... Whatever the place or time.

Maybe it's because, after spending some time in an hospital bed after an accident, listening to the wind rustling tree leaves while sipping some wine at a café terrace, still seems to me a fantastic goal...

"What can I do, What can I write, Against the fall of Night". A.E. Housman

by margouillat (hemidactylus(dot)frenatus(at)wanadoo(dot)fr) on Tue Jan 29th, 2008 at 04:41:43 AM EST
[ Parent ]
In fact, my "holidays" are when I can look around me with curiosity... Whatever the place or time.

That's a powerful sentence!

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Tue Jan 29th, 2008 at 05:25:33 AM EST
[ Parent ]
DoDo:
seeing places goes as far that the actual journey (getting from A to B) is the highlight.

It's not about the destination, it's about the journey!!!

Your way of traveling sounds a lot like how I prefer it, especially when travelling with a group. I took my family through South Africa past year, and me having been there previously, I pretty much became the guide and "tour" organiser for that time.

I also enjoy a more spontaneous way of travel:

DoDo:

a good map is always a necessity.

I love maps. Poring over them, hunting for names that make a (un)conscious connection, that awaken an intrigue to see what's there? - to set forth on that whim and find there is generally nothing, or sometimes the rare Columbus: discovering something unique by accident without knowledge in advance.

In 2005 during what I've termed the Chill-Out Tour (after my stressful MSc period) that's what we did in our first days in Germany - and we found Geilenkirchen (not that great) and Marburg (bloody fantastic) and the Edersee (great for hiking). Then we stopped and, well, headed for Prague. Because we felt like it.


Misty gauze on Edersee

by Nomad on Tue Jan 29th, 2008 at 05:20:09 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I must say I can relate to all these comments.  I pore over maps as if my life depended on them.  I didn't know what a "resort" was until relatively recently because we always tried to go off the beaten track.  Once - after a day trying to avoid the Cuban police because our driver didn't have a taxi permit the kids begged us - can we have an "ordinary" holiday sometime!  Their school mates couldn't relate to living in the Cuban black economy, a Stonetown (Zanzibar) riot, a South African safari, or a Malaysian sojourn with cobras down in the back garden...

"It's a mystery to me - the game commences, For the usual fee - plus expenses, Confidential information - it's in my diary..."
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Tue Jan 29th, 2008 at 06:32:13 AM EST
[ Parent ]
You sent me on a trip to Wikipedia...

The dam holding the Edersee was one of those successfully hit by the "Dambusters" in 1943. So I went to the "Edersee" and "Operation Chastise" pages. But I found that the Wiki articles were wrong in their account of victims in the floods caused (an error which, shame shame, goes back to a BBC article), now corrected.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Tue Jan 29th, 2008 at 07:09:14 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I add one more thing: I used to take along books for travels, but after bringing them home unread several times, I no longer do.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Tue Jan 29th, 2008 at 07:13:00 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm going the same way, but I can't bring myself to travel without one. So I pack something thin but dense ... which almost guarantees I won't read it.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Tue Jan 29th, 2008 at 07:16:47 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I buy reading material in situ. Books, magazines. If I don't speak the language, I can at least get the economist to work myself up about.
by nanne (zwaerdenmaecker@gmail.com) on Tue Jan 29th, 2008 at 09:39:50 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I find myself reading quite a bit when I'm on vacation.  Getting out early and walking until I can't walk any more, I find myself ready in the early evening to sit around and read for a while, preferably at a coffee shop, but in my room if I have to.

It's a bit of a challenge keeping myself properly stocked, though.  I read rather quickly, a mixed legacy from grad school, so I finish a novel after a couple days of casual reading, less if I really like it.  In some countries, it's easy to find books - Chiang Mai, in Thailand, had some solid English bookstores, and the UK was obviously not a problem.  However, in China and Japan, it's a bit more of a challenge. When I visit the US, I routinely bring back ten to twenty books, and ration them out.

by Zwackus on Tue Jan 29th, 2008 at 05:03:59 PM EST
[ Parent ]


"It's a mystery to me - the game commences, For the usual fee - plus expenses, Confidential information - it's in my diary..."
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Tue Jan 29th, 2008 at 05:23:54 PM EST
My wife and I have developed a sort of standardized formula for holiday trips. Basically we arrange to take three weeks, spend the first four or five days in the large destination city, then rent a cottage or apartment in the countryside for the remaining two weeks.

This method allows us to get a feel for the "civilized" urban part of the country of interest, including visits to museums, cultural features, nice restaurants, shopping, etc., but then when that gets boring we're off to a rural area. It's impossible to "see" an entire country on a brief trip, but this method allows us to try to get two weeks worth of familiarity with one small part of the country. You can learn quite a bit about a farming town in a couple of weeks.

by asdf on Tue Jan 29th, 2008 at 11:07:21 PM EST


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