Holidays. The two weeks in the year that we all work towards. Or three, or four, depending on how blessed you are in your job.
It always confused me why people seemed to accept slaving away for 50 weeks to end up spending a load of money on two as though only those two weeks of the year were important.
When I returned to the UK after more than a year off travelling, it has to be said holidays were not top of my priority list.
In my first job, the only week-long holiday that I can remember spending away from home, was doing The Ridgeway long distance walk, wild camping, apart from one night in a superb youth hostel.
We’d done a trial run previously on The Greensand Ridge walk (story on every pic about that one) but that was only over a long weekend.
The tent was a Wild Country Quasar which as a total non-camper, I had bought in the UK (a visit back to my parents when I was living in Aus) on the advice over the ‘phone from Partner who was still in Sydney.
I am sure no-one will be surprised to hear that we still have it 27 years later. We also have the Vango one person tent that Partner had taken to Aus with him before he met me. It’s a bit small for two. We tried it out in the Blue Mountains in NSW and one night was enough. Perhaps the dog would like it?
At some point, we took the train and went youth-hostelling around Yorkshire. Later we took my car (the only one I have ever bought – a Metro) and youth-hostelled around Scotland.
Our first ‘package’ holiday was with the Ramblers Association on a cross-country skiing trip to France (Vercors). It was an experience. We haven’t repeated it. Nor did they ever reply to my letter of complaint. And no, I wasn’t complaining to them about the paucity of snow.
We’d been back in the UK seven years before we actually went on a real sun-type package holiday. You can tell how long ago this was (1993) because they were cheaper when you got last-minute deals, and we got one to a Greek island. We didn’t know which one because it was accomodation allocated on arrival so it could have been either Kos (where we flew into) or Kalymnos, which necessitated a boat trip at 4am on the Black Pig. We ended up on Kalymnos. But it was a good holiday, quiet, peaceful, and cheap. I didn’t get a lot of the MBA books read that I clarted along with me.
Encouraged by this experience, we had another one the following year. We were still into islands so we went for the Canaries. Partner was sent to arrange it all. That was a mistake. He booked us to fly out of Newcastle and back into Middlesborough. Oh. No. What is the point of living twenty minutes from a local airport and having to travel home from one that is more than an hour away? He had to change the booking to ensure it was Newcastle both ways, so that turned out to be not so cheap. Great holiday in Lanzarote though.
The third – and final – package holiday was to Agios BoredUs in Corfu. It was early May, not particularly warm, and before the start of the tourist season, which was good in that there weren’t many people around, and bad in that very little was open.
We toddled along to the welcome party arranged by the tour company in the hopes of a free drink. Naive or what? All we discovered was that we had to use OUR OWN TOWELS if we wanted to go to the beach. (The caps was her emphasis in the lecture). We hadn’t taken any towels, we thought a package holiday meant just that. A package. Including towels. There was one bus out of the village about 9.30. If you didn’t catch that you were stuck in Agios BoredUs all day. The attraction of package holidays was waning.
On the final day, the flight was in the evening and we were meant to get out of the apartment by 10am, be collected by the coach, and sit in some hotel bar all day like a school party, getting bored/sozzled/whatever. We left a note for our bossy prefect attached to the apartment door with an elastoplast. It said ‘See you at the airport.’
After that, we bought flight only, to 1) mainland Spain 2) Canaries 3) Portugal. We chucked the tent in the rucksacks and we camped and travelled around on buses and trains. It worked out dearer than a package would have done, but it suited my independence. I hated having to be herded onto the school bus at the airport. It was a seriously good feeling arriving at the same time as all the package holidaymakers and watching them wait for teacher/prefect while we shouldered our rucksacks and cleared off for the local bus into town.
We got a villa, once, for a week on my 40th birthday, and a hire car too!! and travelled around on buses and trains for the other week staying in hostals.
But, we also had UK holidays. Apart from anything else, it meant we could take the dogs with us (remember, pre-dog passport days). Scotland (lots), Ireland (once), the Lakes (once), Northumberland (a few times). We had some cheap hotel deals via a fuel station offer, a couple of long weekends at Aviemore in a Stakis hotel for skiing, and we hired a cottage twice, but apart from that we went camping. We did buy a new tent (same company – Wild Country, just a bigger tent) for the luxury of car camping and joined the Camping and Caravanning Club. Very good camp sites, I must add.
Meanwhile, my work colleagues were still flying to posh hotels in Puerto Pollenca (or whatever it’s called) in Majorca and bumping into each other on holiday – how AWFUL!), or visiting Disneyland, or going to India, or Australia, or Egypt, or the Caribbean, or wherever. And I’m happily taking the dogs and camping in Scotland. Because I couldn’t actually compute in my very slow head, the point of travelling so far, and flying for so long, and spending so much money for a couple of weeks.
One colleague at work hired a villa in San Pedro de Alcantara. ‘You won’t know where it is, of course. It’s just a small place, but we do like it.’ Stupid woman. Of course I knew where it was. By this time I was the veteran of Spanish bus services on the Costa del Sol. We never did speak much after that. And San Pedro is no longer small, just for the record. And it’s just south of Marbella and Puerto Banus for anyone who doesn’t know.
Since we left the UK we haven’t taken any holidays. Unless you regard it as one long holiday of course. By holiday, I mean travelling somewhere else. That’s partly due to money restrictions, but it’s also partly due to living in a nice place, near the sea, beautiful views – where to go? Sure, I would love to go to Cuba, Mexico, South America, and travel down through Africa in the Land Rover (either the Series III or the Santana). But it isn’t for now. And Latin America involves flying.
I haven’t flown for around 12 years. Twin towers freaked me out slightly. So did being stuck on a plane for two hours for a delayed take-off in Newcastle. So did the gypsy woman in Cordoba. I’d flown to Spain (Madrid) on my own, leaving Partner at home to look after dogs while I scouted around looking for properties for sale in Málaga province. I’d chosen Madrid because the charter flights/prices didn’t suit or I was sick of them, or both. Actually they had become expensive by then as I vaguely recall. Might as well fly Iberia.
In Cordoba, where I spent the last night before travelling back up to Madrid, I was crossing to the railway station in the morning and a gitano woman asked me to buy heather, so natch I refused. Equally naturally, she cursed me. I am not into pressure sales from anyone, and that includes gypsies. My mother oddly, would never turn them away, got it from her mother etc etc. I was obviously the first to break the family mould.
But I freaked. I shot into the railway station and rang my partner, just in case anything happened on the flight. He was still ok, so were the dogs – so if I made it home… and I did.
Returning to the UK to visit my ageing parents, dying, and eventually, dead father for his funeral, I travelled by train, bus and ferry. I’d cottoned onto the fact that air travel is somewhat bad for the environment, and having to book ages in advance to get cheap flights doesn’t fit with me anyway.
I’d always had aspirations to be a nineteenth century monied traveller around Europe. Not so aspirational or so monied that I paid for my own cabin on the train or the ferry of course. I shared the overnight sleepers and the ferry cabins. In theory, I shared the ferry cabins. In practice, most women on the cross-channel ferry don’t want to share with strange women so I paid less and got a cabin to myself.
Travelling to deal with emotional family issues hardly classes as a holiday, but, it was a period away from home, and I tried to visit UK friends (sometimes) on my trips. Travelling overland is so much more exotic than flying. These days flying is so sanitised, crammed, crushed, unpleasant. Sleeping with strangers is fun, you even talk to them before you go to sleep and when you wake up.
Travelling overland gives you thinking time and lets you slow down the pace of life.
No long haul flights for 26 years
No flights (Europe) for 12 years
No holidays elsewhere for ten years
Vehicle used only 1) for work 2) to transport dog (!)
Preferred method of transport: legs (walking or cycling), followed by bus/train
Accommodation on holidays: one villa, two cottages, a few hotels/hostales, mainly three tents (all more than 20 years old)
Package holidays: three sunny ones, all to Europe, and one skiing one to France