Pack your bags – it’s holiday time after all!

Exit strategy: The average British person takes four holidays a year, two of them abroad.

Is a change as good as a rest? Many families everywhere are thrilled about the return of the summer holidays as lockdown restrictions are eased and “air corridors” are announced this weekend.

The moment has finally come. The bags have been packed; the front door closes; the adults bicker about whether they have remembered everything. The holiday destination you stared at online six months ago is about to become reality.

Even if it is the same one you went to last year, it feels as if you are heading somewhere excitingly exotic. “We’re off!” you think. “At long last!”

For weeks, it looked as if we might not have any holidays this summer at all. But, this week, Boris Johnson announced that hotels, campsites, and bed and breakfasts would reopen on 4 July. And, this weekend, we are going to hear that flights are relaunching with air bridges to popular holiday spots, such as Spain, Greece, Italy, and France – probably also from 4 July.

Why do our holidays exert such a pull? Though people talk about “chasing the sun”, good weather is not the key factor: as this summer has shown, you can have that by just staying at home. Changing climate patterns mean that France or Italy might actually be wetter.

Nor is it mainly to do with relaxation. We have all had plenty of that in the lockdown, and some people find it incredibly boring: their idea of a holiday is climbing on a bike or a surf board and being as active as possible.

Freedom from routine is part of it: doing things at the same time, every week, simplifies life, but can also make it tedious.

Holidays give us the opportunity to live in a different way, and reset our minds: to realise that the world is full of possibilities, and that what we are used to now is not the way things have to be for ever.

What the journalist Stig Abell has written of the pandemic could also be applied to coming home from a summer break: “As many of us inch back to normality, we must confront and consider afresh the value of what we do.”

“Open space, free time, and an idea: those are the chief requisites of happiness,” argues Ysenda Maxtone Graham in her new book, British Summer Time Begins.

What we all need, and holidays provide, is the chance to “vanish deeply” into something that fascinates us: to “work out the guitar chords, or write a first novel on lined paper, or build something, or darn something, or play with a bat or ball, for days or weeks on end”.

Is a change as good as a rest?

Shifting territory

Some say yes. We love holidays not because they allow us to flop, but because they stimulate us with new experiences and broaden our horizons. Being somewhere with a different language – or even just different food and different smells – is exciting in itself. We are reminded that there are lots of alternative ways of approaching life and looking at the world.

Others argue that most of us live busy lives, in which we are constantly bombarded with new information and experiences. What we lack is the chance to process them – or not think about them at all. Holidays are precious because they free us from day-to-day responsibilities and give us time to enjoy our inner worlds without interruption. Where we go is of secondary importance.

You Decide

  1. What is the best holiday you have had?
  2. Would it be practical to shorten the working week so that people have less routine in their lives?

Activities

  1. Design a poster to attract holidaymakers to the place where you live.
  2. The 19th-Century artist Edouard Manet painted a famous series of pictures of French holidaymakers on the beach. Paint a picture of modern holidaymakers in a similar style.

Some People Say...

“I think the best vacation is the one that relieves me of my own life for a while and then makes me long for it again.”

Ann Patchett, American novelist

What do you think?

Q & A

What do we know?
Holidays were originally “holy days”, given over to celebrating religious festivals. Package holidays with transport and accommodation arranged by a tour operator were developed by entrepreneurs such as Thomas Cook in the 19th Century. Only in the 1980s, did it become common for families to take their holidays abroad, with the establishment of low-cost airlines such as Ryanair.
What do we not know?
What the long-term effect of the pandemic on the tourist industry will be. It is likely that nervousness about travelling abroad will lead to a boom in people holidaying in their own countries. However, many hotels may not recover from the loss of business during the lockdown, and the ones that survive will find it difficult to cater for as many people as they did in the past because of social-distancing measures.

Word Watch

Bicker
Argue. The verb derives from a noun meaning a skirmish, battle, or school fight.
Air bridges
At present anyone arriving in Britain from abroad, including Britons who have been on holiday, must undergo two weeks’ quarantine. The government hopes to lift this restriction for people arriving from countries with low infection rates.
Requisites
Necessary elements. The term comes from a Latin verb meaning “to search for”.
Darn
To mend by stitching.

Subjects

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