The French novelist, Balzac, said something like, 'Les plaines ennuient, les montagnes fatiguent' (Plains are boring, mountains wear you out). Yet in spite of that jaded view, the concept of the holiday has become consolidated into the British psyche as an essential part of 'the good life'. Doctor Samuel Johnson said, "A man who is tired of London is tired of life", a jocular reminder that extends beyond just the capital city and hints at our need to explore and to seek new experiences. Having said that, the purpose of the holiday has changed in the last twenty years just as society itself has changed.
The British nowadays tend to herd like buffalo to a particular trendy watering hole. First it was the South of France for the wealthy, the only people who had holidays anyway. The rest just worked until they dropped. Then the masses discovered they could afford to holiday, first using the new railways and then travelling abroad by jet aircraft in their stampede to the Spanish Costas. Then they ventured on long haul flights to places they'd never heard of - the Dominican Republic, Florida and Mexico. They sported the coloured wristband of the all-inclusive holidaymaker and ate and drank without restraint.
More recently it has been Cyprus and Turkey that have been favoured by this popular onslaught and Bulgaria too has had its coastal towns reduced to a chaotic war zone. Ayia Napa and Magaluf, Cancún and Marmaris have become synonymous with rowdy excess.
The holiday is no longer a chance for exploration or quiet recuperation, rather a self-destructive binge aimed at the young who seem to be obsessed with oblivion and the no-holds-barred bacchanale.
Perhaps the holiday reflects the general tenor of civilisation and the aspirations and tastes of people. Perhaps it's a snapshot of the Western way of life. If so, there is surely cause for concern. The disposable income that people have betrays who and what they are and the direction, if any, in which they're going. How many holidaymakers try to learn about the country they've been lucky enough to afford to visit or to learn some of its language?
The Western tree is heavy with fruit. One shake and it will fall.
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