Christmas well and truly over, we are inundated with travel advertisements; each day my postman husband’s forearms buckle under the weight of cruise and safari brochures. I had no idea they even made travel brochures anymore. Apparently, they do. Kilos of them.
Being self-employed, I don’t get any time off, which is probably fortunate, for I hate being idle: it makes me depressed and ruminative. If I go abroad, it’s for work. But you people who go abroad for pleasure! Has no one ever explained you can see everything free on Google Earth? Save the pollution, expense, airport queues; sit at home quietly studying ruins on your laptop, while eating something inexplicable, worrying whether that stabbing pain is malaria or DVT, if that’s what brings you joy: I won’t judge you. If I get a day off, I go and look at a cathedral, then on to some difficult experimental theatre, and I couldn’t begin to explain the pleasure I find therein, nor would I try.
But no. We’ve become used to the idea that ‘abroad’ is a product we must buy. In weekly quantities. Usually, we choose to go somewhere poorer than the UK – while we still can – and exploit and patronise it, robbing its people of autonomy, workers and resources, forcing them to spend their time pandering to wealthy Westerners. Usually, the relationship between tourist and host country is akin to that between parasite and sickening flesh.
Well, I’m all in favour of that. Sounds quite fun. I had my fair share of sunshine and fishbowl packages, back in the day. But don’t call it broadening your mind or attempting to spread the wealth. You’re not. You’re off on a jolly at the expense of other people’s misery, for the cheap booze, weather and Facebook likes, the squalid thrill of feeling yourself superior, even as you dress it up as ‘learning about another culture’, or more depressingly, ‘learning about yourself’. You can learn about yourself in the bath or on the Thanet loop. You go everywhere with you. You can’t get rid of your wretched annoying self. You’re no more interesting in the Andes, believe me.
We have too much money. So much money we don’t know what to do with it. So much, that having accumulated every conceivable luxury at home, we abandon the lot to seek them out elsewhere, in a bid to make a statement about ourselves.
For we choose where to go, too often, not according to personal preference, but according to whether it fits with our image. ‘Abroad’ is just another product we purchase to define ourselves to the outside world. iPhone or Android? Coke or Pepsi? Sketchers or Reebok? Crete or Cambodia? Are you intensely spiritual and caring? Better demonstrate it by setting off to patronise the less fortunate in some remote foreign clime. Don’t forget to take lots of pictures of every spiritual awakening, each dreamy sunset, to make your friends jealous! Nothing says spiritual like a new insta follower.
I’m neither spiritual, caring, nor possessed of too much money, so I’m off to Thetford for three days in March. Can’t wait.