As the leaves turn golden and Christmas approaches, our thoughts naturally turn to what truly sucked about 2009.
Top of my list? “Staycations”.
Oh, you horrible, horrible word – a wretched portmanteau of “stay” and “vacation” (and perhaps a silent “bullshit”).
British media coverage has been intense. Every newspaper, every radio presenter – such as this one – and every inch of travel-themed newsprint seemed obsessed with it. I think I understand why. You know when you wake up in the morning and there’s a song lodged in your head, and it stays there all day – and you loathed it to start with? This is what happened with ‘staycation’ in the Great British Media Consciousness this summer.
And not just in the UK. You can’t blame us – it all started abroad, well before 2009. My fave online travel read World Hum charted an arc from pioneering fascination to a premature obituary and lately to weary resignation. Staycation. It lingers, like a persistent grease-spot or a kippery smell coming from the carpet. It’s unstoppable. We pump round after round into it, and it just keeps coming.
But…what is it?
At the height of the summer madness, the Times Online noted that because of the recession, Brits were staying within Britain for their hols – day-trips, weekends away, or gallivanting around in a camper-van. You stay in the UK, but you travel. The Guardian agreed.
Meanwhile, the Telegraph was defining it as staying in your own home – putting your feet up, ordering pizza, catching up on Lovefilm DVDs, and attemping Do-It-Yourself that resulted in a couple of grand being knocked off the value of your house. In other words, “a luxurious time in your own home”. I recently listened to BBC Radio 2’s Jeremy Vine take a similar tack.
So which is it?
I’m all for exploring your home country, your home county, your home town. I hardly know York, and now my nomadic plans are starting to crystallize, I’m going to undertake a protracted written goodbye to this city that has housed me for a decade, with articles for fun in here, and other, better articles pitched at paying markets. I’ll thoroughly explore York – and part of that will be staying elsewhere in York, in bed & breakfasts, hotels, campsites, you name it. (This appeals to me greatly, being an idea both adventurous and faintly stupid).
Britain is a wondrous place, I hear. I can’t confirm that, because like 99.9% of the population, I don’t know it very well as a whole. I’ve been here, I’ve been there, but on average I’ve missed out absolutely everything there is to see. I could spend the rest of my life traveling around the UK.
Just as long as I’m traveling.
Staying at home is not traveling. Staying in your own home, no matter where you go for the day, is not the same experience as being truly Elsewhere. Home is a mass of habits, complacencies, commitments and interruptions, and when you stay at home, these suck you right back into the everyday world you long to escape from.
Travel is escapism – maybe even escapology. When you’re at home, there is no escape.
If a staycation is about traveling around, I like the idea (hate the word; like the idea).
If it is about staying at home – please let it die.