“What do you know about Bratislava?”
“Yeah – sounds.. authentic”
I clap my hand to my mouth in horror. Oh no! what have I said?
The traditional February Winter fatigue has set in and thoughts have turned to fantasizing about holidays. We’re planning to go around a bit of Europe by train and wondering where to go. The world isn’t really our oyster. We don’t have the financial mussel to go on planes with tellies so we’ve decided on a short flight to visit the local continent. My wife is naming cities and I am responding.
Like a vestigial tail, the “authentic” response is the shriveled remains of the extreme holiday snobbery from which I used to suffer.
This wasn’t snobbery born out of a life spent travelling Silk Roads, eating locusts and hiding from headhunters. I went to a few places that were a bit different and then never stopped talking about them. When others discussed their plans for travel and inquired if I were going anywhere this year, I would unveil my secret weapon, the one that brought opposition armies to a halt.
“No, still a little broke from the Japan trip you know”.
Before the World Cup, before the Green Army went to the Land of the Casio Watch, I was there, claiming it for myself as if I were first white man on Japanese soil. (I wasn’t even the first Dripsey man.)
It’s a short-lived pleasure. Sooner or later someone will else will go and ‘do’ your country better than you ‘did’ it.
“Oh you were in Japan too! Isn’t it amazing. We went up to the hot springs where the monkeys have learned how to have Jacuzzis. Did you go there?”
The sliding noise was the sound of the rug being neatly removed from underneath me and I shut up about Japan.
A few years later I ‘did’ Africa and was dining out on the tale of the elephant who tried to raid our safari tent looking for Ginger Snap biscuits until the following conversation: “..yeah so we’re just back from the Congo…Totally life-changing experience being in the jungle, following these gorillas. And of course it’s a warzone so we were under armed guard all the time…Colm, Colm where are you going. Are you crying?”
Just as there will always be someone with a better tan than you, there will always be someone with a more adventurous holiday than you. As a reformed holiday snob, there are a number of strategies you can use to defend yourself and prevent conversations from being monopolised.
– Go on the attack
You’ve just finalised your trip to Lanzarote when who should heave into view, replete with trusty dusty sandals and WWII-looking water canteen, only your just-back-from-Bhutan friend? He/she may have brought penicillin to villagers and fought off illegal loggers armed with nothing but a magnifying glass and a knowledge of when the next eclipse is due (your friend, not the loggers). They’re about to ask if you’ve anything planned. Don’t bow your head apologetically and mutter “dhera we’re just going on a package thing –Nothing fancy, just something easy.”
Instead go on the attack and make out that Lanzarote will be a nice break from some goings-on to which you can only refer mysteriously.
“We made up our minds we were going to do very little on our holiday – After The Year We’ve Had.”
Don’t elaborate – just make it sound like a movie could have been shot about what you’ve been through. This deflection of the conversation away from Mr Intrepid will make any tales of swamp-infested mosquitoes seem trivial.
– Make stuff up
Or you could just lie outright. You’ve just arrived back from Costa Del Stella Artois having picked up no more culture than a metre-long tube of Smarties. If your destination was sufficiently Spanish or Greek enough then chances are there was some sort of political upheaval. Make out that you couldn’t go out to see anything because of ‘The Riots’. Seasoned travellers love the idea that protests go unreported in the media so you should be able to describe your two week of sun-induced come in the Playa Del Irlandais Resort as something akin to The Year of Living Dangerously.
– I was reading somewhere that..
This is a high-risk strategy but worth a shot. Just because you haven’t been to the plateau of Karakorum or the lost cities of the Khmer, there’s no harm in having a quick look through Wikipedia and finding out even more obscure sights to see, in the hope your Ranulph Fiennes wannabe-friend hasn’t been there.
“And did ye have a good time in Siberia. I was reading somewhere it has the biggest collection of six-legged ponies. You didn’t see that no? AH well maybe the next time ye are there.”
Even if you yourself has never been further than Holyhead, it doesn’t matter. You successfully dented their holiday and may even avoid having to look at their photos.
The most powerful currency in Ireland is guilt and it’s the only one we can generate ourselves without the ECB sticking their oar in ‘taking notice’. Unless the voyager has in your social circle owns a dhow or travels by container ship, chances are they’ll have to fly. This is where you suddenly develop principles
“This Climate Change thing – I can’t in all conscience contribute to it just to satisfy my own selfish wanderlust. No this year, for my children’s sakes and their children’s sakes we’re going to Trabolgan.”
And the best thing about guilt – It’s so authentic.
“What do you know about Bratislava?”