Monday, 22 August 2011

Sun, Sand and Sea? Try Burned, Boring and Blatantly Oblivious

(Source)
     Ah, the British masses, swarming overseas on their annual pilgrimage to pay homage to that god of the sky, the sun. Strange, really, that all year is spent complaining about the cold, wet British weather, and yet the one time of year the weather is considered “nice” is when the country’s population packs up and goes abroad, in search of more sun and heat than they can handle. See, I don’t understand this fascination with the sun. Sure, it’s nice now and then, but the same weather all year would bore me to tears. Where’s snowball fights and sledging when school’s shut for the day? Where’s the fear and excitement of thunder and lightning at your window? Where’s the fun of running and dancing – or better yet, kissing – in a torrential downpour of rain? Rain’s one of my favourites and very rarely do you hear me grumble on a wet day, unless I really don’t feel like getting soaked to the skin. Also, I’m not a particularly outdoorsy person (though I do like living in the country) and sunny days are an excellent-for-them but annoying-for-me excuse for my parents to moan at me to go outside more. Anyway, I think variety and the unpredictable make life so much more interesting. However, I must be in the minority from what I can gather.
     So, the masses flee the weather they are acclimatised to and  then proceed to expose pale skin, untouched by the sun for the past 50 weeks or so, to this unfamiliar heat, thus resulting in that delightful shade, commonly known as “lobster red”. Well, apart from those vain women who insist on being unrealistically tanned all year round by basting themselves in fake colour, and come back from abroad just slightly more orange than when they left. Isn’t it weird how hundreds of years ago, women would plaster poisonous chemicals on their skin in an effort to keep it pale and white, and nowadays they seem to want to do the exact opposite, albeit without the toxic element? My skin tans better than most, and I’ll probably be resented by some based on this, and the fact that I’m really not bothered whether I tan or not. Thing is, it’s never even, I do sometimes burn in weird places first (tops of my legs this year!) and it fades within a few weeks anyway. And I’ve never touched fake tan, because I’d rather not walk around looking like and extra that’s escaped from the set of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. It’s so obviously fake too, because when you live in Scotland it’s impossible to get enough sun to turn that colour naturally. Actually, I’d be off to the doctor if turned that colour naturally.
    Now, most of this sun exposure is done by following a careful method, the same one at least half of all holiday-makers use – arrive at hotel, lie out in the sun all day, every day for the duration of your stay, go home again. That’s all there is to it. People spend thousands of pounds to fly to foreign countries where they lay on beaches and at pool-sides next to hundreds of other Brits doing the same thing for two weeks. Some never even leave their hotels. No attempt made whatsoever to find out about the local culture or see some sights. Thousands of pounds for a bit of sun and an excuse to do nothing. Sure, relaxation is nice from time to time, but is it really worth spending that much on? Especially with the state of the economy right now. I’d want something more for my money than that. I can lie on a sofa and watch TV all day for a fraction of the cost. Personally, I find other cultures fascinating and always like to intersperse beach days with a bit of sightseeing. I know I’m not alone in this opinion, but it does seem like the majority of working class Brits prefer to live inside their own little bubble, completely oblivious to the new, exciting places around them.
    Then again, it could be the ancient “safety in numbers” principle rooted in their subconscious. See, you cannot help but feel like a bit of an intruder when surrounded by locals in their own homes and towns. At least holiday resorts are specifically for holiday-makers, which is possibly why so many flock to the same old haunts every year. “Tourist” is a word that has come to have a good few negative connotations, but that is what we must become in order to have any hope of seeing other parts of the world. More than once have I felt somewhat awkward and out of place while on holiday, but I’d still prefer that to staying in the same hotel the whole time. I want to travel the world, and if that means being seen as a British tourist, I guess I’ll just have to live with it.
    The other problem with tourism is “spoiling” the natural beauty or culture of an area. I understand why this frustrates people, as it is a shame to see beautiful places built up into apartments and hotels. This is why many people choose to stray from the beaten path, to places unvisited by thousands of tourists, and have a more unique holiday. It’s certainly a more effective way of finding out about other cultures. However, these holidays are now becoming more and more popular and travel agencies are promoting them further – so how long will it be before the unbeaten path is thoroughly travel worn? People want to see the unvisited and unspoiled – yet in doing so they make them visited, and it won’t be long before they, too, are spoiled. Ironic, isn’t it, how the best of intentions never quite work out how we want?
     My types of holiday are those that allow me a little time to relax, but see a lot of new places. They should be a learning experience. I want to travel the world and see famous sights – Eiffel Tower, Taj Mahal, Sydney Opera House, Empire State Building – but also maybe visit a few lesser-known places. I want a unique experience, but one that won’t spoil or interfere with places that ought to be left alone. Yes, holidays are there to be enjoyed, and everyone will have slightly different opinions on what they find fun – but really, how fun is lying around, doing nothing but burn for a week or two? Really?

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