Monday, September 17, 2012

Holidays, escapes and everyday life

click photo to enlarge
Have you noticed how holidays are now frequently described as an "escape"? In some journalism and advertising the two words have become synonymous. There are travel companies that actually use the word in their company's name - "Escape Holidays", "Great Escape Holidays", "Island Escape Holidays". It makes them sound like organisations dedicated to springing prisoners from their incarceration, an image that the word "getaway" in connection with holidays only reinforces. The use of such language has troubled me for a while because of what it implies; namely that the everyday life of a person, couple or family is so damnably dreary, hard, depressing or lacking in joy, that a holiday is like a release from a living hell. Moreover, tied up with this is the idea that an effective and desirable break can only be achieved by shelling out a large amount of money, jumping on an aeroplane or boat, and fleeing to some foreign, preferably hot, land. It's an approach that I liken to the notion of going to a gym because you don't get enough exercise. It seems to me self-evident that fitness (see this post for my views on the misuse of this word!) comes from building exercise and sensible eating into your daily life, not bolting it on as an afterthought designed to compensate for what is clearly lacking. Similarly, shouldn't we be trying to organise our lives in such as way that each day offers us some pleasure, achievement, satisfaction - call it what you will - that cumulatively leads to us getting enjoyment from every single day? It's difficult if you are on the breadline, but much more realisable than might be imagined if you're not. Achieve it and the idea of catharsis through an "escape" seems ridiculous.

The misuse of that word came to mind when I was looking at my photograph of the narrow boats and cruisers tied up on the River Trent in Newark, Nottinghamshire. It's a photograph taken at a time that is described as either the end of summer or the beginning of autumn. There was a time when my wife and I idly considered the purchase of such a vessel. However, it didn't take us long to work out that, for us, being restricted to navigable waterways would be too limiting. I'm sure others think this too. I'm equally sure that many people find chugging along Britain's canals and rivers a fine way to pass the time or take a holiday. For us however, it would be too confining and we'd just have to escape!

For more thoughts touching on holidays see these posts - from 2005, and from 2009.

photograph and text © Tony Boughen

Camera: Canon
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 161mm
F No: f8
Shutter Speed: 1/200
ISO: 100
Exposure Compensation:  -0.67 EV
Image Stabilisation: On