Tuesday 15 October 2019

Katie Byrne: Why can't we separate holiday fantasy from reality?

You still end up sprinting to the gate to catch the plane
You still end up sprinting to the gate to catch the plane
Katie Byrne

Katie Byrne

If Love Island has taught us anything, it's that holiday expectations don't always go to plan.

Once again the Islanders have gone into the villa in the hope of finding love, getting a tan and launching a lucrative career shilling laxative tea on social media.

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Alas, it doesn't always come to pass.

Holidays and magical thinking go hand in hand. We expect blue skies rather than scattered showers. We expect buoyant moods rather than ferocious rows and occasional sulks. We expect to be slim and sun-kissed rather than bloated and burnt.

Heading off soon? Here's how holiday fantasies differ from holiday realities.

Language barrier

This is the holiday where you'll flex your second-language muscles and show those philistines around the pool bar that you're the type of person who can pronounce Pouilly-Fumé. You download Duolingo. You buy a French phrase book. You imagine the moment that you visit the boulangerie, straw market basket draped over your shoulder, impressive vocabulary tripping off your tongue.

That's the fantasy anyway. The reality is you once again spend your holiday asking waiters if they "speak-a English", and using every gesticulation in your repertoire to communicate in shops.

Ahead of the pack

After years of missing passports and frantic last-minute dashes, you decide you're going to become one of those terminally smug, always-on-time people who float through the airport in a cloud of self-satisfaction. You might even buy a leather passport holder and a jaunty Panama hat just to let fellow travellers know you're the real deal.

The trouble is you seem to have some sort of brain disorder that makes it impossible for you to approximate the size of your suitcase and the length of time you have before your flight departs. And despite your very best intentions, you once again find yourself sprinting from security to final call.

Clocking off

You're going to take a proper holiday this year. In fact, you're not even going to check your emails. It'll be like a digital detox, you tell your long-suffering partner, who still hasn't fully forgiven you for the time you took a business call at the top of the Eiffel Tower. A chance for you to truly switch off.

Day one goes well (largely because it's a Sunday). Day two is a little trickier. You start to worry about your out-of-office reply. Will clients know who to contact in your absence? After all, you only gave them eight alternative email addresses. And what about that demanding client? Maybe you should give her a quick call. Just to let her know you arrived safely.

By day three, you have taken up permanent residence in the hotel's business centre. It's better this way.

Beach chic

You're going to be Kate Moss in Formentera, Bella Hadid in Mykonos and Meghan Markle in Byron Bay.

To quote a women's magazine cliché, you're going to have a selection of outfits that "take you from beach to bar".

It all sounds terribly glamorous but it doesn't exactly go to plan. Just like every other holiday, you wear the same pair of shorts day in, day out. As for the fabulous wide-brim straw hat you bought? It got squashed on the flight.


And now to the greatest holiday fantasy of all: the delusion that you can tackle in two weeks what you've put off all year long.

You imagine yourself taking early-morning walks on the beach, reflecting on the year that was and planning for the year ahead. You see yourself starting life-changing routines: a meditation practice, a reading habit, a plant-based diet (sure you can practically live on salads in the Med).

You're going to map out your future, spend quality time with your children, lighten your hair, work on your relationship, get your sex life back on track and maybe even take up yoga.

It's an exhausting list of life goals by anyone's reckoning. Just as well then that you spend the better part of the holiday asleep.

Irish Independent

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