Stylist columnist Lucy Mangan hasn't had a proper holiday in over a decade, and now she wants to explore.
Normally I would have to recuse myself for a travel issue. I have, after all, nothing to say. I’ve always hated going anywhere. The sum total of my foreign travels are: France for a week (sixth form exchange trip with a girl called Delphine who couldn’t believe that I didn’t smoke and wouldn’t eat what I still firmly believe were pig lips); Italy (a week in a villa with friends in my 20s, a valiant attempt on their loyal parts to normalise me); and two weeks in New York for work 10 years ago, where I got engaged. I heartily dislike being married, so as yet no good has come of leaving home.
I do not currently have a valid passport. I rent a cottage for a fortnight in north Norfolk twice a year, which is basically like living in a giant Waitrose inside a giant park. It does not count as travel.
But. But. Here’s the thing. Times change and, unless we’re very careful, we change with them. And this has, while my attention was apparently elsewhere, at last happened to me. The wanderlust has crept into my soul. I didn’t even know I had a soul. But I do, and now it wants to explore.
Why? I think because the alternative is that otherwise it may be crushed out of existence forever. For the past 12 years I have been self-employed, which means I haven’t had a proper holiday in over a decade. Not one whose supposedly peaceful days aren’t fragmented by the ping of emails arriving, commissions being accepted and the sound of me banging out another article on the laptop because I am too weak, frightened and impoverished to turn anything down. (Also, I love writing. But I am mainly poor and weak.)
And somewhere deep within me, I think a switch must have flipped. I do want a holiday. And a proper one. And for that to happen, I have realised I need to go further afield. Geographical distance from work and worry must help mental distance too.
I cannot tell you how unsettling this is. All my life I have resisted change and now it has happened within my own self, and wholly without my permission. WTF? What next? Vegetarianism? Religion? Laughing at Mrs Brown’s Boys?
My instinct is to resist this internal change as hard as I would resist any other. Because even in a matter so inconsequential, it feels disorientating. I’m slightly embarrassed to say to friends, “I’ve changed my mind. I wanna do this thing,” and it feels deeply unnatural to add, as I want and need to, “Can you help me?”
But that would be a madness. So, if any friends are reading this, help me. How do you book a flight? What does a luggage allowance actually look like? Do I need a passport if I’m going somewhere really close? What countries have infinity pools, bookshops, coffee, no terrorism, non-blistering heat, sandy beaches, adequate health and safety laws, picturesque medieval streets, lovely food, no museums or architecture that a stupid husband you picked up in New York would want to drag you round? The Greek islands maybe. Santorini? Is that a place or a drink? What about Japan to see the cherry blossom? Or Cuba before the Fifties cars and revolutionary vibe disappear? Or somewhere that knows how to do snow properly? Or back to Manhattan now the marital damage is done? Help me. Help me change. Because now, suddenly, at last – I gotta get out of here.
So where to go, no really, where is it?
One of my many – and somehow, despite the accrual of years and you would hope some wisdom, increasing – areas of ignorance is geography. I know almost nothing about where anywhere is.
Any knowledge I once had – and I dimly remember being tested on a map of Europe once in pre-GCSE geography (they made me take history GCSE in the end) – has long withered through lack of sustaining interest. I know France, and Scandinavia (not the separate countries, just the fact that joined together they’re the ones that look like a penis hanging down over – uh… Germany?) but that’s about it. Switzerland is landlocked somewhere, but where? Is it Greece or Italy that looks like a boot? Where’s Mauritius and is it a reasonable distance to go for a weekend break there? Bangkok’s surely just a punchline, not a real place. And if I secretly still think that people in Australia MUST walk around upside down, should I be allowed to leave the house at all?
Photography: Ellis Parrinder, Thinkstock