Should I Stay Or Should I Go?
By Alan Hancock
Photography by Sofy Robertson and Unsplash
People love planning their holidays almost as much as they enjoy taking them. Even despite political uncertainty and difficult financial situations for many up and down the country, holidays very much remain a spending priority. Particularly at this time of the year, with the festive season stress well and truly out of the way, a gloomy British winter in full swing and holiday discounts popping up all over the place a lot of us turn our attention to the prospect of sun, sea, sand and sights. But aside from the obvious objectives of relaxation, having fun and making memories, how else does global travel benefit us personally and what about what we have right on our doorstep?
According to the Association of British Travel Agents’ Holiday Habits report published in September last year, 45% of British holidaymakers planned to visit a new country in the twelve months that followed, with city breaks being the most popular holiday of choice (which struck me as two pleasantly surprising statistics). It would seem to suggest that the British reputation of toasting ourselves beet red on a sunny beach somewhere in southern Spain every year isn’t entirely justified and that there is a huge appetite amongst us for discovering something new regularly.
The old adage that travel broadens the mind is undeniably true, and the further afield you go, the broader it becomes, so perhaps the opportunity to see and experience is slowly becoming the new rest and relaxation.
World travel has increasingly become a rite of passage for many young adults and even for me, a not-as-young adult, the idea of a good holiday is being awestruck by the achievements of humanity, humbled by the power of nature and engaged by the subtle quirks of a different culture. It’s in exploration, seeing, doing and being literally outside of our comfort zone where we can refresh the mind and discover life affirming aspects of our own character that we may not have realised we had.
This isn’t a roundabout way of encouraging you to hop on the next plane bound for Thailand to “find yourself” but a reminder, particularly for the globally sceptical, of how overcoming challenges, finding the joy in exploring something new and navigating our own path through an exciting and unfamiliar way of life can provide genuine psychological benefits that change us for the better after we return.
Writing in Psychology Today Dr Jean Kim M.D suggests that
“seeing different people and cultures and encountering them directly as individuals and human beings opens yourself to becoming more tolerant and flexible about unfamiliar ways of life. Your sense of empathy can increase, which can help you feel better able to negotiate interpersonal issues back home as well. You can also learn and appreciate things to seek out and continue enjoying at home, like a delicious dish or new genre of music.”
It’s the addictive sense of adventure and the broadening of horizons that breaks up the routine of day-to-day life and helps keep our minds active and healthy.
In this sense, perhaps we underestimate just how good holidays can be for us. When you haven’t been away for a long time or there’s little variation from year to year, you can forget how refreshing it is after you return. Foreign travel is an excellent escape but it’s not always possible due to the cost. However, that doesn’t mean you cannot also experience something similar a little closer to home.
I tend to overlook the U.K. as a potential holiday destination and I’m certainly guilty of taking it for granted. I forget how fortunate I am to be a native son of the Westcountry and, in being so eager to get away and see the world, I forget what’s in my own backyard.
I grew up near Dunster, famous for its medieval castle and Yarn Market; an area surrounded by outstanding natural beauty, fifteen minutes from a beach and twenty from a seaside holiday resort all linked by heritage railway. We, in Somerset, Devon and Cornwall combined, have access to an incredibly diverse array of beaches, distinctively British sightseeing spots, shopping opportunities and our own unique local cultures. Tourism is a massive part of our collective economy and absolutely vital for our coastal towns and villages but because we’re involved in the business of living here sometimes, we lose sight of what’s right in front of us.
In my view, Exeter is a city very much like Rome in that you can feel it’s rich with history. As it grows, it’s heritage is woven into its development with a piece of it celebrated around almost every corner yet, unlike Rome, it’s small enough to retain it’s sense of community. The old Tudor houses, the beautiful Cathedral, the narrow, cobbled streets; a nightmare for traffic of course but, when you step back and appreciate it’s novelty as a visitor might, you realise that it’s these small details that gives the city it’s unique character.
We in the Westcountry, and Devon in particular, need only step out of our front doors and travel for less than an hour to experience something truly spectacular. Whether that’s heading for the Jurassic Coast and Durdle Door, England’s first natural World Heritage site, Dartmoor National Park or the Valley of the Rocks near Lynton and Lynmouth.
I recall a piece of advice I was given when I was encouraged to holiday at home. Book a hotel in your hometown, explore the area as a tourist and experience things you may not have done before. Not only will you return reinvigorated but also with a renewed appreciation and love for the region in which you live, turning your commute into your favourite part of the day.
You don’t necessarily have to go to those lengths but experiencing that sense of global adventure here at home is within reach, especially for us. The grass may well be greener elsewhere, but our own garden ain’t so bad either.