Welcome to Staycation Nation

Friday, 21st August 2009 at 8:00 UTC 4 comments

Apparently this summer is meant to be the summer of the “Staycation”, people deciding to holiday in Britain instead of going overseas in order to save money. This leaves me wondering when it became insufficient to simply Vacate one’s town or city, and why we need a whole new (or rather, American) term for a holiday we take inside our national boundaries.

When I first heard the hype about Staycations, my initial reaction was to imagine Londoners spending a week wondering along the Thames and sun bathing in Hyde Park, York citizens revisiting those museums we often forget we have, Edinburgh people taking a week off work to immerse themselves in the Festival or Fringe. To me the term sounds like a holiday from work in which you enjoy your surroundings without the hassle of work added in, a sort of community enjoyment exercise, if you will.

Instead, I’m led to believe that it still requires people travelling some distance to stay in a hotel, in order that they can imagine they’ve completely left the world from which they are escaping. My view on this is more or less a mix of tragic realisation that our lives are so full of crap and our jobs so unfulfilling that we have to run away, and a sense that this is really still very much a vacation.

My stepfather recounts holidays in which his Mum took him and his Brother to a house in rural-ish Kent for a month in summer, and from which their father would commute daily to London. Even that seems to me to be a fairly reasonable vacation for all but the father figure, to whom the change was probably as good as a rest (I believe he would then take a week at the end of the month to just enjoy the surroundings).

Perhaps more than anything we’ve become so conditioned into believe we have some kind of right to international travel for our holidays, that we’ve forgotten how to holiday within our own country; its a shame, for this country does have such a lot to offer. From music festivals to hiking to High Culture and even, yes, shockingly given we’re, like, an Island: Beaches! And some of them are actually cleaner than some of the European ones we Brits apparently love. I suspect thats because we’ve spent the last decade flying over the British beaches so we can trash the Spanish ones instead.

I think the points I want to get at are two-fold. First, this new term in our vocabulary indicates a normativisation of overseas holidays, or more simply, we think the default is to holiday overseas, that our language is actually a reflection of our spoilt situation. Second, that we’re becoming so in need of an escape from our work that its clear our work culture isn’t just environmentally unsustainable, its also becoming humanly unsustainable; all these people who’ve apparently “made it” in some sense or other, actually are so unsatisfied with the way they must live that they have to run off to another landmass to be far enough away from it all.

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Entry filed under: Community, Environment, Language, Leisure, Sustainability, Travel.

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4 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Neil T.  |  Friday, 21st August 2009 at 9:21 UTC

    Staycation is a sort of word that intrigues me – an example of a retronym. It’s a word or term that we have only started using as a means of differentiating from a new technology or development.

    20 years ago, you wouldn’t have called the telephone cable that runs into your house a ‘landline’ because there were very few mobiles. You also didn’t talk about ‘analogue television’ – it was just television as we didn’t have digital.

    In the same vein, we didn’t celebrate the end of ‘World War I’ in 1918 – it was the ‘The Great War’. I don’t think another world war was planned at the time…

    Anyway, back to work. I have to ‘snail mail’ some documents.

    Reply
  • 2. Lois  |  Friday, 21st August 2009 at 13:37 UTC

    Or possibly people are actually unable to get away from work unless they are physically away- I’ve known several people who end up going into work on days off. I imagine the higher up the ladder you go the greater the temptaion just to pop in and see how things are going.

    And as someone who has always holidayed in Britain, and is quite happy to do so, I think it’s a shame when people can reel off the places they’ve been to in Spain or France but have no idea about the geography of their own country or its beauty and variety.

    Reply
    • 3. Graham Martin  |  Tuesday, 1st September 2009 at 16:35 UTC

      Indeed, in fact, that shall be the topic of a blog post very shortly. Tips people: Evesham and Lichfield both demand a nosey!

      Reply
  • 4. Junius  |  Wednesday, 26th August 2009 at 13:21 UTC

    “Instead, I’m led to believe that it still requires people travelling some distance to stay in a hotel, in order that they can imagine they’ve completely left the world from which they are escaping. My view on this is more or less a mix of tragic realisation that our lives are so full of crap and our jobs so unfulfilling that we have to run away, and a sense that this is really still very much a vacation.”

    That’s an awfully negative point of view. There are plenty of reasons to actually go away for a holiday – if nothing else, a change of scenery is nice in itself. Not to mention a lot of people live in cities and like to go somewhere quieter to relax, might want to visit a specific site, have family or friends somewhere, etc.

    Regarding your closing comments on the term “Staycation” itself, I can’t think of a single person I know who uses it, nor have I ever come across it in any form of media before seeing it in your blog.

    The whole idea seems ridiculous – something to be giggled about “other people” using, along with so many other terms made up (and instantly forgotten) by the media to give them something to talk about. Unless there’s some evidence of this term actually being used by the public at large, I don’t really see what conclusions you can draw from it.

    Your seeming assumption that the only reason for people to go away for a holiday is to run from some hellish existence back home is unpleasant, bordering on misanthropic.

    Reply

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