For the third time that day, I saw someone’s mouth set itself into a supportive smile when I told them I was going on holiday to Wales.
“Oh,” said my friend. “Do you not like flying then?”
I actually don’t mind flying at all, I told her. I just fancied holidaying on the Welsh border this year. “Is it just a long weekend then?” she asked, unable to imagine that a staycation could be a proper holiday.
The truth is, I haven’t been abroad for about three years – and, right now, I can’t really be bothered to think about when I next will. When my partner and I sit down and decide where we’d like to spend our time off with our two kids (aged four and six), the very idea of hauling them on and off planes makes us feel nauseous. In fact, if it weren’t for the fact that I work from home and want to switch off entirely, we’d be pretty happy staying at home. We live in a beautiful part of West Yorkshire, we love our garden and we’ve made our house nice because, well, it’s where we live and that’s what you’re meant to do, isn’t it? We have no real desire to be far away from it.
But that’s not good enough for some people. “You can get some really cheap flights at the moment,” they say encouragingly, when I enthuse about the holiday cottage we often go to in Whitby. There is this arrogant assumption that we’d much rather be sunning ourselves in the Caribbean, and we just don’t have the money.
But, really, truly, it’s the last thing I want. And I’m genuinely not protesting too much. I like Britain. I like its hills and beaches and castles. I like its changeable weather. I actually, really do. I once spent the most meteorologically boring week of my life in Lanzarote, staring out the window wondering whether I would ever cool down or whether anything wet might ever fall from the sky.
Another friend recently asked me where I would choose to go on a cruise if money were no object. I couldn’t answer. If money were no object, I’d probably just go on loads of really nice day trips and cook a great meal in my own kitchen. I once spent a week on Cunard’s luxury cruise ship, the QMII, for work. It was impressive, of course, and everything you’d imagine. But it had the same people and the same foggy Atlantic view every single, interminable day. Why do people pick that over a week in the Lake District?
Why would you go on a cruise when you can stay in the Lake District, asks Hazel (Ben Barden/golakes.co.uk)
Before you ask, yes, I have travelled. I went around Alaska on my own at the age of 19. I’ve been to Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Hong Kong, America and much of Europe. I’m not the unadventurous mouse I may seem with my “staycations”, a word which inspires such a rage in me it would fuel several rides across the Atlantic.
Since when did a holiday have to be abroad to count as a vacation? Isn’t the point of a holiday to have a break? To stop work and forget your cares and woes? I don’t like being hot. I like the landscape I live in and I like fires, woods, rivers and bookshops. So the natural place for me to forget about my cares and woes this year was a working farm near Hay-on-Wye.
“Ah,” they all said said. “Do you have friends nearby?”
“No, just fancied it.”
“Did you go for the festival?”
“No. Just fancied it.”
A pause. Followed by a slightly more panicky, “Are you going anywhere else at all?”
Hazel stayed near book town Hay on Wye – and loved it (Getty)
What do you want from me? An admission that your holiday is better than mine? (I doubt it could be, by the way – I had real pigs in my garden and ice cream nearly every day.)
Another Instagram snap of the same cocktail by the same pool under the same sun? A picture of us gurning in a geyser? “Yeah we went to Iceland. It was so expensive, so we stayed in our flat a lot of the time, and there were so many tourists.” Well done, chump, you’ve ticked another one off the bucket list.
I’ll leave the fact that my 40-year-old partner has never been abroad and doesn’t even own a passport for another time. It stresses people out too much