GOING ABROAD to me is about work. It's about running through an airport and being scared to death that I've forgotten something I'm desperately going to need on a job, which I invariably have. Why on earth should I do that for a holiday?
British holidays are just less stressful. If you have forgotten something, or if something goes wrong, it doesn't matter - you can go and buy another one or you can get the help you need. This year the car broke down and I just took it to a garage where they fixed it - imagine doing that with a 1966 Triumph Herald in the middle of Italy. Admittedly language would not be a problem as my girlfriend is Italian although even she would have trouble translating "excessively worn prop-shaft universal joint".
I put my back out as well this year, playing tennis, and I just drove to a local osteopath, who happened to know the man I see in London. It wasn't the big drama it would have been if it had happened abroad, and I didn't have to worry about having forgotten to get travel insurance. You can forget your passport as well. And the currency is the same. You can even use your supermarket reward cards. Honestly, the benefits are endless.
The British countryside is very underrated - it can be spectacularly beautiful. You'd have to travel to Patagonia to get that sense of "I'm at the ends of the earth" you get from the Scottish Highlands. As for Dartmoor, it's one of the most breathtaking places on earth. I go for a fortnight every summer.
The holiday starts when we load the car up and we get so excited, driving with out hats on, the top down whether it's sunny or raining. There's something very Enid Blyton about it all, I admit, but it's not about recapturing my childhood; in fact I think it's the opposite. We never had a car when I was young and our holidays were nothing like this. I think it's about creating the holidays I'd like to have had.
I find knowing a place intimately is profoundly relaxing. I don't feel the pressure to go out and see local sights that I would if I were abroad. I've done all that here - I know every castle and stately home - so if I want to spend a morning vegging out in front of daytime television I can without feeling guilty. The British weather contributes to that feeling. It moderates what you do and takes the stress away - there's not that pressure to sunbathe fiercely. If we do have a hot day we can explore outside, but if it rains we stay in and read that book we always planned to, or listen to Radio 4, or scoff a cream tea.
Perhaps most importantly, our friends can join in. We can have time on our own, as a couple, and then friends can come for the weekend or even for the day and we can entertain them properly, in a house, in the way we never can at home because we haven't got the space or the time. Some of them come every year now and they say that it's because they can't bear to spend two weeks without us, but I know they're lying. Personally I think they need the break to recover from the stress of their holidays abroad.
IF YOU want a holiday in the UK, I've got a suggestion for you. Stay at home. In fact, why don't you stay at work and earn some overtime while you are at it. It will save you all the trouble of having to travel anywhere.
I'm sorry, but this is not a joke. A holiday in the UK strikes me as a sad and horrible contradiction in terms. You go to all the trouble of packing your car, you drive for hours, you finally arrive at your rented cottage by the seaside just as the sun looks like it might be condescending to come out - but then you find a note on the kitchen table requesting that music, children, hot showers, nudity, wine, good food and fun be kept to a minimum. For the sake of the neighbours.
Where did you think you had got to? Capri? Cannes? Or was it Barcelona? You turn on the TV and there's Noel Edmonds pretending to make jokes and the audience pretending to laugh. You open a newspaper and discover that John Prescott has been condemning the rail companies again. Then you go shopping for groceries: to Sainsbury's perhaps, to buy a jar of sauce and some frozen chicken for the microwave. Finally, come the evening, you pop in at the local pub only to be punched in the face by a young man who needs several centuries of intensive therapy. You apologise to him for his displeasure whilst repressing your desire to ram a shopping trolley down his throat. Oh dear. And then you remember that the whole point of going on holiday was to get away from all this.
I'm not denying that there is beautiful countryside in the UK. It's just that the culture is so depressingly familiar. When you've gone to the trouble of getting on to a plane, do you really want to get off an hour later and find that everybody is still saying "d'you mind?" and talking about the latest episode of Trisha? I don't. I want to get off planes and smell sexy foreign coffee and hear the jabber of sexy foreign languages. I want to hang out with people who were born with sun-tans and cool sun- glasses. I want to see corrupt policemen and funny Italian cars reversing up one-way streets. I want to be really hot: so hot that I can sleep all afternoon under a fan and nothing and nobody is going to wake me.
Call it snobbery if you like, but I don't know many people who would stay in the UK for their holiday if they had any choice about it. A few xenophobic toffs will insist on going to their upcountry mansions where they will poke about their wet and stormy moors by themselves. But the poor sods who end up in Blackpool every summer are there only because they can't afford to go abroad. If they had the money would they really sit in teashops at Formica-topped tables eating dreary scones and disgusting clotted cream, looking out over beachfronts covered in dog muck and chip wrappings? Of course they wouldn't. They would sit on terraces in Tuscany quaffing Chianti and breathing in the scent of wild herbs, watching the sun set over cypress trees and golden hillsides. As any sensible person would.
Jeremy Atiyah is travel editor of `The Independent'.Reuse content