Simon Calder: The holiday feelgood factor

The man who pays his way

Even as the rain doused the quayside at Limassol, and fierce clouds jostled over the Troodos Mountains, at 8am on Wednesday I was in fine spirits after a "Pharaohs and the Promised Land" cruise. Then I met Robert Durrant, a retired cleaning contractor from Norwich in the Lido Restaurant on Deck 5, and we swapped stories about the trip just ended.

Climbing to the towering castle at Alanya in Turkey; being welcomed by the Egyptians on Alexandria's elegant Corniche; and clambering through the ruins of Masada, high above the Israeli side of the Dead Sea. After a week like that, who wouldn't feel fitter and happier?

Especially, he added, at the price he paid. A week of sleeping, eating and drifting from one Mediterranean port to another, including flights from London, cost Mr and Mrs Durrant a last-minute £550 each. I didn't mind in the slightest that I had paid rather more, because unlike Mr Durrant I had enjoyed an extra month of anticipation of the trip – a most important component among the rewards of travel.

Yet Mr Durrant's parting comment temporarily dented my good humour. I had booked the lowest-grade accommodation on board: a windowless inside cabin close to the engine room. So had Mr Durrant. But he had been given an upgrade, and had spent the week living it up in cabin 862, complete with porthole and, presumably, dazzling sunshine. As with Titanic, some passengers are more equal than others.

A touch of cabin envy aside, I certainly felt happier and healthier at the end of the trip. (I chose not to regard the unlimited food on offer as a challenge.) But a vague feeling of well-being is one thing; scientific evidence of the impact of a holiday is quite another. Which is why the pioneering research by Kuoni into the physiological and psychological impact of a holiday is to be welcomed.

The tour operator is offering free holidays to six people who are prepared be prodded, poked and psychoanalysed to measure the power of good that a holiday is supposed to do for you.

The happy half-dozen will be despatched to locations in Africa, Asia and the Indian Ocean. Researchers will measure stress and anxiety pre-departure and post-arrival, and the participants will keep "mood diaries".

Given that the experiment is being paid for by a holiday company, you might imagine that the results are a foregone conclusion: it is unlikely to demonstrate that we would all be happier and healthier if we stayed at home and closed the curtains, rather seeking out enlightenment, adventure or pure indulgence. But such is the stress involved in an overseas holiday, maybe not.

In normal life, you do not awaken at 3am and make your bleary, weary way to an airport in order to stand in a series of queues where you must demonstrate, repeatedly, that (a) you are who you say you are, and (b) you intend neither to circumvent hand-baggage regulations nor to commit mass murder. Between you and your final destination stand inclement weather and striking air-traffic controllers. In the event you reach your destination and decompress yourself from the cheap seats, you may well find that the locals have the temerity to speak languages other than English and to eat all manner of strange food. Throw in intemperate climates, dangerous creatures and unwholesome plumbing, and it's a wonder we don't all return as emotional wrecks. Happily for the travel industry, nothing seems to dull our appetite for venturing abroad.

I went off to fetch a cup of coffee for Mr Durrant, and reflected on three universal truths of travel. First, there is no correlation between pounds-paid-per-hour and the value of the experiences and encounters you acquire; next, memories of journeys boost long-term well-being; finally, the other man's cabin is always brighter.

For more on the Holiday Health Experiment see bit.ly/HolHealth

Encounters of the backpacking kind

The fastest way to stress-test a new relationship and assess its long-term health prospects? Travel together. While absence may indeed make the heart grow fonder, close proximity on a journey is the best way to judge compatibility. Lazing on the beach or exploring ruins? Local cuisine or "safe" fast food? You quickly find what makes the other person tick, and sick.

This applies particularly on a make-it-up-as-you-go-along backpacking trip. Personal habits, foibles and preferences are all sharply exposed on the road. You can judge how well, or badly, the two of you respond to the unexpected joys and unforeseen calamities of travel.

After a couple of weeks of heat and dust, dodgy hostels and overcrowded buses, you should be able to tell whether a prospective new flame should become a permanent travelling companion, or despatched to the dating departure lounge.

travel@independent.co.uk

The Independent travel offers: Discover a world of inspiring destinations

News
Patrick Stewart in the classiest ice bucket to date
people
News
Australian rapper Iggy Azalea was left red faced but, thankfully, unhurt after taking a few too many steps backwards, sending her tumbling off the stage.
peopleIggy Azalea was left red faced but apparently unhurt after taking a few too many steps backwards
News
newsComedian Lee Hurst started trend with first tweet using the hashtag
News
The current recommendation from Britain's Chief Medical Officer, is that people refrain from drinking on at least two days a week
food + drinkTheory is that hangovers are caused by methanol poisoning
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
A nearly completed RoboThespian robot inside the Engineered Arts workshop is tested in Penryn, England. The Cornish company, operating from an industrial unit near Falmouth, is the world's only maker of commercially available life sized humanoid robots
techSuper-intelligent robots could decide destroying the human race is the kindest thing to do
News
scienceExcitement from alien hunters at 'evidence' of extraterrestrial life
News
newsRyan Crighton goes in search of the capo dei capi
Life and Style
techConcept would see planes coated in layer of micro-sensors and able to sense wear and tear
Life and Style
Customers can get their caffeine fix on the move
food + drink
Extras
indybest

Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Arts and Entertainment
Actors front row from left, Jared Leto, Jennifer Lawrence, Meryl Streep, Ellen DeGeneres, Bradley Cooper, Peter Nyongío Jr., and, second row, from left, Channing Tatum, Julia Roberts, Kevin Spacey, Brad Pitt, Lupita Nyongío and Angelina Jolie as they pose for a
film
Sport
sport
Life and Style
techCould new invention save millions in healthcare bills?
Sport
David Moyes gets soaked
sport Moyes becomes latest manager to take part in the ALS challenge
Voices
A meteor streaks across the sky during the Perseid Meteor Shower at a wind farm near Bogdanci, south of Skopje, Macedonia, in the early hours of 13 August
voicesHagel and Dempsey were pure Hollywood. They only needed Tom Cruise, says Robert Fisk
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Oracle 11g SQL 2008 DBA (Unix, Oracle RAC, Mirroring, Replicati

    £6000 - £50000 per annum + Bonus+Benefits+Package: Harrington Starr: Oracle 11...

    Recruitment Consultant (Graduate Trainee), Finchley Central

    £17K OTE £30K: Charter Selection: Highly successful and innovative specialist...

    SQL DBA/ C# Developer - T-SQL, C#.Net

    £45000 - £55000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Working with an exciting ...

    Sales and Office Administrator – Sports Media

    £23,000: Sauce Recruitment: A global leader in sports and entertainment is now...

    Day In a Page

    All this talk of an ‘apocalyptic’ threat is simply childish

    Robert Fisk: All this talk of an ‘apocalyptic’ threat is simply childish

    Chuck Hagel and Martin Dempsey were pure Hollywood. They only needed Tom Cruise
    Mafia Dons: is the Camorra in control of the Granite City?

    Mafia Dons: is the Camorra in control of the Granite City?

    So claims an EU report which points to the Italian Mob’s alleged grip on everything from public works to property
    Emmys look set to overhaul the Oscars as Hollywood’s prize draw

    Emmys look set to overhaul the Oscars as Hollywood’s prize draw

    Once the poor relation, the awards show now has the top stars and boasts the best drama
    What happens to African migrants once they land in Italy during the summer?

    What happens to migrants once they land in Italy?

    Memphis Barker follows their trail through southern Europe
    French connection: After 1,300 years, there’s a bridge to Mont Saint-Michel

    French connection: After 1,300 years, there’s a bridge to Mont Saint-Michel

    The ugly causeway is being dismantled, an elegant connection erected in its place. So everyone’s happy, right?
    Frank Mugisha: Uganda's most outspoken gay rights activist on changing people's attitudes, coming out, and the threat of being attacked

    Frank Mugisha: 'Coming out was a gradual process '

    Uganda's most outspoken gay rights activist on changing people's attitudes, coming out, and the threat of being attacked
    Radio 1 to hire 'YouTube-famous' vloggers to broadcast online

    Radio 1’s new top ten

    The ‘vloggers’ signed up to find twentysomething audience
    David Abraham: Big ideas for the small screen

    David Abraham: Big ideas for the small screen

    A blistering attack on US influence on British television has lifted the savvy head of Channel 4 out of the shadows
    Florence Knight's perfect picnic: Make the most of summer's last Bank Holiday weekend

    Florence Knight's perfect picnic

    Polpetto's head chef shares her favourite recipes from Iced Earl Grey tea to baked peaches, mascarpone & brown sugar meringues...
    Horst P Horst: The fashion photography genius who inspired Madonna comes to the V&A

    Horst P Horst comes to the V&A

    The London's museum has delved into its archives to stage a far-reaching retrospective celebrating the photographer's six decades of creativity
    Mark Hix recipes: Try our chef's summery soups for a real seasonal refresher

    Mark Hix's summery soups

    Soup isn’t just about comforting broths and steaming hot bowls...
    Tim Sherwood column: 'It started as a three-horse race but turned into the Grand National'

    Tim Sherwood column

    I would have taken the Crystal Palace job if I’d been offered it soon after my interview... but the whole process dragged on so I had to pull out
    Eden Hazard: Young, gifted... not yet perfect

    Eden Hazard: Young, gifted... not yet perfect

    Eden Hazard admits he is still below the level of Ronaldo and Messi but, after a breakthrough season, is ready to thrill Chelsea’s fans
    Tim Howard: I’m an old dog. I don’t get too excited

    Tim Howard: I’m an old dog. I don’t get too excited

    The Everton and US goalkeeper was such a star at the World Cup that the President phoned to congratulate him... not that he knows what the fuss is all about
    Match of the Day at 50: Show reminds us that even the most revered BBC institution may have a finite lifespan – thanks to the opposition

    Tom Peck on Match of the Day at 50

    The show reminds us that even the most revered BBC institution may have a finite lifespan – thanks to the opposition