Stephen Bayley: Still searching for the perfect holiday? Dream on

Something to Declare

As travel irrevocably becomes more beastly, so the literature of imaginary and forgotten places steadily enlarges. Two of my favourite books of recent years have described and catalogued real territories, present and past, whose existence trembles on the incredible. The first is Norman Davies's Vanished Kingdoms: The History of Half-forgotten Europe. The second is Judith Schalansky's Atlas of Remote Islands. In each, the frontier between fact and fantasy is disturbed.

Davies tells us about mysterious places such as Alt Clud, Tolosa and Litva … all once as much a part of Europe as Brussels and Milton Keynes are today. Meanwhile, Schalansky has mapped and described Southern Thule, Floreana and Annobón, islands she has never visited. This omission does not stop the book having a compulsive, voyeuristic quality which is deeply pleasurable.

History and geography have their mysteries, but so too does literature. Ruritania and Narnia, of course. But who is to say that they are less real than Professor Davies's disappeared countries?

Then there is our singular, or perhaps shared, dreamscape. Carl Gustav Jung had elaborate dreams about Liverpool, a city which, not surprisingly, he had never actually visited. Of course, Jung would be better placed than me to explain the sources of his nocturnal Merseyside fantasy.

I often wonder what our dream-time destinations tell us about our beliefs, preoccupations and fears. Quite a lot, I imagine, which is why I am so interested in my own. I have a recurrent dream, always experienced in great detail, about a place where I have also never been. At least, not in this life.

Significantly, it is an island (I like comprehensible territory). It's always daylight and the weather is good. There are not many people about, other than some scowling generic Welshmen or Mediterraneans. It's low-tide. My location is always the same: just outside of town (which I suspect is a place very revealing of a psychological state). There is a cheerful café-pub-trattoria-bodega-taverna (again, perhaps I am an edge-of-frame type). This I never quite see nor access and I tend to leave the island by a form of transport about which my dream is not specific. Always, there is a residual sense of yearning for something lost, or a sense of disappointment about something not fully realised. Says it all, really.

There's a new science, although some would say pseudo-science, called epigenetics. This concerns how we know things which we have not obviously learnt, the assumption being that our DNA carries memories of languages and places. This is why people sometimes take a knock to the head and wake-up speaking Frisian. If I am analytical, my dream island is probably a conflation of Moelfre in Anglesey, where I spent some enjoyable childhood holidays, and Skopelos in the northern Aegean where I am often found nowadays. So maybe Jung's Liverpool was an epigenetic episode as well. Perhaps an ancestor of C S Lewis actually lived in Narnia.

If we could summon-up epigenetic data at will, a great deal of travel would become redundant. Why? Because, like sex, the best travel really happens in the head. But don't worry, dream on. It's not going to happen.

The Independent travel offers: Discover a world of inspiring destinations

News
John Travolta is a qualified airline captain and employed the pilot with his company, Alto
people'That was the lowest I’d ever felt'
Life and Style
healthIt isn’t greasy. It doesn’t smell. And moreover, it costs nothing
Sport
Jonas Gutierrez (r) competes with Yaya Toure (l)
football

Newcastle winger is in Argentina having chemotherapy

Arts and Entertainment
Emma Thompson and Bryn Terfel are bringing Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street to the London Coliseum
theatre

Returning to the stage after 20 years makes actress feel 'nauseous'

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
peopleThe Times of India said actress should treat it as a 'compliment'
News
news

Watch this commuter wage a one-man war against the Circle Line
Property
Home body: Badger stays safe indoors
lifeShould we feel guilty about keeping cats inside?
News
A male driver reverses his Vauxhall Astra from a tow truck
news

Man's attempt to avoid being impounded heavily criticised

Arts and Entertainment
Blossoming love: Colin Firth as Stanley and Emma Stone as Sophie, in 'Magic in the Moonlight'
film

Colin Firth and Emma Stone star together in Magic in the Moonlight: Woody Allen's 1920s romance

Arts and Entertainment
You've been framed: Henri Matisse's colourful cut-outs at Tate Modern
artBut what makes a smash-hit art show?
Arts and Entertainment
US pop diva Jennifer Lopez sang “Happy Birthday” to Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow, president of Turkmenistan
musicCorporate gigs become key source of musicians' income
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'
filmsDaniel Craig believed to be donning skis as 007 for first time
Student
The Guildhall School of Music and Drama is to offer a BA degree in Performance and Creative Enterprise
student

Sport
Mikel Arteta pictured during Borussia Dortmund vs Arsenal
champions league
Voices
Yes supporters gather outside the Usher Hall, which is hosting a Night for Scotland in Edinburgh
voicesBen Judah: Is there a third option for England and Scotland that keeps everyone happy?
Arts and Entertainment
Pulp-fiction lover: Jarvis Cocker
booksJarvis Cocker on Richard Brautigan
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
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

    IT Administrator - Graduate

    £18000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: ***EXCELLENT OPPORTUNITY FO...

    USA/Florida Travel Consultants £30-50k OTE Essex

    Basic of £18,000 + commission, realistic OTE of £30-£50k : Ocean Holidays: Le...

    Marketing Executive / Member Services Exec

    £20 - 26k + Benefits: Guru Careers: A Marketing Executive / Member Services Ex...

    Sales Account Manager

    £15,000 - £25,000: Recruitment Genius: A fantastic opportunity has arisen for ...

    Day In a Page

    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
    These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

    Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

    Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
    Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

    Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

    His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    The Imitation Game, film review
    England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

    England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

    Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week