Rhiannon Harries: Whatever happened to a short and sweet 'Wish you were here'

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The Independent Online

When you're staring into the abyss that is this boring, second leg of winter, a week of out-of-season sunshine is a tempting thought. Not to mention one that a few smug friends will doubtless have acted upon with the express intention of making everybody else feel jealous and pasty in equal measure.

Historically, though, I've found the combination of a low immune system and a winter-weight body to be a reliable spoiler for getaways in warm climes at this time of year, so I'm perfectly happy sticking with my old-fashioned holiday schedule.

That's to say, whiling away winter engrossed in travel porn in supplements such as this, spending spring debating unusual destinations, then admitting defeat in August and booking a last-minute deal to somewhere I've been before.

For now, I have more than enough vicarious travel action to tide me over, courtesy of all the friends who have disappeared on grown-up gap years and are now relaying their adventures, non-adventures, photos and generally quite banal thoughts via religiously updated blogs, newsletters, Twitter, Flickr and Facebook accounts.

Obviously, it's a pleasure to know that they are alive and well. And some are even half-decent snappers. But on the whole it's like watching a slightly cringey slow-mo film of one's own travels, as day by day the thrust of their musings segues from cautious newbie to fully fledged, barefoot cod philosopher.

It's a well-trodden, forgivable trajectory. Thinking you've found the meaning of life on a Goan beach is entirely understandable. Telling everyone else on that Goan beach, also fine. But blogging about it to friends sat at their desks in London is not likely to do you any favours and I know several people who have come to rue the day that they wrote 500 words about their plan to become a fire juggler in Koh Samui.

Holidays, particularly extended back-packing affairs, are brilliant because they foster qualities such as openness, excitement and wonder. Or, put another way, they bring out the child in us. But anyone who has hung on to their tween diaries will know that another feature of childhood is writing a lot of embarrassing crap you would never want anyone to see.

A blog may well give your travels a certain purpose, and I am impressed that while people are throwing off all the other constraints of bourgeois Western life they can still maintain a rigorous photo-uploading schedule. But I'm starting to realise why the traditional postcard only has space for a sentence on the weather and, unlike a Tweet, buying stamps usually prohibits anyone sending more than one.