In the age of Instagram, it's easy to return from holiday feeling more stressed than when you left

I yearn for the days when you came back from abroad with absolutely no idea what had happened since you left

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The Independent Online

I go on holiday tomorrow. Two weeks of staycation encompassing some far-flung, and varied, parts of Britain: Cornwall, East Lothian, Manchester and Oxfordshire. It’s the first time for many years that I’ve not gone abroad for my summer holiday, and I'm rather excited about the fact that I’m setting off down the A303 rather than heading to Terminal 5. I have the right currency and I don’t need to worry about having liquids in my hand luggage.

I don’t have a fear of flying; I have a fear of all that flying entails. I find the whole airport experience dispiriting, from the queues at security to the teeming retail hell. By the time I get to my seat in the aircraft, nursing a brooding irritation at what some people consider hand luggage, I’m definitely ready for a holiday.

For many people, going away is a stressful business, and a survey of 2,000 holiday makers commissioned by Nationwide this week confirmed the fact. Up to 40 per cent of those questioned said they arrived at the airport worried about something, such as forgetting to pack a specific item or whether they’re covered by insurance should anything go wrong. They didn’t record the number of people who are convulsed with anxiety about whether they left the iron on or if they remembered to put the car alarm on.

But if going on holiday is stressful in itself, actually being on holiday is a passport to a whole new world of worries. According to the poll, almost a quarter of people return home more stressed than when they left.

I’m sure this shocking figure is the expression of a relatively new phenomenon: the difficulty most of us have these days in switching off – literally, and metaphorically. Look around any beach on the Med and most people won’t be reading books or idly day-dreaming, but will instead be staring at, or talking into, their mobile phones.

I am old enough to remember what it was like to return after an overseas holiday and not to have a clue what had been going on for the previous two weeks. It took hours of going through old newspapers to discover the football scores, or to find out who’s died, got married or been disgraced. And then, a few days after you’d come home, your postcards would start arriving. Now, we’re only a Google alert away from hearing about everything.

 

I’ve been in the position recently when, from a remote island in the Caribbean, I was able to relay breaking news to friends back at home. This is clearly bonkers. We go away to be away: to discover other cultures, to withdraw into a calmer interior landscape, to be unclouded by the pressures of our daily lives. That just isn’t possible if we’re umbilically connected to a mobile phone.

It’s a factor of the fear of missing out, and of the pleasure of posting a picture on Instagram to illustrate just how fabulous we are.

Paradoxically, I might feel more cut off in Cornwall. It takes longer to get there than virtually any Mediterranean island, and you can rarely get a phone signal there anyway.

What joy! It’s like a foreign country.

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