We are a generation of nomads – so why do we all go abroad on the same day?

The only way to halt the ageing process is to keep doing and seeing something different, even if you spend your time sitting in a queue

Janet Street-Porter
Friday 29 July 2016 15:26 BST
Traffic jams are expected this weekend as holidaymakers set off to their destinations
Traffic jams are expected this weekend as holidaymakers set off to their destinations (Getty)

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Louise Thomas

Louise Thomas


This weekend, the roads in France will be gridlocked. The French highways authority has issued a “black warning”, advising holidaymakers to travel at other times. Fat chance!

The holiday season is in full swing and all the usual events have unfolded with predictable inevitability – day after day of huge tailbacks on motorways approaching Dover (caused by a lack of staff at French Border control), a new check-in system at Heathrow that had “teething” problems (or maybe a staff go-slow?), and in my local town they’ve started digging up the main road, installing temporary traffic lights and enraging thousands of motorists visiting the annual oyster festival.

And avoid heading to Sussex or the south coast in early August, as the RMT union has called a five day walkout. August, for the vast majority of us, means holidays and each year, like lemmings, we seem to forget the ghastly experiences we had the year before and go into repeat mode.

This busy weekend is known as the chasse-croise in France, when tourists from Northern Europe and the Baltic return from the sunny south and west at the same time as everyone from the UK and France start their vacations and head in the opposite direction. Result: chaos and frayed tempers, queues at toll booths, and no way of getting to a toilet.

Dover tailbacks

Next weekend is predicted to be just as bad, and it’s been the same story for decades. Sure, school holidays are partly responsible – but why do we all choose to pack up and go away the minute kids break up?

Last year I did the smart thing and travelled to Turin from Ashford on the Eurostar and TGV, renting a car at the last minute to drive to Piedmont, where the roads were empty and few Brits bother to go because there are no beaches. That was an exception, though. Every other August, like everyone else, I have to have a holiday – even if it means traffic jams, queues at airports and two hours to get through border control.

My generation are nomads, we can’t bear to be in one place for too long, and no holiday is worth going on unless it involves a huge amount of logistics.

Unlike my parents’ generation (or most politicians, who have to pretend they love a cheap flight to a beach resort) I never go to the same place year after year. I will spend many weeks online planning my trips, in the futile hope of finding a destination or hotel that no one else has discovered.

The internet enables nerds like me to mull over endless blogs and travel tips, resulting in a heavy purchase of maps and guides, weighing almost as much as a suitcase. Luxury hotels, loungers and spas hold no appeal. The way I travel is an extension of my personality – unpredictable and potentially disastrous.

This year I’m going to Scotland, fishing and hiking in the Highlands and then visiting an island on the west coast. The drive north around Loch Lomond from Glasgow (based on previous experiences) is one of my top five most hated routes; hours crawling along staring at the back of a large white caravan, just like thousands of other happy travellers on the Autoroute du Soleil between Lyon and Marseille.

On my return, I’ve planned a trip (involving a hire car, naturally) to Sweden – a long and complicated pilgrimage to all the sites where my favourite Scandi-Noir fiction is set, from Ystad to Oland, Gothenberg to Fjallbacka. I fully expect to meet Wallander for a beer or pass Saga Noren on the bridge linking Malmo and Copenhagen.

Part of my restlessness and compulsion to travel is down to FOMO (fear of missing out). I’ve always envied a rock musician, permanently on tour. I am never happier than arriving at a new place, checking out a local place to eat, walking into a gallery or browsing through a junk shop.

The only way to halt the ageing process is through doing something different – even if it inevitably means sitting in a queue.

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