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Give me a holiday. Holiday planning. Holiday booking. Holiday rescheduling. Holiday photography. Holiday everything – I am obsessed with my holiday. Holiday!
Everybody likes holidays though, I hear you say. What’s wrong with looking forward to having a few days free?
Looking forward would be only half of the problem though. The truth is that, when it comes to holiday, I am starting to notice a number of worrying symptoms in myself. Which worry me increasingly more every day. As goes below.
Firstly, I book holidays ages in advance. Last-minute planning is something I never understood. How can people do that? The thought of an unplanned near-term holiday makes me feel almost uncomfortable. Having to decide last-minute to end up “wherever” is depressing in the core.
I do things differently. My holidays are all pre-booked months in advance. Absolutely months. My spring 2008 adventure in Jordan was booked in September 2007. My upcoming Easter getaway to Bulgaria was crystallised on an insignificant October day back in 2009. As of January 2010, I had eight trips booked until June alone, excluding business travel. As of now, I have completed four of those and have booked more to land at eleven pending by 2011. Over the last two days, I have finalised the itineraries for my Mexican and Vietnamese holidays covering two weeks in October and December, respectively. I have even booked hotels and domestic flights and started booking excursions and trains. This is simply scary.
Secondly, I book compulsively. Yes, months in advance BUT compulsively. Sometimes, unaware of what’s awaiting me, I sip my tea quietly in front of the monitor in the evening – when a great new travel destination suddenly descends upon me – like a tropical thunderstorm on a calm day.
Instantly, the whole world turns upside down. I check flights on Opodo. I re-check them on each individual airline’s website. I look up average weather conditions for specific months on BBC. Hotels’ reviews are retrieved from Tripadvisor, and their availability – from Booking.com. Domestic transport connections are not always the easiest to find, but I nail them down one by one till my flag is flying proudly on their entire territory. If there is a railway network in the country, I get all excited – I absolutely have to try it. 1,700 km from Hanoi to Saigon? Peanuts. I’ll have it, please. I love travelling by rail. What about travel safety? No-one gives better advice than the UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office. The itinerary gradually begins to gain a sort of a shape. Finally, an affordable flight option emerges out of the blue, amid the dozen overpriced ones. The temptation becomes irresistible. I sit there, looking at the fare and imagining it inflating out of proportion a minute later. I have to have it. “Book”.
In fact, I love my bookings so much that I would dissolve in the air before delegating them to anyone. Sometimes friends offer help with reservations – after having visited the destination themselves or simply as a welcoming gesture. Nothing could be more unwelcome from my side. On one hand, it is the pleasure of planning time off while maintaining the control over the destination, accommodation, timetable and activities. On the other hand, it is about not being dependent on anyone and being solely accountable to myself in case of an emergency. The idea of letting somebody down with my holiday choices – or being let down by theirs – is close to unbearable. Perhaps that is why I have been travelling alone ever since I can remember.
Finally, I cannot settle for a quiet holiday in a single location. I absolutely have to have it all! My first attempt of a relaxing holiday was two weeks in Singapore three years ago. After examining the map, I realised Kuala Lumpur could easily fit in as well. Then, naturally, it turned out that the island of Penang was not far from Kuala Lumpur, either – although in the opposite direction. The culmination came when, to the sound of trumpet music, I discovered a RAILWAY link between Singapore and Penang via Kuala Lumpur. Which was in fact stretching all the way to Bangkok. For mere 1,946 km. I don’t think I need to tell anyone what the outcome was. Yes, the holiday was incredible – except for the fact that I had to take a few days off sick from work upon my return to London. Besides being deeply sunburnt in places and exhausted beyond recognition, I could barely walk anymore. One would think I had learnt my lesson…
…alas. Last year I chose former Yugoslavia for a holiday. The initial idea was to spend a few days at a friend’s summer house near Zadar, Croatia. But, finding the Dalmatian coast incredibly alluring, I made the first change to my trip. I was now going to travel from Zadar down to Dubrovnik with a couple of stops on the way; nothing dramatic. Then a Montenegrin friend popped out, offering a day-trip to the Bay of Kotor, and I duly scheduled a trip across the border. In the course of things, a classic map examination revealed the proximity to Dubrovnik of Mostar in Bosnia & Herzegovina. Where Mostar fits, Sarajevo will, I sang as I continued to expand my route.
But how would I get from Sarajevo back to Zadar to catch my flight? Travelling back the same route seemed like the best option – until I noticed that serpentine little black line on the map. Shivers same streaming down my spine. Railway! Sarajevo to Zagreb, “only” nine hours in one go. The result was my famous “Balkan Odyssey” (Part I and Part II): two weeks of zooming around three countries, with 11 stopovers and 1,700 km of ground travel covered. Need I say more?
Through Bosnia by rail – not for the faint-hearted My 2010 holiday season will officially kick off in a couple of weeks with an exciting trip to Hong Kong. It will be followed by equally exciting getaways to Iceland, New York, DC, Balkans, Mexico and Vietnam – as well as countless short-haul European adventures along the way. Frankly, I think I am sorted for this year.
Hold on though… how warm was Vancouver in September again?