Travel Comment
Ponderings on all aspects of travel - both at home and abroad.

Josh Martin: Get over it, and get over there

Josh Martin sticks up for cheap weekends on the Continent.
Perhaps it's a bit of classism masquerading as a rallying call against the commercial nature of travel. Photo / 123RF
Perhaps it's a bit of classism masquerading as a rallying call against the commercial nature of travel. Photo / 123RF

Let's try to make this painless. Resist the urge to sigh, or worse - joke.

"And how long do you plan to stay in the UK? ... What visa do you hold, sir? What newspaper do you write for? Hmm, never heard of it."

Here we are again. Another Sunday, another bolt from the clammy plane to join the crawling border control queue at Gatwick airport. You know, the scenes always suspiciously missing from every travel advert. Yet, I've become a regular here, a sucker for those "48 hours in . . . " magazine articles and city-break sales.

Two-day jaunts where the time in the European city is just enough to justify the bleary eyes come Monday morning when I say: "Yes, I'd love a coffee, all these weekends away are really tiring me out." This First World problem, typical of a Kiwi on an OE, draws a few side-eye glares from my London colleagues.

But like any addict, I don't see any other way. With very cheap flights and myriad cultures - along with festivals, and food that changes with the season - just across the Channel, I'd be mad not to take advantage.

I'm guilty of running Skyscanner flight searches at work on Mondays rather than digesting where I've just travelled to and appreciating the people met along the way. A junkie looking for the next hit.

To workmates in London and my parents back home I'm the personification of excess. For my folks back in New Zealand, weekends in a foreign land, even if it's only a 45-minute flight, is the epitome of frittering away hard-earned cash - understandable when a weekend for two in Australia would cost more than $800 in flights.

But do they have a point? Have my weekend jollies to the continent become just an exercise in box-ticking and Facebook fodder? If so, I'm no better than the victims of that other Kiwi travel cliche - the whistle-stop bus trip through Europe.

The point of living in London is to properly explore the UK and Europe. Some of this is my own fault. I admit with a cringe that I stopped using even basic foreign language phrases about six countries ago (save me your tut-tutting).

In the fight against creeping travel commodification, my parents have an ally in slow-travel fan Joanna Lumley, perhaps better known as Champagne-swilling character Patsy Stone from Absolutely Fabulous.

Lumley, who prefers (and can afford) weeks sailing the Nile and traversing the Trans-Siberian Express, recently vented to the Times: "We are saying to people: 'Fly cheap!' I don't approve of that. We offer too much stuff that nobody really wants. I don't think you should have these really tiny weekend stays."

Like an addict with an epiphany, I recently scrapped plans for a Paris trip, more out of guilt that maybe we had reached our yearly quota for weekends away in France. The theory of diminishing returns stomped all over my plans.

But is Lumley's rant an effort to wean people like me from a binge of weekends away and instead "really experience" a place? (Like people who insist on calling themselves "travellers" rather than "tourists", because they once helped out at an orphanage while backpacking.)

Perhaps it's a bit of classism masquerading as a rallying call against the commercial nature of travel.

The Kiwi OE would be much poorer, in every sense of the word, if Patsy's passion for sky-high airfares brought back the days when travel was restricted to the rich - Business Class all the way, sweetie darling.

Long live Ryanair and Easyjet.

It's up to tourists - sorry, travellers - how much we want to indulge in local culture and cuisine. On balance, we're richer for the experience - even if we do arrive back more haggard than when we departed.

- NZ Herald

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