Colette Sheridan: Staycations are now our best holiday option — how bad?

Why throw your shekels abroad when you could be spending them here, helping to support the local tourism industry while treating yourself to some much-needed relaxation and enjoyable experiences? So says Colette Sheridan
Colette Sheridan: Staycations are now our best holiday option — how bad?

AN IRISH HOLIDAY: Swarms of people on Myrtleville Strand in Co. Cork in 1953. Picture: Archive

STAYCATIONS may be the poor relation of foreign holidays, but in the current pandemic, they’re an appealing prospect.

And what’s more, they are the patriotic response to an economy decimated by coronavirus.

Why throw your shekels abroad when you could be spending them here, helping to support the local tourism industry while treating yourself to some much-needed relaxation and enjoyable experiences?

It’s a no-brainer in a world that will see the aviation industry take a nose dive.

Michael O’Leary of Ryanair has admitted that social distancing on planes is impossible. No doubt, incredibly cheap flights will be offered by airlines to try and get people back into the air.

But would you go there? Not yet, surely. It will take time before we have faith in flying again.

There has been talk of Covid-19 tests at airports. As long as it doesn’t take an age to get the result, it sounds like a good idea.

But most of us will stay put this summer, maybe venturing to another province but definitely not going abroad. And how bad? Ireland can be heaven — particularly when the sun shines.

Back when I was a kid, families generally didn’t go abroad on holidays. That would have been the preserve of the rich or the flashy, people with more money than sense. (How us kids, raised to have modest expectations, would have loved a bit of flash in some Costa del Sol resort!)

Or we would have settled for Butlins in County Meath. That was a prospect that excited us, fun and games in a resort that was like a happy compound, designed for children with a bit of cabaret thrown in for the adults.

However, our parents had too much good taste for Butlins. They thought it was ‘common’. My parents compromised. While on holidays near Butlins, they took us there on a day trip. It was thrilling with its dodgem cars and candy floss and a massive swimming pool. It whetted our appetites for more. But instead, the following year, we were taken to the Burren while on holidays in Clare.

Don’t get me started on the Burren. It represented the chasm between childhood thrills and adult interests.

We were built up for this amazing place that was famous in Ireland and a must-see, covering 1% of the land surface of the country. But when us kids got there, we wondered what the big deal was. All that rock and lichen. And not an ice-cream van in sight.

Our parents were mad keen for unusual landscapes and flora. We’d have happily spent our holidays touring Wimpy Bars (remember them; chips, ketchup and white sliced pan) around Ireland. We had zilch taste.

When our parents admired scenery from the car, we groaned in the back seat. Scenery was ‘boring’.

But when I look back on the annual fortnight-long holidays we took, I can only salute my parents for showing us what this country has to offer — and for putting up with us.

We went to Ballybunion in a Mini car when the family was very small. We went to Lahinch where we saw nuns and priests on holidays (but not together.) We went to Waterville and visited the Butler Arms Hotel where Charlie Chaplin used to stay.

I recall a holiday in Connemara, taking in a week in a hotel in Clifden followed by another week in a newly- built bungalow in Roundstone. The weather was foul so my father made delicious fudge on the stove for us kids. That was as exotic as it got.

Back then, a holiday really was a total break from work and school. The idea now, of a whole two weeks off, without the interruption of smart phone notifications and a bit of remote working, seems like a true luxury.

These days, many of us go on busy city breaks which involve traipsing around the sights of Paris, Berlin or wherever, in a heavily scheduled four or five days. We walk our socks off, we take endless photos on our phones — and we may even receive work-related calls.

Relaxing? You must be kidding. You would need a holiday after one of these brief city sojourns. Not to mention the hassle of dealing with crowded airports and being frisked by airport security staff. If you’re going on a long haul flight, there’s jet lag to contend with. Which is why going abroad is often the antithesis of what holidays are supposed to be about.

Now, all has changed. We’ve recently noticed how the pace of life slowed down. It’s beginning to pick up again but we have learned a valuable lesson.

Busyness for the sake of it isn’t necessary.

Roll on lazy days by the sea on the Irish coast. Who needs to go abroad?

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