Ferien ohne das eigene Ich (engl. Originalversion der Kolumne in der htr vom 16.05.2013)
Spring, to me, means globetrotting. It’s the perfect time to grab a holiday before summer madness begins. Packing away winter coats and cleaning grimy windows may make you feel virtuous, possibly even happy – but how can one resist travelling in this gorgeous off-peak season, with blackbirds singing in the evenings and planes arrowing into pink sunsets?
Packing clothes into a Samsonite suitcase instead of mothproof bags makes me feel hopeful and optimistic. Yet, as always, I remember my wise friend’s motto. This year I really don’t want to cart my worries – looming tax bills, rising rents – along with me. Surely it must be possible to take a short break from oneself?
Desperately keen to leave myself behind, I choose a near-surefire destination to bliss: a Greek island. Sunsets and sun hats, floaty dresses and floating clouds, Retsina and Raki: all seem to hold the promise of becoming a different person.
It’s crucial to differentiate between being a ‘traveller’ and a ‘tourist’. Most people I know call themselves ‘Discerning Travellers’, but this means making choices, which means using one’s brain. And the brain is the part of myself I most want to leave behind. That churning engine that wakes you up at 3 am and shouts at you that you still haven’t got a pension plan, you haven’t had a dental check-up in years, and your car is uninsured.
I leave for Greece determined to be a Tourist. I will walk on narrow paths at a snail’s pace, swaying like a camel. I will never look at landscapes or cathedrals without a camera clamped to my eyes. I will eat anything a waiter recommends, especially if described as a ‘local delicacy’. I will visit any famous site, especially if described as a ‘must-see’. I will take pleasure cruises and have pedicures. I will sleep till noon and start drinking shortly afterwards. In short, I will become a completely different person.It’s surprisingly easy to leave my old self behind. Stepping off the plane onto scorching tarmac, I’m wearing a floppy hat and sandals: two items my anxious urban self would never tolerate. Within hours of arriving at my pleasingly clichéd blue-and-white hotel, whose restaurant announces ‘The Sunset Is Here’, I feel marvellously unlike myself. The sunset may be here, but ‘I’ am not. I remind myself not to secondguess the hotel manager when he tells me that I must a) take a boat b) take a donkey c) take his advice.
Blithely I drink buckets of Raki with tourists from Manchester, uncaring about hangovers. I throw vegetarian caution to the winds, eating grilled calamari off the forks of handsome strangers. Yet on my last evening I start packing far too early. I fold my clothes obsessively neatly. And when I’m asked what time I’d like a wakeup call, I hesitate. Then I venture the answer I think a hedonistic Greek might give. I’m wrong.
‘9 a.m.?’ The receptionist looks horrified. ‘You’re in Greece. Relax!’
I agree to a 10 a.m. wakeup call, but I set my alarm for 8. My old self is stirring. My friend was right. Here I am again.