Ive long suspected that the term family holiday is an oxymoron, and now I feel more sure

At 6am in Portugal, at the pristine breakfast buffet, unbesmirched by human hand as Im its first customer, I fill a plate with sugary pastries. Yes, theyll bloat me in my bikini, but who cares? Im holidaying alone. Flying solo. A single Pringle, one holidaymaker joked, as I chuckled along at our shared bit of fun, inwardly imagining hammering him to death with a flip-flop.

But the fact is, single occupancy has turned out to be so much fun, I wonder if its life-enhancing loveliness has been hushed up for decades? By travel agents and multidenominational faith leaders, and other forces dedicated to preserving the status quo. Ive long suspected that the term family holiday is an oxymoron, and now I feel more sure.

I pen this missive from the sun-battered Algarve, where Ive spent seven days in glorious isolation and, for long stretches, in complete silence. Ive tottered about from dawn to dusk like a slighty less pickled Princess Margaret, quite literally pleasing myself. This was not meant to happen when I booked a last-minute break, sensing that yet again, as a child-free woman, I was about to let summer ride past without downtime, covering the gaps of other peoples summer breaks, letting July quickly become September. I wasnt meant to prefer it. I wasnt meant to think: Next time: two weeks. This break has made me realise just how much a normal #squad holiday is about compromise exactly like everyday life. We bite our lips and bury our needs. Were on holiday, so lets not bicker. No, I dont mind washing up. No, I wont upgrade my flight if you cant. Oh you like bullfighting, how charming! On holiday alone, I have not been available for this bullshit.

As a naturally very early riser, Ive been first in the hotel gym, before grabbing the best-positioned pool lounger. No dead wood has held me back. Apologies to all friends and family who have vacationed with me in the past, but we all know that getting five grownups plus kids to a beach within 120 minutes is like a terrible Crystal Maze puzzle. During the day, Ive cut a solo figure on the tourist trail, examining eerie skull-encrusted crypts in Faro which I know would have been too brutal for some eyes. Ive cracked into a goldfish bowl-sized G&T on the cusp of midday and taken a long, indulgent nap by mid-afternoon. At night I dine earlier than a pensioner, then pass out asleep as the resort goes out partying.

Repeat seven times, blissfully, swapping out visit to the bone crypt for round trip of the resort on the silly Noddy Train with the parpy horn. It was the sort of train that I always want to go on when Im on holiday with my partner or in a group, but everyone always says is ridiculous. The thing is, I am ridiculous. I love a stupid parpy tourist train. It reminds me of the train at Pontins when I was a little girl, trundling along, holding hands with my dad. I like waving back at strangers when they wave at me. Hello! Look at me! Im on a train! I say, flapping my hand. Its pure joy.

This is my very first holiday alone and it pains me that Ive waited so long. And although I wasnt stopped by fear, because Ive flown all over the world for work purposes for decades, I was certainly held back by shame. Are you meeting friends there? asked the British Airways hostess, as she served me champagne (I upgraded: bite me), which felt a little like pity but could also have been surveillance on whether I was trafficking narcotics into the east Algarve in my ridiculous boil-washed Helena Bonham Carter crows nest hair. Ive watched at least 100 episodes of UK Border Force on Channel Pick, I know what goes on.

Yes, theyre all out there already, I lied, wondering if I should embellish further. Add in some children? No, no more lying, I told myself. If anyone else bothers to inquire, I shall answer their nosiness with unflinching honesty. It happened a few days later at dinner, when I found myself chatting to a group in a restaurant. My situation had intrigued them. Was I a widow? A divorcee? An air hostess? Just chronically antisocial? No, I said, I am none of these things, I am just a normal human being and very tired. My partner is working right through the summer and my friends presently need to holiday in places with ball pits and nightly Macarena Kids Club performances.

And, well, my father is dying. Slowly, very slowly, of Alzheimers, which has left me in a perpetual decade-long state of what I realise now is ambiguous grief, a grief which never truly has closure, because although he is no longer here, he is here. Vivid and breathing. This makes it easy (and I think its like this for a lot of people, in different hard situations) to believe that the trick is to keep going. To keep working. To keep being useful. To never, ever take a holiday. Because who could holiday when all this is happening? And when I get there on this holiday, a woman alone, what will strangers think?

The answer to this, after a long pause, was a stunned but empathetic nod, and then more silence. But seeing as I love silence, and I was having the greatest holiday of my entire life, this worked out incredibly well.

Source: http://www.theguardian.com/us

 

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