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The Holiday Paradox

Going on a ‘relaxing holiday’ as an anxious tourist

Text: Marie Voerman

Image: Masja Willekens

My savings account pathetically stares back at me from my screen, blinking the same number at me as it did last week, minus the money I needed for groceries. This amount is supposed to grant me several small holidays during my post-bachelor year of freedom. I flick back to the checkout page of the cheapest airline tickets I could find, my chest tightening at the realisation that now I will actually have to spend my hard-earned money. Am I really doing this? So many shifts, so much free time I handed in, in order to get some free time, in return, away from home? A text comes in from a friend, asking if I’ve already completed my purchase and if I am ‘ready for a fun holiday’. God, the pressure. What if I accidentally clicked the wrong destination? I’ll triple-check whether the dates are right, one second. I didn’t pick a seat by an emergency exit, right? That would be way too much pressure. Oh god, what if we die on the way? All that money spent for nothing. After ten minutes of checking and freaking out, my friends sends a follow-up question-mark. Right. Nothing more to check, I guess? I squeeze my eyes shut and click. The confirmation comes through. I check again.

My schedule for the coming weeks is packed with more shifts to at least have some money to spend at the destinations, so I decided I might as well already start packing. Three weeks in advance. Piles of clothes are surrounding my backpack – never a suitcase, my face is already red at the thought of the loud sounds wheels make on uneven tiles. My cat is innocently blinking up at me from the top of one pile, entirely oblivious of my internal freak-out. Why is there no weather predicted yet? Sure, it might be three weeks from now, but surely they can already make a prediction? I’ll just pack everything, I guess. Sweaters, shorts, sunscreen, thick socks. Piles after piles of clothes and cosmetics disappear into my bag, somehow fitting in like I’m the Mary Poppins of holidays. I desperately push down on my bag to zip it up. When I look around my room, my anxiety slowly settling, I realise my cat is nowhere to be seen. Fuck, did he run away? Oh my God, what if I accidentally packed him? Cue stress sweats as I unzip my bag, pulling out the carefully folded clothes. A meow rings from the bathroom. Right. That makes more sense.

As I wait for my bag to go through airport security, my heart starts pounding in my throat. I walk through the metal detector, praying that someone didn’t sneak illegal drugs into my waistband while I wasn’t looking and that I didn’t accidentally stash my suitcase with cocaine and knives instead of socks. Five minutes later, I shove my feet back into my shoes and grab my bag from the conveyor-belt, having survived yet another near-fatal self-induced panic moment.

Surely, the worst stress is now over. All that’s left to do is to spend weeks at a new place where I don’t speak the language and don’t know anyone! Let the relaxing holiday begin.

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