A small selection of the worst sentences of the last ten years:
“I think gay marriage should be between a man and a woman” – Arnold Schwarzenegger
“I might fade into Bolivian” – Mike Tyson
“Osama bin Laden is the only one who knows what I’m going through” – R. Kelly
Not good. But, there is one good thing about them: they’re so notoriously bad that they’ll never be said again. The world doesn’t forget when it hears something like that, and the shame of being the root of such an egregious utterance justifiably follows the perpetrator around for a lifetime.
Game of Thrones/HBO
But there’s one exceptionally bad sentence that we just get barraged with over and over again. We read/hear it five times a week, minimum – and we do nothing about it. We stumble across it so much that it’s just become part of our tapestry of ambient noise. It’s such a constant in our lives that it just sounds like the passing clamour of traffic or the sound of some neanderthal on the train who forgot to put his phone on silent. It’s part of that collection of sentences which everyone knows don’t even deserve a response grunt. There are a few sentences like this. You hear them and think “You just said that because you like hearing noise come out of your own mouth, right?” You know the kind of sentences I’m on about: “I’m so tired”. “I am HUNGover”.
But there’s one sentence that stands above all others. One that somehow manages to infiltrate even your coolest friend’s social media feed. One which can dictate which way your Tinder finger is swiping. One which is so obvious that you wouldn’t even acknowledge it if it was your precious two-year-old niece’s first full sentence:
“I love travelling”
What, you like going on holiday? No way!
It’s a bad sentence and it’s right on par with letting the room know you have a penchant for oxygen. Or informing the world via your Instagram bio that one of your defining features is an enthusiasm for tea.
But you know what, I’m gonna come out and say it: I love travelling. Sometimes I love it so much that I travel whilst I’m already travelling. You know what I’m talking ‘bout. It’s like when you’re out drinking and then you’re like, actually, I’m going to drink tonight.
Shaun of the Dead/Universal Pictures
I like everything about travelling. I like jumping over the gate at Gatwick train station and giving them a fake name and address when they fine me. I like not filling out the travel insurance form my Mum sent me but telling her I did. I like telling the stewardess that my beer got knocked over during the turbulence and I need a new one even though we’re still at the terminal. I like lying to the person sat next to me for nine hours by telling them that I hold an esteemed position at Ben and Jerry’s and invented the Phish Food flavour. I like all of it: every aspect of travelling.
Anyway, at the moment, we’re just travelling. Not travelling. We moved away from London, flew to Budapest, and we’ve been here for six glorious weeks. We move to a different part of the city every week and see a week’s worth of new things. We’ve been here for long enough that it feels like maybe, just maybe, in five years, we can tell people we “lived” in Budapest.
But, to me, Budapest just isn’t different enough from London. Everyone speaks English, nine out of ten restaurants are artisanal burger or pizza places and the offerings at the cinema are generally the same. I want to walk into the cinema and say “Show me the best film you’ve got!” and be astonished.
Speaking of that, do you remember the first Sex and the City movie? Sorry, that was a really stupid question, I know you remember it.
Forgetting Sarah Marshall/Universal Pictures
But do you remember Samantha’s narrative in it? She has a lovely, handsome, kind, movie star boyfriend called Smith. It’s not a proper name but that’s fine. Samantha and Smith live on the beach and are seemingly very happy. But something is missing. Her life is not altogether what she hoped it would be. Then, one day, she’s on her balcony and sees her neighbour showering and it occurs to her: she’d prefer a lifestyle where she sees more knobs. A lot more knobs.
That is exactly what happened to us. Except that the movie star boyfriend was Budapest; our new adopted home. And the knobs are excursions. Foreign excursions.
That’s where A Holiday within a Holiday: Going on holiday whilst you’re already on holiday, comes into it.
Holidays within Holidays have a rich, illustrious history that stretches back year. So far, there are about four different interpretations of it but the practice is growing.
1) “The Christmas Return”. You live abroad and go back home for a Christmas fortnight. There’s your holiday. But then when you’re there you realise, good grief this a lot of time to spend with my Dad. Is this the kind of tv they watch? A show about a bloke who would like a new garage? Anyway, you take a New Years trip to visit your University friends but end up staying four nights instead of one.
2) “A sabbatical from nothing”. The traditional 9-5 is disappearing. People who work in the Creative Sector can have six months of work on then all of a sudden nothing. Or maybe they had nothing in the first place. Either or. But, anyway, in your mid-late 20s, there’s a good chance that you have 3-6 friends who are teaching abroad. Why not go visit them for a firm stretch? In the cold, hard spring of 2016, I went to visit my friend Jack for about two months in Hiroshima. While I was there, Jack, Debbie (Jack’s Mum), and I all took a well-deserved holiday within a holiday to Kumamoto and had a lovely time. We breathed that fresh volcano air and found out that Japanese people line up their little dogs with stranger’s little dogs and take pictures when they’re at notable monuments. It was the break from a break that we needed.
3) “I need another holiday just to get over that one!” This one is chiefly associated with Mums. So the original holiday is the whole family going to Disney for a couple weeks. And I mean the whole family. There are even a couple cousins thrown in there so your sister “has a friend” even though she’s in a 12-year-old’s dreamland. It’s everyone’s dreamland, really. Everyone that is, except Mums. This is because Mums don’t like roller coasters and no one knows why. It’s one of those unanswerable questions like: Why doesn’t glue stick to the inside of the tube? Why are elderly people called old people but children aren’t called new people? Are comedians in wheelchairs still called stand-ups? We know what the 4000-year-old hieroglyphics on the side of the pyramids mean. We know the magnitude of a baby earthquake that happened on Mars 15 minutes ago. We know how Ashton Kutcher keeps getting work. But we’ve never worked out why Mums spend 11 grand to stand at the exit to the Hulk ride holding everyone’s bags in 95-degree heat whilst you and your Dad go on rollercoasters for two hours.
4) “I’m travelling but I want to go travelling”. You’re travelling indefinitely but then decide that you’re not travelling hard enough. You want to go somewhere that makes you regret not getting your injections. A place where a meal can cost 50p. A place where every time you withdraw money, you are technically a millionaire. A place where you see non-domesticated animals on the bus.
So, number four IT IS. We wanted something new. Something really new, far away. But where do you go when you want to go far away?
Where do we want to go? We’re not fussy. We know we just want to go somewhere different. Like Samantha from the popular 2008 film Sex and the City. Did you see it? I know I did. Anyway, Samantha. Was there a particular knob she wanted to see when she broke up with her boyfriend? No, not really. She just wanted to see some different ones. Maybe see something really weird. Maybe just get the numbers up. Maybe even see a Cambodian one.
But we wanted to see a different place. Or even, many different places.
Where’s the furthest away from Budapest you can get for the least amount of money?
2800 miles. £34. Kazahkstan.