Ever spent a holiday in a strange and lumpy bed longing for the familiar pillows of home? Been hunched under a dribbly, cramped shower and yearned for the stretch space and drench power of your own? Do you eat up the last few days of your hard-earned break planning how the next few months are going to shape up? You’re not alone. So who actually needs holidays?
Going away often means compromises. A famous hotelier once said that his rooms had to offer a better experience than his guests had at home, otherwise they wouldn’t come! Obvious I guess, but at several hundreds of pounds per night, expectations would be high, wouldn’t they? Most of us don’t have that level of spending power, but apparently money’s not the only thing to influence our choice of holiday. So, what else is at play here?
Perhaps you stick to a well-loved caravan park or familiar campsite? Do you prefer a roving road trip, ticking off the stops via your Instagram feed, or maybe it’s an all-inclusive with no decisions to be made as everything’s laid on for you? Is it opulent luxury or value for money that excites you most? And how do you decide? What are you looking for? A great tan? Rejuvenation of your body, your mind, your relationship perhaps? New experiences you couldn’t get at home? Bragging rights (ouch!)? or that feeling that you’ve worked hard all year so you deserve it? Nothing wrong with any of those. Even bragging rights. After all we’re human, and competition is an integral part of our psyche (check out Mr C Darwin if you don’t agree).
In an attempt to be ever-so-slightly scientific, I researched current thinking into the motivations that drive us. It seems there are around seven of them, so read on:
Basic needs: We prioritise food, water, air, shelter (gin??)
Self-Actualisation: Making the most of a talent – singers, actors, athletes, footballers et al
Protection and Safety: Shelter, health, money to buy what we need, access to services & ‘stuff’
Love & belonging: Forming relationships and supportive social communities
Status & Esteem: Respect, including self-respect, sense of own worth, status and value
Mate acquisition: It’s a basic need driven by the need to get our genes passed onward
Mate retention: Harder still. Raising healthy offspring to adulthood (see genes)
I recall Club 18-30 holidays. I never went on one (far too young), but was brave enough to watch those late-night documentaries from behind a sofa cushion. To be fair, I think the more recent booze-soaked scene full of first-time-without-mum-and-dad holidaymakers, probably beats Club 18-30 pants down (sic), but at the time, it was for those who partied hard, in every sense. However, doesn’t it fit exactly into the ‘Mate Acquisition’ motivation? Isn’t it the holiday equivalent of Blind Date but without Cilla, and with loads of alcohol, sunshine and a X Certificate thrown in? Not hard to see why it was so successful then.
Love & Belonging? Anything with ‘family, ‘romance’ ‘couples only’ or even ‘join like-minded others’, ticks this box. So, from sun-kissed Caribbean resorts to English stately homes, history cruises, to theme parks, even Butlins. Each feeds this basic desire to spend quality time with those we care for, or just want to get to know a little better.
Self-actualisation? I had to look this up so clearly it doesn’t apply to me, but if I was a closet diva, just waiting for Mr Cowell to uncover my latent talent, perhaps this would drive me on. Desperate to book a Circus Skills school or dabble in watercolours in Tuscany perhaps? Maybe, the chance to explore a passion and make a career of it would be my equivalent of winning the lottery? Think Paul Potts. (Actually, I’ve no idea what happened to him, but I bet he felt great at the time).
So, you get the gist right? We are all motivated by a combination of basic needs and additional wants in everything we do.
Like all the best cocktails however, this isn’t about just one thing. With holidays, most of us see them as the polar opposite of work, the antidote to the daily grind. For many, the routine of the 9-5 week is something to be escaped from. We run away, create sharp contrasts to the other 47 weeks of the year. Whether it’s the schedule (staying up late & long lazy mornings), the food (remember the first time you tried Calamari?), the experiences (would you ride a banana boat in your bikini in the local park?) and even the outfits that you pack as your holiday costume (there’s even such a thing as ‘Cruise Wear’ – who knew!). All contribute to this feeling of escape, and freedom.
For those who seek prestige and status and happily wear badges to tell the world they’ve made it, an impressive holiday can be considered the ultimate reward for a long year of hard work and big earnings. Sometimes in direct correlation to their perception of self-worth, spending shed loads of cash on a seven-star exotic long haul bespoke luxury etc experience brings them pleasure in itself. A sense of appropriate return for their efforts perhaps.
So, it’s less about the location, the accommodation, the food even, and more about how it makes you FEEL. The feeling of comfort, familiarity, spending quality time, learning and developing, relaxing, indulging or a million other emotional experiences. That’s what we’re looking for on holiday – that great feeling. And it’s not just during the time you’re away. It extends to the planning, the discussions, the sharing afterwards and long afterwards too. It’s the feeling.
Watching a recent series of ‘Rich Holiday, Poor Holiday’, it’s fascinating to see how the big spenders eventually reach the mindset that the producers were no doubt shooting for. That it’s all about ‘the people you’re with and that feeling of spending quality time together’, leaving the ‘cash poor’ participants smiling rather smugly as they already knew that, somehow making their predicament more bearable.
So next time you’re holed up in a chilly caravan, shouting at each other over the din of relentless rain on a metal roof and moaning as the TV’s lost signal and there’s no Netflix. Remember, it’s the feeling of togetherness that counts! Yeah, no solutions to this one, but after all this is a website about Scottish Gin, so I guess that’s your answer, gin, right there.