Should holidays be a city break or a break from the city?

Despite the pandemic, which, by its very definition, is global, people are still taking holidays overseas. According to reports, around half a million Brits were in France when it became the latest country to be added to the UK’s 14 day quarantine list. Though we are far from out of the woods, with case numbers rising, people are willing to take the risk of leaving their home, even their country, after months stuck inside with the same people.

August has always been the month most associated with summer holidays. As schools are out for the whole month, and university holidays even longer, individuals, friends, couples and families had greater flexibility to travel. This leads to the consideration of what makes the best type of holiday. The global increase in urbanisation, as vast numbers of people move from rural to urban areas, may lead some to conclude the ideal holiday takes place outside the city. A fortnight by the beach, sun lounging in a luxury resort or visiting a national park can sound appealing.

Cities provide a place to appreciate the ingenuity of humankind

For many people, working hard in insecure jobs can mean a week away is essential. Any form of thinking is undesired. Holidays are not places of intensity or business but a time to read and unwind. I, however, take a different stance on what holidays should be about. The defining factor of a holiday is visiting a new location and spending time somewhere new. Cities can achieve this just as much as any location that take you away from the working life.

Cities are places to get lost. I don’t mean this in a scary sense, though the Google Maps app always comes in handy! They are not places of homogeneity that always create an atmosphere of work. Each location is unique. There will always be street corners tucked around a corner, new buildings that look magnificent and sights you wouldn’t see anywhere else in the world. Even towns that mainly contain high street chains will have secret alleyways that lead to locations beyond your imagination.

Just as the countryside represents the beauty of the natural world,  cities provide a place to appreciate the ingenuity of humankind. I speak mostly of the architecture. Once buildings have been completed, humans can easily become complacent about the amount of work that has gone into constructing them. Living in the same city and taking the same commute, it’s easy to ignore architectural amazement. Visiting a different city gives people time to do this.

Cities that are known for attracting lots of tourists, inevitably, contain tourist attractions. While these vary considerably in quality, I find attractions that provide an exploration into a city’s past of most benefit. For a city one has never visited before, there is no opportunity to time travel but guided tours of certain locations and learning extra information can provide a glimpse into the city’s history. It depends how educational you want the trip to be. Exploring the city in the present is, though, best done individually rather than as part of a large group.

I find attractions that provide an exploration into a city’s past of most benefit

Life should be about far more than money and business. However, cities are a brilliant chance for helping local places of hospitality. These might include independent businesses that don’t exist anywhere else. They may have existed within families for generations, providing local people with a helpful service that gives them what they need, especially as the pandemic has been awful for local businesses. While tourists can only do so much, engaging in local places of hospitality can provide this.

Often, my best experiences of a city have been the most uneventful. After a long day of exploring, looking out of the window in the darkness at the bright lights can be a great source of pleasure. It encourages humans to go beyond their own lived experiences. The countryside can allow for personal exploration in the peace and quiet. Cities allow individuals to witness the lives of other humans, where the holiday destination is their permanent home.

This breaking down of barriers can only encourage empathy to make holidays pleasurable. And that’s what life should be about: finding new places and celebrating their existence. This comes alongside an understanding that, while tourists appreciate what they have, many people in cities suffer extensive poverty and hardship.

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