It's the summer we've all been waiting for. Finally, the dark winter lockdown months are over, and all the time we’ve spent jade-quartz-face-rolling, Pelotonbiking and mood-boarding our way to a better self will finally come to fruition as we emerge, blinking into the sunlight.
Now for the dilemma of what to do with this 2.0 version of ourselves. We’re rested, hydrated, moisturised and ready for a long, hot season of hedonism, but our usual summer list of trips that glam up the grid and mean we can say things like ‘Mykonos is over’ at dinner parties has become decidedly more complex.
The ‘optics’ of a holiday is something few of us will have thought about before.
But the world has changed and so have we. As life opens up, we can’t help but be aware that social media posts documenting one person’s good fortune may be considered to be in bad taste.
But if we can’t show off about our villa in Ibiza, incessantly posting each day’s highly contrived Balearic chic look – is there any point shelling out for the inflated cost of accommodation and pre-travel Covid tests? Is it better to take a staycation we can Instagram with gay abandon because we’re ‘helping the economy’? Or do we simply spend two weeks in Tulum without sharing a single detail about the trip?
There have been many instances of high-profile people not reading the room when it comes to their need for a getaway. From Kim Kardashian’s private-island party to Dominic Cummings’ jaunt to Barnard Castle, none of us want to get it as spectacularly wrong. A fear of being cancelled is leaving many of us grounded when it comes to trips abroad, which is great for the environment, but terrible for the travel industry – not to mention our need (yes, it is a need) for the glorious escapism of a white-sand beach.
While navigating this complicated moral landscape, a new slew of travel groups is cautiously emerging. Which ones will you spot this summer?
You are so proud of yourself for having booked the entirety of your summer staycation plans – a cottage in Cornwall, glamping in the Lake District and a beach hut in Margate – that you won’t stop banging on about them.
Not only are you single-handedly bringing the UK back from the brink of recession by vowing to frequent every two-bit teashop you come across, but you are feeling all warm and fuzzy about your love for our great nation – so much so that your friends start calling you Brexit Becky.
The truth is, you’re overcompensating for the fact you actually dreamed of going to Japan for the Olympics this summer by throwing yourself into staying local instead. You take 100 photos of the Antony Gormley sculpture in the sea outside the Turner Contemporary. You write postcards to your friends from Scafell Pike and sign up for a day trip to a seal sanctuary. You’ve bought a rainproof poncho that doubles as a picnic blanket, as well as a rambling stick to accessorise the long, earnest walks you go on.
The Louis Vuitton city guide to Tokyo is squirrelled away at the bottom of your Patagonia rucksack. You read it by torchlight as rain lashes against the side of your tent. There’s always next year.
You saved so much money over lockdown, you can now afford a five-star hotel in the Maldives. But broadcasting lavish holiday plans makes you uncomfortable. Eventually, you book two weeks off work and, if anyone asks, you’re renovating the house. Of course, everyone asks and you feel yourself spiralling into a web of lies.
When your hairdresser enquires about summer plans, you shout, ‘You can’t handle the truth!’ while sobbing into your mask. By the time you head to the airport, you’ve convinced yourself MI5 is on your tail, so you arrive in a fedora and sunglasses and turn off your phone’s location services.
Thank goodness you took some shots of a paintbrush dipped in a pot of Elephant’s Breath to post this week for verisimilitude. When you finally arrive at the Raffles Maldives Meradhoo, you’re a nervous wreck. What if your boss phones? If the international dial tone isn’t a giveaway, the gentle lapping of the ocean surely will be.
After a massage, you begin to relax and your urge to share every sunset diminishes when you realise how much more beautiful they are when not seen through a camera. Despite having slathered on factor 50 the entire time, back home your post post-holiday glow is as hard to hide as your desperation to talk about the family of turtles who joined you on your private beach for breakfast one morning. You don’t regret your undercover summer, but you do actually have to paint your house before your friends come over.
It is possible to work from anywhere, and you are here to prove it, because nothing beats the rush of delivering a PowerPoint presentation from a tin basket boat in Hội An.
You’re grateful your office has extended its flexible attendance policy and as long as you keep delivering, smashing those KPIs and ‘leaning in’ – even if that does mean leaning over a man holding a crate of chickens on the bus through Thailand – you are here for it.
All you need is access to the internet to keep up with the banter on Slack and send a few well-timed emails to remind management you are always ‘on’ and not in any way receiving a foot massage by the pool as you update your spreadsheets.
How do your colleagues feel when you join a Zoom with yet another exotic background? They hate you. But, look, nothing is stopping them from doing the same. Apart from the ones who have ‘commitments’. Oh, and the ones who don’t have a trust fund to finance it. You’re thinking about setting up a coworking collective for digital nomads in a treehouse in Koh Samui, but that would mean sharing an office space again – and now you’ve left Janet and her microwave lunches behind, there’s no going back. This summer was a trial run, but you reckon you can make it work, lockdowns permitting, until retirement.
You have waited 16 months to get The Shot. No, not the vaccine. The selfie in front of the pink Paul Smith store on Melrose Avenue in LA. There is not a Covid test too expensive, a route via Mexico too circuitous, nor a quarantine too long to stop you.
The urgency to get to LA comes not from any real desire to explore the city (you’ve seen Real Housewives, what else is there to know?) but to be seen there. Your lack of any kind of fabulous, validating presence on social media this year has pushed you to an existential breaking point. Who even are you? You plan to build yourself back up, one post at a time, starting with a photo your travel buddy takes of you against that wall in Venice Beach with the angel wings.
Do you care that you are now flooding your friends’ feeds with pictures of your iced coffee in WeHo? Hell no! Anyone who doesn’t get why it’s so important to celebrate summer with this kind of #carpediem content after that shocker of a year can simply unfollow. Seeing each new sunwashed image expand your Instagram grid feels like slotting the puzzle pieces of yourself back together. #SorryNotSorry.
You know where you want to go, you’re determined to get there and you cannot be stopped. Except you can, legally speaking, because it’s on the ‘red’ list, which is driving you insane. ‘OK,’ you say to your partner, eyes wide due to sleepless nights spent scrolling the Foreign Office website. ‘If we took a container ship, then we could pass ourselves off as “freight”.’
You’ve had a packed suitcase waiting by the door for months, and newspaper clippings stuck to the walls of your home office, along with photos of your most-wanted travel destinations, all connected with bits of red string like you’re a browbeaten detective on the verge of cracking a case.
You decide the safest and most logical way around the rules is to buy a house in your intended destination, so you set up viewings, and convince yourself it’s true. Except, once you finally realise that all you need is a valid passport and a Covid test, it all seems too easy. Without the thrill of having beaten the system, defeated variants and blagged and blundered your way to the beach, you decide a week in the South Downs will do.
When the fashion pack went to Palermo, you went to Pantelleria. When Tilda Swinton’s A Bigger Splash turned that obscure island commune into a travel hotspot, you went to Milos. Then, because of various travel restrictions, you had to holiday at the kind of places *shudder* normal people go, and that kudos you got from travelling off the beaten track was on hiatus, along with your Jacquemus wicker handbag. So now you’re desperate to set a trend again.
Your criteria: almost-impossible to get to, sumptuous backgrounds for impromptu Instagram shoots, a nice old lady who lives at the top of a hill and can teach you how to make local delicacies. It’s really not much to ask.
But navigating PCR tests, ‘red’ lists and vaccine passports is tiresome. It’s too boring for words. Iceland felt like it could be a thing, but then your fashion nemesis posted a selfie in front of the erupting Fagradalsfjall volcano, making it over before it had even begun. It’ll have to be Antiparos – the Greek island that hasn’t yet had its moment.
You WhatsApp the manager of Artemis Hotel for a room, toss the Loewe wrap you bought at Paula’s Ibiza around you shoulders with a flourish and set off. But you’d better be quick – it’s only a matter of time before the jet set follow in your Celine-sandalled footsteps.
This article appears in the July 2021 issue of ELLE UK.
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