I was with three German friends yesterday, they were travelling from Stuttgart to Newcastle for a weekend break. They underestimated the Scottish sunshine as I watched them come back from a day trip to Edinburgh. It’s there and craves attention from time to time. One of them came back more red than a Stuttgart away shirt.
Of course, the featured image isn’t northern Europe. It is Belém, Portuguese for Bethlehem. I loved this city and the regions around it, if I was in danger of sunburn it was this place. It is a shame, I used to tan so well. Maybe it was the parental guidance as a child and my clear lack of self reliance to apply enough sunscreen. I am fine with this though, it isn’t the main focus of my holiday.
It seems to be the main focus for so many people. When I arrive home after a trip, more often than not my skin colour will be the topic of conversation. Whether I tanned or not, I have to go through the cliche who-has-the-browner-skin competition.
I have five right arms. Great for carrying groceries, terrible for balance.
For many Brits, holidays abroad are simply for the sunshine. To be able to sit down outside with a beer and do nothing. To get a great tan and show everyone back home. It seems like this is what is perceived of my reasons to travel too. Not the stories of what I did or where I went, what food I tried and how much of the language I learned. Just how hard I tried to sit still to get brown enough to prove I went away in the first place.
I do often come back with a little colour, but this shouldn’t be the only evidence that any journey was worth it. If anything the lack of tan may prove I was busy doing other things, venturing away from the hotel pool from time to time. If I go all that way I want to make it worth it. I want to take this opportunity to do what I cannot back home and sample a new experience that my great grandparents were not able to.
I wonder if I went back in time and visited my great grandparents, would they take any interest in my change of skin colour at all, considering the huge amount of curiosity they must have gathered knowing I had travelled overseas? Or would they spend the whole day sitting down with me asking what such an experience was like? The smells from the restaurants, the appearance of the natives, the warmth of the rain and the height of the mountains.
The tan fades. Experiences don’t.