Holidays, the uses of travel and the challenge of re-creation

By Jill Segger
July 28, 2015

The great holiday get-away weekend has come and gone. Two million holidaymakers thronged the roads and airports. Gridlock was predicted on many major roads, Heathrow expected the busiest day in its history and the travel association ABTA (Association of British travel Agents) warned people to leave “a lot of extra time” to complete their journeys.

Whilst hoping that those who put themselves through this strain will all have arrived safely at their destinations and are now beginning to enjoy their breaks, it does seem reasonable to wonder whether the advertising and marketing industries have – successfully from their point of view – swamped reflection on the uses of travel and the meaning of recreation.

Everyone needs to rest, to re-calibrate their rhythms – and perhaps, to consider the placement of a thoughtful hyphen. Re-creation carries a significantly different emphasis from recreation. The concept is almost overwhelming in its generosity: an offering of nothing less than approaching the possibility of beginning to remake ourselves as individuals and by extension, as societies.

This reshaping can seem daunting. It may present a challenge that we don't want – sun, sea and cheap alcohol might seem more seductive than spending a little time in examining our deeper responses to the strains of work and how we react to being let off the leash of necessity. But what goes unexamined may become a tyranny and there is an element of unreflective conformity about the mass exodus and its attendant sense of entitlement which suggests the servitude of consumerism rather than the freedom of co-creative rest.

The pan-Babylonian creation myth presents the gods as making humankind their servants so that they – the creators – may take their leisure. In what was a startling departure from this world-view, the Genesis account has the Creator resting after toil and endowing humans with the dignity of sharing creation's gifts. This is a model for reflection on our relationship with rest. The freedom to make restorative choices and re-creative responses is ours to take. Failure to do so may lead to the emotional and spiritual poverty of those holidaymakers who could only complain that refugees from Syria and Eritrea, having survived a perilous journey to some of the Greek islands, were now spoiling their vacations.

The initial dismay of tourists who may have been saving hard and longing for such a break is understandable. But to be incapable of stepping beyond that and reacting with grace to the coinciding of such diverse estates of human experience is to retreat from the transformative possibilities inherent in encountering the 'other'. The same challenge is presented to holidaymakers queuing to cross the channel as they observe – and are probably inconvenienced by – desperate migrants who daily risk their lives to reach the UK. Travel undertaken by relatively privileged people is hardly 'broadening the mind' if it misses the meaning of this challenge.

Arduous and perilous journeys made in desperate hope for freedom and survival are as old as the human race. Many of us are the descendants of refugees and can only wonder at their hardships. The ease and ubiquity of recreational journeys are relatively new phenomena and, having been packaged and sold as consumer goods, are in danger of blunting our perceptions with a sense of unexamined entitlement. We are the heirs of Genesis and should not delude ourselves that the dignity of freedom lies solely in purchasing power.

Let's use the holy-day season well.

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© Jill Segger is an Associate Director of Ekklesia with particular involvement in editorial issues. She is a freelance writer who contributes to the Church Times, Catholic Herald, Tribune, Reform and The Friend, among other publications. Jill is an active Quaker. See: http://www.journalistdirectory.com/journalist/TQig/Jill-Segger You can follow Jill on Twitter at: http://www.twitter.com/quakerpen

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