Tuesday 16 January 2018

In which I develop a serious dose of Holiday personality syndrome

I'm on holiday with my mother in Marrakech. We spend our days kicking back by the pool, contemplating life and reflecting on our surroundings...

"He's quite handsome," I say, pointing to a man in a straw fedora. My mother lifts up her sunglasses and stares across the pool. "Yes, but I think he's g-a-y." She seems to think that spelling out her words makes it less likely for them to be overheard.

"Those breast implants are way too big for her body," continues my mother, nodding towards the Pool Goddess (there's always one). "I'm just going to ask her straight who did them."

A man wearing a preposterously oversized hat is next to be eviscerated. "You know, he's only five foot without the Tarrell Williams hat," observes my mother. She means 'Pharrell', but I've given up correcting her, just as I no longer bother telling her that billet-doux means 'love letter' when she asks for the bill.

When we're not spying on our fellow guests, we're imagining our new lives. I've learnt from my mother that a holiday is not a time to reflect on the past. Oh no, it is time to plan a wildly unrealistic future.

The sun helps us concoct fantastic notions which almost always involve living in the destination which we are visiting.

I'm imagining my new home even as the taxi pulls out of the airport and cruises through that universally desolate stretch of warehouses that connects to the city. "Yeah, this is me," I think as we pass an IKEA and a KFC and countless real estate billboards.

Wherever I go, I make sure to leave my identity in Dublin and wholly embrace the culture, whether it's Mickey Mouse ears or Thai woven friendship beads.

I had my hair woven into cornrows while in Mexico and shorn into a mullet in Uruguay.

There was also a Vietnamese conical hat - on the plus side I've destroyed all photographic evidence of me wearing what was essentially a lampshade on my head.


At least I'm not alone. According to a study commissioned by TravelSupermarket.com, I have Holiday Personality Syndrome, which is defined as a "temporary change of character" during a getaway. Their research found that 51 per cent of tourists felt their personality changed when they were away.

The study determined four different holiday personality types.

First is The Commander, who is described as a "natural leader and keen to organise". Put simply, The Commander is a massive pain in the arse.

They spend the holiday conquering sun loungers, haggling with market vendors and planning day trips. They've downloaded the TripAdvisor app (and take great pains to point this out) and they go into a pre-orgasmic state when they see the shelves of fliers for day excursions near the hotel reception. They think spending a holiday on a sun lounger is scandalous, particularly when there's a UNESCO World Heritage Site just 42 miles away.

Apparently The Commander doesn't mix well with The Inspirer, who is described as "a highly motivated person, full of energy and optimism". The Inspirer is also an adventure-seeker, but not as militant as The Commander when it comes to planning. In fact, the only thing they plan extensively is ways in which they can subjugate the enemy. This generally culminates in not inviting The Commander to the waterpark.

Then we have The Idealist, who is "concerned and caring towards others" and "shies away from conflict or criticism". In other words, they spend their holiday people-pleasing and peacemaking. They once jumped off a 20-foot cliff just because everyone else was doing it and they wonder why they always end up in the farmacia trying to translate Irritable Bowel Syndrome.

A personality type known as The Performer generally asks them to pick up condoms and something for cystisis while they are there. The Performer is described as "the life and soul of the holiday" and "someone who embraces their frivolity wholeheartedly". In other words they are permanently pissed.

The Performer makes inappropriate comments to waiters and asks taxi drivers to turn the music up. Their local lingo is limited, save for "one more bottle grande of vino blanco, señor" and the strange habit of pronouncing Ireland with three syllables: "We are from I-er-lond". They once flashed their breasts on a Leaving Cert holiday.

The Idealist is petrified that The Performer will trip on the marble staircase in the villa and The Commander thinks an intervention has to be staged once they get back to Ireland.


Yes, I know these types well. My holiday personality didn't make the list, though, probably because The Fantasist doesn't even use the word 'holiday'. We prefer to say that we are "going abroad" or are "out of the country". We dream about the day that we can convincingly use 'winter' as a verb, as in "I winter in Marrakech".

We are more inclined to research the average price of real estate than the best value restaurants. We decorate themselves with local artisanal jewellery and we consider the possibility of packing it all in and opening a guest house. The other holiday personalities roll their eyes when The Fantasist isn't looking.

Could you see yourself living here, I say to my mother as we recline deeper into our sun loungers. "Oh yeah," she answers at once, "sure I mightn't even go home."

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