Is nostalgia always genuine?

09Feb10

If anything good has ever happened to you in life, the likelihood is you’re going to be nostalgic about it at a later date. But what really amazes me, is my ability to be nostalgic about things that I’m pretty sure I never liked/enjoyed in the first place.

Here is a primary example. In 2006, I went on my first holiday ever without my parents. I was 21, had £250 in my pocket and my best friend at my side. Because Thomas Cook was closed that day, we wandered into First Choice and ordered the cheapest package holiday on the menu. The travel agent pulled ‘Gran Canaria’ out of the hat, and in my naïvety, I forked over my hard-earned cash as I looked forward to our sun-soaked sojourn.

On arrival, the trip was anything but pain-free. The apartment block was fine, aside from being at the top of a deep valley, leading to near exhaustion when climbing the thousands of stairs (pictured below) in the equatorial climes of the island.

Stairs to our apartment

This was just the first set of stairs...

On day one we attended the ‘welcome meeting’ – where they proceeded to extract around half of our holiday budget (a massive £150) from us for outings that they promised would be ‘the best days of our lives!’ We were also given skin care advice on how to tan beautifully on the island, which I assume didn’t apply to the fairer skinned of us. By the end of day one, I had received some of the most painful, blistering red burns I’d ever seen. It was agonising, causing all future dips in the sea to resemble an acid bath, with any sun contact forcing me to relive the pain a-new. To highlight my desperation, please see the picture below where I am cowering in a cave to remain hidden in the only shade on the island. (Probably.)

Me in a cave

Cowering in the only available shade

I’m going to cut a long story short, although it’s a shame as I’m sure the remaining tales of anguish and discomfort would amuse many of you. In brief – we attended a disastrous safari off-roading trip where we saw precisely zero animals but approximately 6 pervy drivers (and were forced to participate in team building role-plays, God help us). We went on a horse riding trail where we were the only customers, making our way over treacherous mountain paths on questionable steeds with a questionable guide. We went for one evening’s drinking in the ‘town’ and both had our cameras stolen.

This might sound like an ITV special of ‘Holidays from Hell’, but this is where my point comes in. When my best friend and I recall this holiday, it is only with fondness. Oh how we laugh when we remember the out-of-place stuffed bear at the horse riding centre, how we jape about the handsome pool-boy that cleaned the hotel facilities every morning! We guffaw at the hotel karaoke where we out-sung a large Irish family and giggle at the cowboy theme night we spent in a mock-Western town.

Why do we do it? It’s not always in our nature to find the positive in things. Yet somehow this disaster holiday yields positive memories for me when I know full well I would have given anything to come home at the time. Is it some kind of selective memory? Or a form of memory repression designed to protect your psyche from becoming too damaged? Either way, I hope I can remember the bad parts long enough to prevent me ever booking a similar holiday again, no matter how hard my (beautifully tanned) best friend my tries to persuade me!

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3 Responses to “Is nostalgia always genuine?”

  1. I have similar fond memories of climbing in the Slovenian Alps as a kid. Nevermind the fact that the weather was atrocious, my dad thought it best for me and my sister to wear shorts and our kiddie-backpacks leaking so we had no dry clothes to change into upon reaching the cabin where we’d shiver by the radiators and eat unappetising bean stew – nope, nevermind that! 🙂

  2. Sounds like another good example. I too have fond memories of family holidays in the countryside, even though I hated long car journeys, going on walks and looking at the scenery. Of course I like those things now (maybe that’s how I’ve morphed the memories into fond ones?), but back then I hated it!

  3. 3 Keef

    I remember my adventure holiday in Wales fondly too. Despite my mum making me travel in red jogging bottoms with slip-on leather shoes and an instructor making me cry for not wanting to throw myself off a 50ft platform whilst attached to a tree branch.


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