The hippie commune party is back


Not long ago, my brother Peter announced his new resolve to “push people more” when they travel. Politeness, or the fear of “bothering people,” had kept him from seeing distant friends and family on a few trips – and when politeness keeps us from seeing the people we love, politeness is an issue. .

Sometimes with a busy vacation itinerary or a busy work trip, it’s only by imposing on people that we can spend time with them – sleeping on their couch, asking for an elevator to the airport, or suggesting that they show us around the historic district or the market on our free evening.

This summer, I am happy to see that most British travelers have given up on any pretense of politeness and pulled all the favors. I’m writing this from my friend Gemma’s guest bedroom in Edinburgh, where I spent the whole of August, happily imposing myself on her and her boyfriend Cameron. They also liked to be imposed; I’ve taken them to countless Fringe shows and helped Cameron with his Fair Trade Coffee Business website. We ate together, biked around town together, and brainstormed ideas for working together – and our hippie roommate in August really felt like a vacation.

Meanwhile, my apartment in Margate is occupied by friends from London who were in desperate need of some sea air, doing much the same. It’s not just childless millennials who are opting for house swaps and shared vacations; most of my friends with children have formed temporary childcare co-ops with other families, or have scampered off with grandparents, aunts, uncles and other low budget babysitters.

We can explain our rediscovery of “common hippie” vacations in less sentimental terms: many Airbnbs and hotels were booked in April by the very wealthy and highly organized. Sharing homes or staying with friends also makes vacations more affordable, and many of us still feel financially fragile. But it is not all a question of expediency.

I was the kind of traveler who claimed to “love my own space,” a euphemism, really, for an introvert fiercely attached to his own routines. Well guess what? I’ve had enough of my own routines, loneliness, silence, and everything I used to painstakingly safeguard “my own space” for. This summer, it’s the connection, the community and the friendliness that I crave the most.

This social shift towards roommates, home swaps, multigenerational vacations and shared childcare is encouraging, as I know previous generations were much more used to imposing themselves on each other – on vacation. and in life. I grew up in a home that regularly welcomed short and long-term international visitors. Maybe it was a doctor my mother worked with in an eye clinic in Tanzania when she was 22, or a visiting Australian pastor my father knew through the church. I loved this constant flow of visitors to our family home in Belfast, and have always hoped to adopt a similar open house policy with my own home.

But travel became cheap and mundane, and we all started to obsess over being “busy”. And so my generation of travelers found themselves more nuclear, more independent, and more afraid of causing “hassle” to someone, as if hassle was the worst thing that could happen. (Now we know that something much worse than “hassles” is a global pandemic that pushes us all in, closes borders, and separates us from our friends and family.) Over the past decade or so. , I became more and more shy about asking to stay with friends, as it seemed easier and more respectful to book an affordable Airbnb around the corner. The so-called “sharing economy” – peer-to-peer services such as Airbnb and Uber – offers travelers convenience. But the unhindered ubiquity of carpools, home rentals, and local tours has also weakened our ability to ask for favors. Which means we run out of opportunities to connect with old friends, learn about the local culture, or just enjoy the comfort of a home cooked meal.

Now, after a year of anxiety, isolation, and monotony, none of us shy away from asking people to help us get through a vacation. And returning the favor, helping others to have a vacation, is like the greatest gesture, an act of benevolence. Because right now, few things seem more precious than a vacation.

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