Life Travel ‘We’re all on holiday’: Red Symons on how to feel like a tourist at home

‘We’re all on holiday’: Red Symons on how to feel like a tourist at home

Holidaying at home is an opportunity to try the local “street food” like potato cakes and flake. Photo: Getty/TND
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Can I be honest with you?

Firstly, if ever anyone asks me that, my first thought is, ‘what have you been doing until now?’

Take two: Can I be honest with you?

A holiday “is a day set aside by custom or by law on which normal activities, especially business or work including school, are suspended or reduced.”

In the current lockdown and isolation you are clearly on holiday. Even if you’re working from home, you can only really concentrate for an hour or so at a time and then you skive off for a walk or a cup of tea. It’s fine. No-one’s looking over your shoulder. Your superiors are doing exactly the same thing themselves.

We’re all on holiday.

I once did a cruise around the Mediterranean where each day the captain of the ship would move the hotel room and the restaurant to a new location and we’d disembark and look around.

Let me suggest that you get on a train, head for the end of the line, randomly disembark at one of the stations and go for a wander in a suburb where you have never been before.

You can try the local “street food”, like potato cakes and flake. Take a newspaper and you can re-wrap it in the traditional manner, rip the top off the bag and tuck it into your v-necked jumper to keep you both warm while you snack and take in the sights.

If you wish to cross from Europe to Asia Minor, forget the Bosphorus, take a walk down Melbourne’s Sydney Road. You start with French fusion food at the Vietnamese takeaway, on past the Italian bridal shops and the Greek lamb on a spit, gradually advancing to Lebanese and Turkish cultures.

Just like the Grand Tour of the 19th Century, you progress to an area where none of the signage is written in clarion English but rather the pleasing and unreadable calligraphy of Arabic.

Not quite the original, but a da Vinci dishrag could be just around the corner. Photo: Etsy

You can cruise the Mediterranean in half a dozen blocks and be back for another hour and a half of “work”.

It’s conventional to visit a gallery when travelling so you can pointlessly point out that you’ve seen the Mona Lisa. I have no doubt you can see it on a tea towel in most $2 shops. These shops are filled with marvels of hope and inspiration. One can at least admire the optimism of the manufacturer.

Entry is free.

I had occasion to seek tinned guavas some years ago and hunted them down in a South African specialty shop in an unlikely outer suburb. They also had biltong, a dried meat, and various cereals and chocolate wafers that someone who had grown up with them would gasp in recognition and remembrance.

I have also found South American and South East Asian supermarkets where you just wander around taking it all in like you’re looking at the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.

Entry is free and you don’t have to buy the dulce de leche.

The conventional idea of a holiday is to seek exercise and entertainment.

It’s difficult to swim in the current constraints but there is a public swimming pool in the moat of the National Gallery of Victoria. It’s a bit shallow for lap swimming and you’ll probably be moved on if you stay too long, so imagine it as a quick dip in the hotel pool in Fiji.

Then there’s always the Yarra where you might also find a free bike. It’s a Melbourne tradition.

It’s normal when travelling to visit historical buildings and imagine living there. I’ve inspected the Palau Guell, a Gaudi house in Barcelona.

You can do the same thing here at any open-for-inspection. You’re not required to buy or rent the place. Just have a look around.

You’ve seen Atoni Gaudi’s stunning Palau Guella house, but what about that fascinating Werribee weatherboard?

Maybe you like going to the Car Show. Why not just turn up at a car yard and pretend you’re going to buy one? You’ll get your own personal guide.

I have considered staying at a backpackers hotel in the city. There is, however, the risk that I am seen as just a creepy old man.

I have been interested by the negative responses to the idea of going to the bingo or the greyhound racing. It’s fascinating if you’ve never been but people are afraid of being seen, in their own town, as “that sort of person”, whatever “that” means. You’d perform at a karaoke bar in Korea, wouldn’t you?

When you’re on holiday and out of the country you are no longer anyone in particular.

Red Symons is a musician of the 1970s, TV vaudevillian of the 80s and 90s, radio voice of the new millennium and a sprinkled condiment in the theatre and print. 

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