Holidays: why do we travel?

Whether you choose to hike in Brittany, the beach break in Palma or the trekking in the Sahara, we have only one idea in mind: blowing to recharge us!

Health, shape, beauty, personal fulfillment, longevity … The modern holiday maker, when he buckles his suitcases, does not ask thirty-six questions: he wants to be “good”. In his body and in his head! “As a result of a formidable stressed society, there is a vital need for social parentheses, recreation, relaxation and flight away from the world of competition to recover without pressure,” emphasizes sociologist Bernard Cathelat.1 From now on, the first opportunity for a different world where the rules are different. “The success of the Internet, video games and the virtual world is to be compared to the craze for distant travel and the time.

Different ? A universe isolated from pollution and noise, preferably in the sun, feeling more chlorophyll than exhaust, inviting to a healthy table without being “organic”, to popular festivals without giving in the gigantism, is one of the basic ingredients for a successful holiday. A good dose of conviviality, in addition, all seasoned with a rising value: slowness. In fact, returning to the early hours of its history, tourism in the new millennium has no choice but to respond to a very high therapeutic demand. “The journey is making progress,” says Nouvelles Frontières. “Being Re,” says Club Med. From the green countryside of Limousin to the white beaches of the Maldives, passing by the peaks of the Andes, the tendency is to the ”

Guided by our imaginary

Literature, history, music, culture, etc., are the cornerstones of these intimate mental representations, different for everyone, which the sociologist Rachid Amirou calls “the imaginary of travel”. Relatively blurred, “these imaginaries are an evocation rather than an acquaintance, they are images, symbols, and figures.” So some will have to mind images of New York corresponding to the novels of Henry Miller, while others will create an image of the American capital from the films of Woody Allen. Mexico will be synonymous with a screaming exoticism, beaches, and coconut palms, or the country of the Popocatépetl and the feathered serpent. Everything will depend on the culture of the traveler and its permeability to the hype of advertising,

If the imaginary contribute to triggering the desire to leave and initiate the choice of a destination, they also serve as a guide to the traveler and dictate his behavior during his escape. Some of them will dance at any cost in Rio, others will follow in Pessoa’s footsteps in Lisbon, others will know how to revive the revolution in Cuba. a danger: “When the journey lived does not correspond to what was expected, it is missed”, explains Jean-Didier Urbain in his excellent book, “Secrets de voyages” (see margin). For this sociologist who is an advocate of imaginary theory, the ritual of escape has not ceased to surprise us. It contains in particular several types of “secrets”.

Going underground

The journey is more and more part of a logic of disintegration, notes Jean-Didier Urbain. We leave on tiptoe … The new credo of well-made holidays becomes the stealth. “Major tendency of the contemporary traveler: to disappear underground. We are increasingly moving away from those ostentatious behaviors that have so far structured the moment of departure.
Even more interesting is the remark that it is in this clandestinity that one of the other unconscious demands of the tourist is expressed, that of disguising oneself, becoming another and engaging in what is called of the “inversion rites”. “The textbook begins to read, the intellectual takes to tinkering, the poor plays the rich and the rich to the poor,” continues Jean-Didier Urbain.We are in the middle of jamming social belongings “We are in full transgression. One is at the heart of the behaviors vacationers end of a century.

The passion of the extreme

Elements of rupture (others will speak of parentheses), these inversion rituals are expressed in all kinds of practices proposed by tour operators and, in particular, those called “extreme”. Rafting, canyoning, mountaineering, trekking are among the favorite activities of adventurous tourists, who combined with their need to be another aspiration to surpass themselves. “It’s like a 200-kilometer-hour car that is used to driving at 50. All emotions and sensations are awakened,” says Jean-Luc Marty, editor-in-chief of the magazine Géo. To compensate for a monotonous, risk-free life, some behave unconsciously like the explorer or the adventurer of old, whose image haunts their fantasies. In “Passion for Risk”, his latest book, the anthropologist David Le Breton, writes that “the man without quality can finally take the legend, go to the end of his strength, symbolically play his existence to gain that extra meaning that makes life full.” But while a tiny minority will take real risks, many aspire to “secure risk” or “organized adventure”. Indiana Jones, be it! but with a Europ Assistance contract in hand!

Moving motionless

Less spectacular, but omnipresent, the inverse aspiration of the great majority of Westerners, including young people, to only shift their habits. With their emotional surroundings, but also their accessories and their daily practices, they avoid the expatriation at all costs. The paradox of travel, the elsewhere must not be otherwise. Better still, the movement must be immobility.

In this register, the country house or cottage in the mountains that is rented among friends is still a “best seller”, while the beach does not finish winning all the votes. Ideal space where one can reconstitute its tribe, devote itself to its habits and immobility. Empty between heaven and earth, the beach is the kingdom of idleness.
Re-established as a commercial success, the cruise is even more so. Does not she succeed in the feat of offering travel without the obligation of moving, romanticism in addition? Not to mention this new fashion, marginal but significant, which consists of renting boats remaining, please, always at the dock!

Between doing and not doing, it is more and more true that it is the second attitude that dominates: 28% of French holiday-makers surveyed by the Credoc2 claim it. As much say they like to swim (verse: to splash!), Against 7% pretending to want to “stir”. The higgling of active holidays is therefore only a media gadget. At best it makes pamphlets. At worst, an offer of expensive and unsellable products! Even the UCPA, champion of sports holidays, nuanced its slogans: “Sport, but without being sweet.”

A quest for oneself and for the other

On the basis of the real expectations inherent in the outset, the demand for conviviality is much higher. Seen under the microscope of sociological surveys, tourism also expresses and above all “a search for self and others”. It therefore reflects the search for certain forms of sociability that represent an alternative to everyday life.
Another recent survey by the Credoc indicates that, regardless of age and gender, reception and encounter are the first elements of satisfaction for about 40% of vacationers. When it comes to children and adolescents, these numbers are exploding. And the “cool” is acclaimed by 65% of the juniors of the Internet generation! As for the family, the most reliable value of the last ten years, are not we waiting for the holidays to reconstitute it, to pamper it?

Freedom through autonomy

But sociability today has nothing to do with that of yesterday. The “holiday village”, which has long been one of the most beautiful flagships of tourism iconography, is now, according to a CSA survey, only 10% adept, and group travel, 13%! It must be said that the demand for user-friendliness is less and less satisfied by these formulas. “Travel” is today synonymous with “freedom”. But freedom depends on the autonomy and the free choice of its schedules and activities.

Much more adapted, some great forms of holiday epics make their entrance. Among them, the “rando”, whose number of followers grows steadily (15 million, say the figures without nuances of the federation!), And the pilgrimage, which becomes again one of the means of leaving to the discovery of the others, without to make the expense of their exasperating daily company! The roads to Santiago de Compostela, restored by Unesco, attracted l35,000 pilgrims in 1999, most of whom did not obey any religious motivation. A tete-a-tete with oneself where one indulges in a sketch of therapy? We can also note the enthusiasm for the monasteries, the Burgundian pagodas or the Indian ashrams. Demands more mediated than real, but all converging towards a single goal: to be better.

In fact, the 675 million tourists who crisscross the planet have the choice between an infinite number of activities, accommodation and sites “put in desire” (in the words of the sociologist Jean Viard) to great reinforcements of facilities and communication, they are only worthy heirs of the English aristocrat of the nineteenth century going to treat his spleen at the edge of the waters of the North Sea, or by one of those great towers of Europe which have gave birth to modern tourism.

Destinations: Where are you going?

Mystery! For the majority of us, the choice has not yet been made. With a residual budget, holidays are decided more and more at the last minute. However, habits do exist and, year after year, migrations do not vary. More than 80% (these figures are taken from the “Memento du tourisme 1999” published by the Ministry of Tourism). preference for its coastline where they account for almost 40% of their overnight stays. Then, in order, the countryside and the mountain, knowing that the winter holidays remain a privilege. Just like foreign stays, which affect only 15% of holidaymakers, with Europe in the lead, followed very far by Africa, America, Asia. And in Europe, Spain remains the favorite destination, heavily supported by Italy.

On the activities side, water sports (attention, they include bathing) receive the maximum number of votes in the case of holidays at sea. However, in all the territories, it is the promenade which prevails, followed by visits to sites and monuments. Note that the campaign does not seem to favor the activity since in summer 30% of the French admit not doing anything, against 43% in winter!

Finally, more than half spend their holidays with friends or family, especially in winter, while hotel and camping attract respectively 16% and 8% of summer stays.

“Some break time, others take it finally”

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