Four alternatives to the typical holiday

Fed up with the usual tourist traps when you go on holiday? Then it’s time for something completely different, says Stuart Watkins.

Posh hotel room © Getty Images

Hole up in a posh hotel and indulge your inner child
(Image credit: Posh hotel room © Getty Images)

Fed up with the usual tourist traps? Then it's time for something completely different, says Stuart Watkins.

Are you suffering from the autumn blues? That sinking feeling that the days of enjoying calamari at that secluded inlet by the azure stillness of the Mediterranean are over, and that you have nothing to look forward to but a British winter, hassle and a mountain of uncompleted tasks? Well, not me, says James Delingpole in The Spectator. There is a very simple cure for the autumn blues and that is not to go on holiday at all, stay home all summer and just carry on working.

That way you can enjoy the feeling that you are virtuously holding the fort while all your comrades have deserted their posts. And because everyone assumes everyone else is away and adjusts their expectations, you can put in the hours with half the effort and still get all the kudos. Come autumn you will be inured to the pain of the daily grind, "like the old lag in the POW camp, watching the newcomers arrive their eyes bright with the prospect of camaraderie and imminent escape".

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Best of all, though, is that once everyone's back at their desks, you can pop down to the beach at Devon. "It's great: summer weather at autumn prices and emptiness. You should try it sometime."

Stay in the hotel

We stumbled upon the idea of the hotel-room holiday by accident, says Yonatan Raz Portugali on Popula. Arriving in Chania, Crete, for their honeymoon, Raz and his partner found that the "magical Venetian town" they'd read about in a travel magazine turned out to be "a maze of souvenir shops, Irish pubs and authentic' Greek tavernas". The hotel room, though, was "amazing", with "old-world wood furniture and nice balconies with views of the port". So they stayed in, read, watched TV, chatted, ordered pizza, wrote a little, doodled and as the honeymoon came to an end, they realised they hadn't set foot outside the premises but had "had the best holiday ever".

If you stay in your room, you can't be "disappointed, frustrated or cheated" by your choice of destination, yet if you just look at it through the window, "everything will seem interesting". Indeed, one of the deepest pleasures of the hotel-room holiday is how "it allows you, as a grown-up, this rare, forgotten feeling of knowing that someone else, someone responsible, is taking care of life for you making sure things are functioning smoothly and safely". A hotel "is perhaps the closest you can get to being a child again, locking yourself up in your room" while someone else takes care of the food and the cleaning.

Vladimir Nabokov completed Pale Fire while living in a suite at the Montreux hotel, and that's the kind of place you want for a hotel-room holiday. "The ideal places to encamp are the luxury hotels of yesteryear, built around the 19th century for train travellers, shabby and dated, thinly staffed and clinging on mainly through inertia."

Take a stroll in the city

If you do venture outside the hotel, leave your tourist itinerary behind and go for an aimless stroll. French radical Guy Debord coined the term "psychogeography" to describe the practice and it can "reveal or illuminate forgotten, discarded or marginalised aspects" of the city, says Siobhan Lyons on The Conversation. The idea is just to drift, even get lost, with no purpose other than to wander.

Psychogeographer Iain Sinclair wrote a book about his walk around the M25 and the "unloved outskirts of the city" of London. Such wanderings make you "an insurgent against the contemporary world, an ambulatory time traveller", according to Will Self, another contemporary psychogeographer and author. The M25 may not sound like a promising place to enjoy your holiday, but your experience is unlikely to be spoilt by hordes of tourists, and the act of wandering, says Australian stroller Vanessa Berry, "re-enchants places that are overlooked or not usually subjects for attention".

Train to be a ninja

Ninja © Getty Images

The bruise? Oh, it's just from my ninja training
(Image credit: Ninja © Getty Images)

The ninja were warriors in feudal Japan who specialised in unconventional warfare, using methods such as infiltration, sabotage and assassination. As history passed into legend, their skills came to be believed to include invisibility and walking on water. Black Tomato, a luxury travel agency based in London, has a ten-night itinerary that will give you some insight into the dark arts of the ninja.

The trip includes martial arts lessons with a ninja master, and you'll get to practise with a variety of ninja weapons, including throwing stars and blowguns, as well as the basics of ninja techniques such as "stealthy steps, hardened hands and the inner eye". As Black Tomato says, "Just imagine the conversation at your next dinner party; The bruise? It's from training with a real-life Japanese ninja".

From £9,000 per person, excluding flights

Stuart Watkins

Stuart graduated from the University of Leeds with an honours degree in biochemistry and molecular biology, and from Bath Spa University College with a postgraduate diploma in creative writing. 

He started his career in journalism working on newspapers and magazines for the medical profession before joining MoneyWeek shortly after its first issue appeared in November 2000. He has worked for the magazine ever since, and is now the comment editor. 

He has long had an interest in political economy and philosophy and writes occasional think pieces on this theme for the magazine, as well as a weekly round up of the best blogs in finance. 

His work has appeared in The Lancet and The Idler and in numerous other small-press and online publications.