I don’t camp. Unless it comes with room service. I haven’t camped frequently, hamdullah, but the occasions when I have are, curiously, etched into long term memory like a computer virus. After what seems like lifetimes of muddy English fields, or even enthusiastic European campsites with sinks and flushing toilets, I still ‘don’t do canvas’. Camping and it’s even uglier sister, caravanning, is for those who can’t afford the Marriott. It’s for those with that appallingly British ‘mustn’t grumble’ stoicism, determined to enjoy themselves in the teeth of a squall gusty enough to uproot marrows and lashing rain which systematically soaks everything whether directly exposed to the elements or not. On arrival, you discover with enthusiasm that there’s a kilometer or more to walk to find either a flushing toilet or a stand-pipe from which if you wait long enough in the queue, you can collect enough water to make a small pot of tea. Thanks. But, no.
The reason for all of this is that, by and large, British expats are hardy and longsuffering worldwide travellers, packing a clean pair of underpants, a toothbrush and a SpeedStick in hand luggage and grittily making do for the rest. They arrive in strange foreign towns, dusty and unshaven, find the nearest Y, play catch with the cockroaches, eat triple portions for breakfast to save the expense of lunch and, terror notwithstanding, travel by local bus and to hell with the risk of either fire or electrocution. They drink polluted water, reasoning that the fastest way to gain immunity is to expose oneself to the local bacterial fauna. This is travelling, it would seem. Tourism on the other hand, its gentler face, seeks to protect the visitor from the more unwholesome aspects of a foreign culture and just show them a good time, ferrying them en masse in a rum-sodden haze, from one ‘attraction’ to another. I suppose, to jeers and mingled boos, I am one of those who prefer the latter, minus rum. Marriott hotels worldwide are accessible from a Freefone number. To Omaha, Nebraska.