Thursday, July 30, 2009

Holiday Romances

by Ashley Lister

Whilst writing and researching my non-fiction titles on swinging I discovered a curious fact about vacations. Couples are more likely to become involved in sexual experiments whilst they’re on holiday.

(I should point out here that I’m not a big fan of the phrase ‘sexual experiments.’ It always makes me think of laboratories with professors in lab-coats attaching electrodes to various anatomical appendages. Not that this has ever happened to me. And, even if it has, this isn’t a place where I would be writing about it).

Various reasons for the phenomena of sexual experimentation on vacation were posited by those people I interviewed.

• Holidays are relaxing.
• Holidays take a person away from the normal restrictions of family life.
• Holidays are a time for letting your hair down.

However, none of these excuses really seemed to explain why so many of the couples I spoke with had found a fortnight in the sun led to threeways, swapping and swinging. There’s a big difference between being relaxed and enjoying the weather; or doing a double header with an obliging waiter/waitress from the hotel where you’re staying.

To go off at a tangent for a moment: in the 1990 sci-fi movie Total Recall (inspired by a Philip K Dick short story ‘We Can Remember It For You Wholesale’) Arnold Schwarzenegger’s character visits a company called Rekall that offers memory implants. Schwarzenegger goes there to discuss options for having the memory of a holiday to Mars implanted in his brain. It’s supposed to be cheaper and more time-efficient than actually having the holiday, and you come away from the process with memories that are indistinguishable from having genuinely had a vacation. (Trust me: this makes sense in the context of a futuristic Schwarzenegger film).

As Schwarzenegger seems to be deciding against the purchase, the manager asks, “What is exactly the same about every single vacation you have ever taken?”

Schwarzenegger can’t think of an answer.

The manager says: “You. You’re the same. No matter where you go, it’s always you.”

He then goes on to lure Arnie into having implanted memories where Arnie will ‘remember’ being a secret agent on his trip to Mars. After that the film becomes a little complicated (well, as complicated as a Schwarzenegger movie could ever be). But the manager’s question always struck me as being thought-provoking.

Are we the same person when we go on holiday? Or do we allow ourselves to become someone different? I’m not suggesting I remember being a secret agent when I last took a trip off the planet. But I’m certainly not the same anally retentive computer-slave I am when I’m not on vacation.

On holiday I’ll admire exotic locations. I’ll enjoy new foods. I’ll try different experiences from roller-coaster rides through to exploring unfamiliar marketplaces.

In short, I have a regular persona and a holiday persona.

And, perhaps it’s that incarnation of the holiday persona that allowed so many of my interview subjects the freedom to try new experiences whilst they were enjoying their vacation.

The salesman in the Schwarzenegger movie was wrong. When we go on holiday the majority of us allow ourselves to become different people. We become people who are experiencing new cultures; people who are able to test new flavours; and people who can experiment with everything from local wines to the pleasures of consensual swapping and swinging.

All of which is my longwinded way of saying: if you’re going on vacation soon, take lots of condoms and lube, and don’t forget to share your holiday pictures with all of us here at Oh Get A Grip.


  1. Ash,

    Very interesting take on vacations. This reminds me of something a teacher once said to me. We have different 'faces' for different people or aspects of our life. We have the loving husband/wife face, the student face, the son/daughter face, the job face, and now you've come up with how we project ourselves on holiday. Makes us all look like a bunch of schizo maniacs, but what the heck. LOL

    Great post. Pictures? Maybe! LOL


  2. We are as multi-faceted as diamonds! Or, as you say, schizoid maniacs :-)



  3. Hi Ashley!

    That's a really interesting observation, people can do things on vacation they might not do at home. Its as if they imagine themselves in a different world or a place of no normal consequences like a lucid dream or soemthing. I've never heard this before, but I find it easy to believe.

    Thank you for an interesting post. It must be fun to do research like that.


  4. Hello, Ash,

    Excellent points! I'm not sure that I'm a different person when I'm on vacation, but sometimes I think my whole life would be viewed by others as a vacation...

    Your notion about people being "different" on vacation has some merit, but I think that there are other factors that encourage sexual exploration as well:

    - more privacy/anonymity
    - freedom from kids (if this is relevant)
    - the fact that many vacation spots encourage, shall we say, more minimalist clothing
    - the fact that you're likely to encounter other vacationers who are also feeling frisky

    Anyway, a great take on the week's topic! Thanks!


  5. Hi Garce,

    It really was fun to do such an interesting research project. I got to meet some fascinating people who were incredbily generous with their intimate memories and their free time.

    Thanks for reading and responding.


  6. Hi Lisabet,

    Yes. Freedom from the kids was often mentioned by my interview subjects as a major dealbreaker.

    I'm saving my thoughts on that one for another blog :-)

    And don't get me started on minimalist clothing. I live in a seaside resort. Yesterday it was constant rain. The day was cold and miserable. And still I saw two dozen women wearing bikinis and as many men wearing only shorts, socks and sandals! Honestly, where's the fun in getting holiday hypothermia?

    Thanks for reading and responding.


  7. I have to say, in light of my own vacation experiences, I am pretty much the same wherever I go, even on vacation. Of course, my vacations usually aren't all that relaxing for some reason. Hubster refers to them as adventures. I refer to them as trips to Hell. Go figure.


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