by Sherelle Jacobs, The Telegraph, December 21, 2017
‘Tis that time of year again. Yes, for impaling my feet on rogue game board pieces, and eating all the pink ones from the Quality Streets. But also for taking stock: How would I sum up my 2017? Granted, if – like me – you’re now practically perspiring mulled wine, and have The Pogues permanently stuck your head, mental clarity may seem challenging. But to summarise – in Bridget Jones style – my year:
Apparently my generation could save £64,00 for a mortgage deposit in five years by making packed lunches and forgoing holidays. But the calculation is still based on the assumption that mum and dad will stump up half. This is the tragedy of the millennials. We are not adults. We are obscene, greying, guilt-wracked children, unable to escape the warm, squeezing, suffocating clutches of parental sacrifice.
I’m all for scrounging off my parents. But I draw the line at 30 grand towards a Dickensian hovel on a street where bikes are nicked more than the rubbish truck comes.
Instead, I embrace the happy frittering of my salary on a thousand little luxuries. These range from weekly blow dries to truffle oil. Travel is my biggest weakness though. While I’m stingy about staples (always the cheapest granola; coats sourced from charity shops), without blinking, I can sink £300 on flights for a last-minute city break.
My friends are the same. I asked a best friend about her new year’s resolutions. Her reply: "Getting my chaotic finances in order. Thing is I’ve already booked a trip to the Philippines." Do not underestimate: this attitude is a national phenomenon. According to a study by market research institute Gfk, Britain’s millennials deem travel to be a higher financial priority over then next half-a-decade than buying a home, paying off debt or investing in a car.
The market is mushrooming. The 18-35s travel specialist Contiki has reported a 10 per cent spike in the average spend of customers this year. An airline aimed at millennials – Joon – launched in December. The world’s first cruise ships for 20-somethings set sail in spring 2018.
I actually think this trend is positive. I’m a better person for my grotesque overspend on travel this year. My experiences have invigorated and educated me: Alone in deserted Roman churches, I have contemplated forgotten Caravaggio paintings. I have walked among Manhattan's huge, meekening buildings at night, taking in the smells of pretzels and sewer grate.
I now have basic competence at salsa (obtained in Havana), and a new national cuisine to butcher at one of my mediocre dinner parties (Colombian). I had the best steak of my life in the Highlands – meat pinker than Elizabeth Taylor’s over-blushed cheeks, and squalidly rimmed with fat. I have done more city break graffiti tours this year than kitchen deep cleans.
Also, I took my parents away often; it’s a way for me to say thank you for all they’ve done. Yes, I’m sure they’d be very proud if one day I’m able to invite them round to my very own house and cook for them. But surely a family villa break in the South of France or a mother-daughter spa weekend in Berkshire is way more fun?
I actually find it deliciously apt that travel is destroying my chances of owning a house. Home and travel are enemies. The former represents permanence and isolation from the world; the other embodies the exact opposite. It’s proof of God’s deep sense of irony that the English – the builders of Empire, the explorers of Africa, the inventors of the steam locomotive and the thermos flask – should have become so competitively obsessed with buying bricks and mortar with which to entomb themselves.
Granted, the downside of my travelling is that I’ll never get round to upgrading from my cracked laptop, and every morning I play Jenga with the broken chest of drawers I can’t afford to replace. But I can relate to The One Show watchers better than people who would forgo travel just to live amongst chip-free furniture, or take out a mortgage in seven years.
And so predictions for 2018? I won’t save a penny. My nerves shall continue to be janglier than the chains of Jacob Marley’s accumulated sins each time I check my mobile banking app. EasyJet will take the third biggest cut of my salary, after my landlord and HMRC. But I will collect more incredible travel memories. And it is those days when I am abroad next year that I will feel most happy and free. That’s what I hear in my mind when I think about travel: man sighing with liberation, and the sighing sea.