It's that time of year again when any small talk that you engage in will inevitably include the 'holiday question'.
'Going anywhere nice this year?' is what everyone wants to know. Not dissimilar to the dreaded 'Christmas question', 'have you got all your shopping done?'. It's as though everyone is frantically trying to assure themselves that what they are doing is normal.
Most people, even those who are not able to get away themselves, seem happy enough to engage in this holiday small talk, to share dreams of trips planned or memories of trips past, united in a common love of going on holidays, of getting away from it all.
Everyone except me that is because I actually don't like going on holidays all that much.
Admittedly, if it has been a particularly dreary and cold winter, once April rolls around I too will start to get caught up in the feeling that I need to get some sun on my bones. I feel influenced by the Boots summer TV ads, the new collections in the shops that can only be worn in countries where they get 'real summers' and by being constantly asked the 'holiday question' by everyone I meet.
If I am lucky enough to be able to afford a holiday, no matter how carefully I try to tailor it to my idiosyncratic needs, bring my own teabags and chocolate from home, or how desperately I need the break from work, homesickness always seems to strike me, even when on what should be the most perfect holidays.
Over the years I have kept these feelings to myself, aware from the 'how many sleeps to go' countdowns that go on around me, that it is probably not normal for adults to feel homesick on holidays.
Once, on the last day of a holiday with a friend, she lamented that she had the 'last day blues'. I pretended of course that I felt the same way as that was the normal thing to do but on the inside I felt relieved as after a week of sleepless nights and an upset stomach I was finally homeward bound. I didn't dare speak of the fact that I had experienced the 'first day blues' when we arrived.
Usually, the feelings of homesickness start to creep once I get on the plane. I think it's something about taking off and seeing my rainy but beautiful country reduced to a speck in the distance that always fills me with a deep sense of melancholy and loneliness that I can't fully understand. It's as though a part of me stays behind when I leave, that I am lonely for a part of myself perhaps.
If it is a hot country that I have chosen as my destination I will usually feel another wave of homesickness upon landing when the heat rising up from the hot, melting, runway smacks me in the face and reminds me that I am not designed for a hot climate. Usually I find myself guiltily complaining about the heat before I have even left the airport.
Crossing into another timezone and the inevitable jet lag that follows also exacerbate these feelings of displacement. I hate the feeling of being awake while everyone back home sleeps, and vice versa, as though we are each working different shifts in life.
The ultimate trigger for my homesickness however is food. Long associated with the comfort of home, after a few days of challenging my palette to new flavours, I long for the consolation of a plain, home cooked meal and a decent cup of tea. Bringing your own teabags doesn't always cut it.
A look at Google Trends data for the search term homesickness reveals that I might not be the only one to experience it while on holidays. The data indicates that search traffic on the term rises rapidly as the summer months approach, with a peak in September, likely due to anxiety among college students leaving home for the first time.
In keeping with the theme of homesickness, this year in Ireland we are celebrating what is called the Gathering 2013. It is estimated that there are over 70 million people around the world with Irish heritage. The Gathering 2013 is a countrywide initiative to call home our absent friends and families for 'gatherings' in the villages, towns and cities of Ireland to celebrate the best of Irish culture and temporarily alleviate those feelings of homesickness.
So when I am asked the holiday question this year, hopefully my staying at home response will sound more normal.