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holidays with a difference

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New word of the month
New words on vacation:
holidays with a difference

by Kerry Maxwell

babymoon noun [C] /bebimun/  
a special holiday taken by parents-to-be before their first baby is born
babymoon verb [I] /bebimun/  
babymooner [C] /bebimun

'Getting in one last jaunt for two before baby makes three has become a hot trend among expecting couples. It's been called a babymoon.'
(ABC News, 18th February 2006)

'Babymooning seemed like a last chance for romance, to enjoy uninterrupted hours in art galleries, to linger over a foreign-brewed coffee, to see a movie, to finally read A Tale of Two Cities.'
(globeandmail.com, 13th August 2005)

' babymooners are looking for special gifts and tokens that will remind them of their trip.'
(Seattle Post Intelligencer, 24th April 2006)

If you're about to become a parent for the first time, there's an inevitable mix of excitement about the impending arrival, and an anxiety that life will never be quite the same again! Couples who have enjoyed many years of freedom to travel and go on exciting holidays in far-flung locations, often think about going on one 'last fling' before the endless cycle of nappy changing and round-the-clock feeding begins. This is such a popular trend that we now have a name for it, the babymoon, one final, relaxing holiday for two which is not hampered by pushchairs, babyfood and sleepless nights.

In an age where people travel further and more frequently, and expectant mothers, providing there are no other complications, are not discouraged from travelling right up to their 36th week of pregnancy, the babymoon concept is a fantastic marketing opportunity for travel companies, who often put together special packages for babymooners. These might include pamper sessions for expectant Mums, cigars for Daddy, and special menus, which as well as including non-alcoholic drinks, might cater for the peculiar eating habits of some pregnant women by providing bizarre combinations like pickles and ice-cream.

The word babymoon is of course a blend of the words baby and honeymoon (the special holiday taken by a couple immediately after their wedding). If baby comes along too, not before, but after he or she is born, then the holiday could be described as a familymoon. This word refers to a holiday immediately after a wedding where the bride and groom are accompanied by children from previous marriages or relationships. It is often viewed as an opportunity to create bonds between children, and sometimes other members of extended family, who have been thrown together simply because of a relationship between respective parents. Again, travel companies have responded to the familymoon trend, offering resorts with a range of activities to suit all ages, and providing flexible accommodation, often in the form of adjoining suites or villas which facilitate both romance and family 'togetherness'.

At the opposite end of the spectrum, it seems that some couples are now wanting to travel, not with children or when they are expecting them, but precisely because they want to become parents. In a growing trend now referred to as fertility tourism, couples needing fertility treatment in order to start a family can travel to various destinations, including Spain, America and the Caribbean, in order to purchase the treatment that they need – usually at a much lower price than they would have to pay in the United Kingdom. The number of British fertility tourists has expanded hugely during the past year, fuelled by UK shortages in egg and sperm donations which have been exacerbated by new laws removing the right to anonymity for donors. A related, more generic term is health tourism, travel motivated by the need for clinical/surgical treatment which in Britain is either very costly or has a long waiting list, and which can be acquired more quickly and less expensively overseas.

For those couples who feel that parenthood is still a long way off, and are concentrating on cementing that right relationship, there's the concept of religious tourism or wedding tourism. The UK is witnessing a growing trend, among Asian tourists in particular, of travelling to Britain for a big wedding celebration complete with white dress, top hat and tails, vicar and picture-postcard country church the sort of converse of 'weddings in paradise'. The expression religious tourism is also used more generally to refer to any kind of travel motivated by either religious convictions or centering on visits to religious sites and buildings.

Of course not everyone who takes a holiday bases their travel plans on relationships or parenthood, but it seems that in the 21st century there's an increasing trend for holidays to include something 'extra', a kind of added dimension not confined to classic holiday pursuits such as sunbathing, walking in the countryside or sightseeing.

Often this added dimension is rather bleak in nature, associated with a kind of morbid curiosity about the location of a tragedy. This has led to the coinage of the expression dark tourism, which refers to travel to areas associated with death and disaster, such as battlefields, former concentration camps and memorial sites like Ground Zero in New York.

In 2002, the tragic murder of schoolgirls Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman led to an overwhelming number of visits to a small, otherwise nothing-out-of-the-ordinary village in Cambridgeshire, and catapulted the term grief tourism into the limelight. Grief tourists are people who visit the scene of a tragedy, or often a grave or memorial, in order to pay their respects to someone in the public eye who they felt as if they 'knew'. Not man-made but unavoidable tragedies are the focus of disaster tourism, which is now used to describe the phenomenon of travellers visiting places affected by natural disasters, the scenes of earthquakes and hurricanes, such as the areas devastated by the South-East Asian tsunami and Hurricane Katrina.

On the more positive side, those people who want to do something enriching in their spare time can combine a holiday with charity work and join the new wave of voluntourism (a blend of volunteer and tourism). Voluntourists head to far-flung parts of the world to build walls, dig fields and care for animals in wildlife sanctuaries, working by day and partying by night. The concept of voluntourism is particularly appealing to people in the developed world who want to 'make a difference', but aren't able or willing to give up their current lives in order to spend a year or more abroad. Some travel companies are even now offering the concept of a charity shortbreak, a kind of city-break meets voluntourism. A chimpanzee sanctuary near Barcelona, for example, offers a long weekend package of two days working with chimps and one day seeing the sights of Barcelona.

Incidentally, if you think you have to be young to venture on these kind of 'holidays with a difference', then you may not have come across another new expression, the term denture venturer. Denture venturers are people of or approaching retirement age who have decided it's not too late to travel the world!

Also joining babymooners, grief tourists, voluntourists and denture venturers as a new breed of holiday-maker is the set jetter. Set jetters are people who travel to a specific destination simply because it was the setting for a book, film or TV programme they particularly enjoyed. One of the most popular set-jetting destinations during the past year has been Rosslyn Chapel in Scotland, inspired by the book and subsequent movie The Da Vinci Code. Locations which have attracted younger set-jetters are Tobermory, the little town on Scotland's Isle of Mull which formed the setting for the BBC children's programme Balamory, the North York Moors railway and Alnwick Castle in Northumberland, which were used in the Harry Potter movies, and the island of Madagascar, inspired by the animated movie of the same name.

If all this talk of new trends in tourism is making you feel unsure what your holiday plans should be, you can explore possibilities from the comfort of your own home by becoming a virtual tourist. Through web-based audio-visual technology, virtual tourism gives anyone with access to the Internet the opportunity to explore other areas of the world without having to travel. People who want to check out holiday destinations can do so with a keyboard and mouse, and may decide that a virtual experience of a place is enough to satisfy their curiosity. As for me, there's no substitute for exploring the real thing!

Happy Holidays, wherever you decide to go!


For more information about new and topical words and phrases, read Kerry's Word of the Week articles on the MED Resource Site.