By Leah Martindale Third year film and television
With Brexit looming and the future of low-cost last minute getaways uncertain, Leah Martindale reflects on what she'll miss most about affordable European travel.
It was an uncharacteristically lovely English summer’s day. I was at the polling station early, as I had a midday train from Birmingham to Edinburgh to visit my (then) boyfriend. The sun was high, birds were tweeting, children laughing, the day was June 23rd 2016. The day it all changed.
I woke up to rain in Edinburgh. It’s like the skies above me, carrying my faithful budget airlines, somehow knew. My boyfriend’s sister Sarah told me solemnly, ‘The vote has passed. Brexit is happening.’ In a cold sweat I checked the Ryanair website. They seemed unsure what effect this would have on my cheapo holidays. Truly dire times.
Epigram / Leah Martindale
The summer before my best friend and I had gone on a stifling, sweltering coach journey from our hometown of Brum to beautiful Cianciana, in darling Sicily. Looking back on the gorgeous scenery, delicious food, and sexy locals, the niggling doubt crept in the back of my mind. Europe was my second love, but for how long could I keep this affair up?
The April of 2017, nearing the end of first year, my mother and I took on Northern India in a roasting, overstuffed and often feather-ruffling 10 day escapade. As I went through every previous country I’d visited for the extensive Visa requirements, I wept for the future of my travel. Would I have to go through all this every time I wanted to go on a £10 jaunt to the continent? Who knew. Not me. Did anyone know?
As much as I enjoy my fancy Indian stamps in my passport, they hardly equal in novelty the sheer unbridled joy of sauntering up to the EU desk at passport inspection and getting on with your holiday within seconds. The fear of misstepping in my Visa application and accidentally getting arrested on arrival in Asia far overshadows the gut-dropping moment I realised I’d misspelt my surname as “Mart” on a plane ticket to Spain. (Cue a nickname with more longevity than our EU memberships…)
I’m a cheapskate. I’ll admit it. The thought of shelling out a couple of extra quid for a cheeky European trip fills me with an insurmountable dread. That could go on the trademark disposable camera for some nice thumb-over-the-lens shots, some cheap European beers that taste more of barley and hops than liquid, or a big flamingo pool floatie like the boujie insta girls have.
With no real clue how the Brexit vote will affect any of us, debates are flying about our NHS, local economies, farming communities, refugees, Wales and Scotland’s independence, but where’s the talk of the real victims of the vote? Who will really suffer? Me. Never again will I sit on the back of a rickety coach with a stinky shared toilet rolling unbothered through the Swiss hills. (Maybe.)
When the vote finally takes its hold over our tiny, rainy island, I will miss my freedom of travel most of all. Mostly because I am already poor and know little to nothing about how it all works, but also because my little skits abroad are a smiley sun over an otherwise hard and essay-laden landscape.
I will miss trawling the Ryanair website for their Black Friday £5+ tickets across Europe. I will miss snoozing in the airport at 4am, trusty burgundy passport in slightly less trusty bumbag, waiting for the 6am flight that I justified as it was a fiver less than a sane time of day. I will miss remembering about trips a week ahead of take-off and still having time for all the necessary preparations.
Epigram / Leah Martindale
Maybe this will be a good thing for the suffering European tourist towns, inundated with monolingual reprobates like yours truly. If I had to fill out a full application ahead of time, maybe I would be more inclined to prepare further than simply learning ‘no cheese’ in the language of choice and calling it a day. That, or I would forget to do anything, and they would be spared my presence all together.
As someone somewhat disillusioned with the British identity, not a royalist, UKIPer, farmer, or ‘yah-yah’ boarding school stereotype, one of my favourite things about my British nationality was our links with Europe. While Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland, and parts of England can prove as exotic as the arctic at times, there’s always been a cheeky joy in being so close and yet so far from so much culture, life, and vibrancy.
I have dreamed for years of skipping out, pulling a Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again and just upping sticks and moving to a beautiful European town to start all over again. Now that ambition seems more pipe than dream, and I am left wondering how many other people’s secret hopes have been crushed by the imminence of bureaucracy, paperwork, and a feeling of self-imposed unwelcomeness.
Perhaps one day my closests will wake up to the news I am now located on the Southern shore of a beautiful Maltese island, growing grapes for wine and getting indecent tanlines. Perhaps one day I will announce the first step of a six month plan to that end goal. Either way, I hope Brexit can be good for our dreamers, island hoppers, and travellers, Britain across.
Featured Image: Leah Martindale/ Epigram
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