With age, I've come to hate doing new things on holiday

Oliver Smith
·2-min read
Paddleboarding in Mexico
Paddleboarding in Mexico

Paddleboarding, for one, is just a bad back waiting to happen – and I'm not falling for it

I have a disease that seems to afflict the old far worse than the young. It is neophobia – that is, a fear of trying new things – and it is most pronounced when I’m on holiday.

I wasn’t always so dull. As a carefree youth, I soaked up fresh experiences, from kayaking to hip-hop karaoke. But with age – 36 years and counting – comes wisdom. I’ve tried many things, and found plenty that I like – certainly enough to fill a two-week break in the Med. There’s walking, cycling, food and wine, sitting by the pool and reading a good book. So why waste my precious time away from the office trying to expand my horizons further? I’ll only be disappointed.

The world keeps inventing new things to rouse me from my torpor. I take one glance at people indulging in such activities and return to my novel.

Take Segways. Why would you pay good money to bomb around town on what is essentially a mobility scooter? They are the transport equivalent of a bum bag: guaranteed to make you look like a fool. I watch tourists riding these devices and always sense regret.

Then there is paddleboarding, the Segway of the seas, which seems mostly to involve hanging out with social media “influencers”, wearing a sarong, getting a sore back and losing your balance. If it has taken until the 21st century for the pastime to become popular, then it must be rubbish.

Hotel spas seem particularly obsessed with novelty (thalassotherapy, anybody?) – now more than ever. That vigorous one-hour rubdown has lost a little of its allure during the pandemic, but these days we can swap our massage for something called a “gong bath”, which “induces healing through calming reverberations”. Please.

Restaurants are another place where innovation is out of control. Gastronomy is great, and a twist on an old favourite is fine – a different shape of pasta, perhaps, or a slightly nuttier cheddar. But molecular gastronomy, with its spherification, foams and foraged moss? Forget it.

My avoidance of the unfamiliar is starting to affect my choice of destination, too. I once harboured a desire to visit as many countries as possible and every holiday was about charting new territory.

Now I keep returning to tried-and-tested options, such as Italy and Greece. Pretty soon it will be the same Greek island. Then the same timewarped village. Maybe the same apartment. What’s wrong with me? Neophobia has killed my explorer’s instinct.

So is there a cure?

Here’s an idea: I could try a new activity while simultaneously engaging in an old favourite. Drunk paddleboarding, perhaps? I’ll keep you posted.