The travel stories sound great but… did you tan?

I must admit, after booking a flight to Cairns I have had a few concerns with being exposed to unrelenting sunshine.

Then again, looking at the forecast for the dates I will be there, it seems to be very cloudy. I do hope we get a few sunny days.

However it took me back to this post about our desire for a tan, and how in the UK a sun tan is what people want to see most from our time away on our two week long Spanish holiday. It is like a trophy almost. People gather around at work to listen to your stories of that bright golden thing in the sky and what it felt like on the skin.

Let me know your thoughts on this. I am sure many people from the UK and other nations with similar climates can relate. Those that live in warmer climates, just show a little compassion to your grey skied neighbours 😉

I was with three German friends yesterday, they were travelling from Stuttgart to Newcastle for a weekend break. They underestimated the Scottish sunshine as I watched them come back from a day trip to Edinburgh. It’s there and craves attention from time to time. One of them came back more red than a Stuttgart away shirt.


Of course, the featured image isn’t northern Europe. It is Belém, Portuguese for Bethlehem. I loved this city and the regions around it, if I was in danger of sunburn it was this place. It is a shame, I used to tan so well. Maybe it was the parental guidance as a child and my clear lack of self reliance to apply enough sunscreen. I am fine with this though, it isn’t the main focus of my holiday.

It seems to be the main focus for so many people. When I arrive home after a trip, more often than not my skin colour will be the topic of conversation. Whether I tanned or not, I have to go through the cliche who-has-the-browner-skin competition.


I have five right arms. Great for carrying groceries, terrible for balance.

For many Brits, holidays abroad are simply for the sunshine. To be able to sit down outside with a beer and do nothing. To get a great tan and show everyone back home. It seems like this is what is perceived of my reasons to travel too. Not the stories of what I did or where I went, what food I tried and how much of the language I learned. Just how hard I tried to sit still to get brown enough to prove I went away in the first place.

I do often come back with a little colour, but this shouldn’t be the only evidence that any journey was worth it. If anything the lack of tan may prove I was busy doing other things, venturing away from the hotel pool from time to time. If I go all that way I want to make it worth it. I want to take this opportunity to do what I cannot back home and sample a new experience that my great grandparents were not able to.

I wonder if I went back in time and visited my great grandparents, would they take any interest in my change of skin colour at all, considering the huge amount of curiosity they must have gathered knowing I had travelled overseas? Or would they spend the whole day sitting down with me asking what such an experience was like? The smells from the restaurants, the appearance of the natives, the warmth of the rain and the height of the mountains.

The tan fades. Experiences don’t.


Originally posted 19th June, 2017

Reposted 1st February, 2018

Published by

Dealing with Disorder

A website dedicated to Tourette, OCD and co-occurring conditions. Daily updates celebrating neurodiversity.

38 thoughts on “The travel stories sound great but… did you tan?”

  1. You only focus upon the scorching heat of the sun but you don’t write about local people, food and their custom and also sceneries.


  2. I don’t get those questions because I’m quite tanned already. LOL. Born and raised in a tropical country. But I get what you mean about the tanning competition, I’ve seen that with my fairer colleagues. I think it really depends on the kind of traveler a person is. Some go for the sun, others for nature, and some for the ‘gram.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Each to their own regarding reasons for going on holiday. Like you pretty much said, all some people want is a sun bed and to be poolside. I can’t sit still for too long so I’m no professional sunbather, but that doesn’t mean I’m not jealous of your darker skin tone! It is nice to have that reminder that I have been away, even if the tan lasts roughly a week. What tropical country were you born and raised in?


      1. Lovely. One of my colleagues is from Manila, he is going back soon to visit family. I have worked with a few people from the Philippines in the past too! I would like to visit.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I highly recommend going to Siargao. 😊 For a few more pointers, you might wanna search BecomingFilipino on FB. He’s a guy from Vancouver who’s been documenting his travels around the Philippines. He’s become so loved by the community.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Thanks for the recommendations. It is great that people can blog their experiences and share it to the world, I love doing this! It is also nice that the community enjoy his work 🙂
        If I ever go, I will take your advice. I may just need to post about it to get a reminder from you!

        Liked by 1 person

      1. Yup we have nothing but rain and cold right now:( At least it’s not snow though so I can do whatever I want! Enjoy the sunshine for me too please!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Yeah, snow really limits the options! At least it does in the UK, a couple of inches and everything is brought to a standstill. I will enjoy the sunshine for you when it comes back out 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  3. We get plenty of sunshine already in most of the parts of India…but I agree with the statement that, tan fades, experience don’t.. amount of tan speaks about how much you enjoyed the trip 😁

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I can imagine India gets plenty of sunny days! I guess I will have to show how much I tan after coming back from Cairns (a challenge if it is cloudy), but we shall see 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  4. In my country, when you get tan from spending days under the sun, you get reprimanded for not bathing in sunscreen. Hahahaha. Maybe because there’s a perception here that fair skin is equivalent to looking good.

    Meanwhile in the West, getting a tan seems to be “in.”

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Where are you at Monica? I can assure you where I am from people it is the opposite haha. If people don’t get their holiday tan they would ask for their money back xD

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Nice! I have been chatting to a couple of people from The Philippines recently, even in this comment section! I also work with people from here. It is nice to meet you 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  5. I remember a time when I was a kid, a tan meant you’d been at sports for the summer vacation! Of course it would fade later, but it would also be accompanied by a horrified look from my grandmother… (It’s strange… Some would love a tan, and some fear it like the plague!) Not to mention, if your skin’s sensitive to a tan, fifteen minutes at, say, the bustop are enough!

    The interesting thing right now is, with the hours I’ve got to put in studying at the moment (as March approaches!), I’m barely getting any sun at all, save some that streams in from the window. (I try to keep going into the balcony to a minimum because of the construction―I can do without cement dust in my lungs!) I’m wondering if I’ll end up all pale by April. Does that show that I’m studying, or something? (At least, significantly more than I’m blogging? :P)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I loved anything sports related as a kid…. a summer vacation of sports sounds fun. Well I certainly believe so regarding being pale! No tan means you’re working hard. I believe you anyway 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Fantastic Post!
    I work at sea for 6-9 months at a time. The key being WORK – yes I get time off but I don’t spend it on a beach I want to grab as much culture as I can. Coming home – everyone’s asks ‘but where is your tan.’ 7 years I have been traveling for work, I’m paler than Casper BUT have experienced more than I could ever have dreamed !

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hey Jill, do you work on a cruise? I have a couple of friends that have done this and the work meant that they didn’t get too much free time in each destination. I agree, I would probably evade the beaches and look for that destinations unique features if there for a short period. If that is the beaches, then I may head there haha.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. This is not completely related to your post but…. I have actually been thinking about this “tanning” thing for a while now. In Europe, “beautiful” is “tanned”, while in Southern Africa, as well as Japan and South Korea (I guess other countries too, but these are the ones I’ve been too), “beautiful” is “light-skinned”. It used to be like that for us Europeans too, just a few decades ago (maybe a century?)…so why the change? I think it relates to social status. When our lowest paid jobs were in the field, like it still is in Southern Africa, being tanned means you’re poor, an adjective that not many people attach to “beautiful”. For us Europeans, nowadays, our jobs force us into offices all day long and don’t allow us to have a lot of time in the sun, so if you’re tanned, it means you had enough time (and money!) to go on a holiday.
    Sorry if I was off topic but your post just reminded me of these reflections I’ve been doing lately. What do you think?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. What you say makes sense, I can understand why the perceptions were there when taking into account social statuses and jobs these people had or have. These are the kind of conversations that I like to have and I feel it ties in with my post well so thanks for the input 🙂
      I know people that never have holidays but use sun beds every week and people that have traveled all over the world and couldn’t tan to save their life. It isn’t as easy to get to know someone simply by looking at their skin colour!


  8. Although I know some people tend to go on holidays for the sake of getting tanned, I never really thought of it as a competition. It’s quite useless actually, just like you explained. It’s quite funny in my case I suppose because I live at the seaside so I can literally go to the beach at any point in time at all (although I prefer to go during daytime an when it’s fairly warm outside of course), and yet I’m quite pale. Some people really don’t get tanned so easily and if they’re like me, they have no patience to just sit and boil in the sun all day long. Making a competition out of it is quite stupid actually, at least how I see it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes I don’t like to make a competition out of it, I promise it isn’t because I would probably lose :p
      I cannot stay long enough to tan anyway. Staying still is not a skill I have, I don’t mind a good walk in the sun though. It is great that you have access to the beach anytime though!


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