OPINION

The cost of no holidays

Data released by the Greek traffic police indicating an 11 percent drop in the number of vehicles on the roads this Christmas holiday compared to last year confirmed what we had already learned from casual conversations with friends, relatives and colleagues. Despite the fact that the weather was – in contrast to most other parts of Europe – sunny and pleasant, one in 10 Greeks decided not to venture too far from home for the holidays this year. This decision, meanwhile, was not taken as lightly as it may have been in previous years because right now every Greek feels that that his or her standard of living has dropped significantly and probably for the long term.

Public sector workers who this year saw the docking of their 13th salary, the so-called Christmas ?gift? (that important additional paycheck which boosted every individual?s personal income and helped drive the economy), were not able to throw caution to the wind and take a few days? holiday away from home. Furthermore, the decrease in their bank accounts came on top of concerns about the rising price of gas and road tolls.

Other figures have shown that a large majority of those who did decide to travel further afield did not go to the regular ?in? winter destinations, opting instead for a trip to their village or hometown. They knew that once there they would also be able to supply themselves with an array of products such as homemade olive oil and wine, and maybe a bit of cheese that would come much cheaper, to help them make it through a winter that promises to be bleak in every way apart from, perhaps, the weather.

There were also those who were unable to visit their childhood homes even for a few days. Many are migrants, especially those from neighboring countries. They are staring unemployment in the face, while dwindling jobs and shrinking salaries also mean they are confronting the possibility of one day having to be here illegally because they won?t be able to afford the necessary permits and social security payments.

The things we have taken for granted, our rights that have been fought for, took decades to build up but could vanish in a matter of months. In terms of our jobs and finances, the landscape around us is changing rapidly. It is being chipped away at and becoming devoid of rights and possibilities. Inevitably, the world around us is also beginning to eat away at our insides, at our inner landscape. More than being a sign of extravagance, getting away for a few days is a tonic for the mind and soul. It seems, however, that this too has been taken away from us as we search for a way to survive.