This month it’s Madévi vs Julie, but who’ll have the last laugh? Illustration for The Club by Miles Donovan

DEBATE CLUB • January 2021

Active thrills or sun lounger chills: which is your kind of holiday?

Many people’s idea of a blissed-out break is to flop on a beach, cocktail in hand. Others would rather climb a mountain, map in hand. Below, two travel writers champion their visions for the perfect trip. But which floats your boat: idle indulgences or intrepid adventures

The ‘do nothing’ club

Says who? Madévi Dailly, food and travel writer
Would it be churlish to point out that Buddha himself achieved nirvana by sitting still? If surrendering to the present moment is good enough for the Enlightened One, well, it’s good enough for me.

Holidays are meant to whisk you away from the strains and stresses of the daily grind. For me, that means worshipping at the altar of horizontalism. Away with your city breaks and the siren call of cathedrals and museums. Remove your hiking holidays from my psyche. After long months shackled to my desk, I’m in the market for azure waters, dappled shade and the kind of sun-lounger that comes with mandatory margaritas.


I first experienced this state of nirvanic bliss at Six Senses Yao Noi, a jungle-clad indulgence in Thailand’s Andaman Sea. If you’re going to flop, you might as well flop in style: private butlers and plunge pools can convert even the worst over-achievers. I arrived in a state of burnout so acute I could barely lift my arms, but shouldn’t have worried. All I needed was the energy to mash the ‘reception’ button on my villa’s phone. One push and my needs were magically satisfied: scoops of lychee ice cream, a massage so blissful it had me weeping with relief, or a golf buggy to cart me around when the use of my perfectly serviceable legs just seemed too wearisome.

Why endure paddleboarding when you can lie face down on the treacherous things instead?

I was reminded of this when, on day two of a long-awaited break in Tulum, I wrecked my ankle cycling to Mayan ruins. Woozy from Tramadol and more able to swim than walk, I resigned myself to a life of idleness. 6am yoga? Not for me, madam. A side trip to Bacalar? Once you’ve seen one immense turquoise lake, you’ve seen them all. Instead, after several days of languorous pool laps and hobbling over to my favourite spot on the beach, I invented a new sport on Nativus’s secluded cenote. Why endure paddleboarding when you can lie face down on the treacherous things instead? This is where you’ll find me, in spirit if not in the flesh: with the sun on my back and my limbs in the water, gently floating away from the last of my earthly pains.

Let’s get physical

Says who? Julie Ellison, senior editor, Climbing magazine
No one is going to argue about how beautiful a view of white sands and turquoise waters is, but it can’t be that special if I can get the same view from staring at my computer’s screen saver. Getting up and out into the mountains offers hard-earned vistas that allow you to see your destination – and often other parts of your life – in a whole new way. And whether you’re hiking Angels Landing in Zion National Park or scaling a massive sandstone wall in Jordan’s Wadi Rum, the work and effort required to reach the top offers an unforgettable experience that bonds you with your adventure partner in a way that nothing else can.


Lying on the beach and relaxing is great – for about ten minutes – then it’s time to get up and do something. Chances are your daily life includes working hard in the gym or on the trails to stay fit and healthy, so why let all that go to waste – and your waist – by consuming too many fruity umbrella drinks and not burning any of it off? The best part of any international holiday is sampling the local cuisine: from savoury chicharrones tacos and elote in Mexico to a perfectly tangy and sweet Peruvian plate of ceviche, sweet potato, and Andean corn nuts. When you’ve spent the day climbing rock ridges or skiing snowy couloirs high above the French mountain town of Chamonix, demolishing a few bottles of red wine and melting cheese wheels of raclette is no longer ‘overindulgence’ – it’s just fuelling up for your next adventure.

Lying on the beach and relaxing is great – for about ten minutes – then it’s time to get up and do something

As a lifelong adventure traveller whose idea of a perfect holiday is climbing Indonesian sea cliffs or trail running the perimeter of a Korean island, my main question for the fly-and-flop beach goers is this: don’t all the days of lying on the beach and napping just sort of blend together after a while? Of course, some people might appreciate the routine of the same thing day after day but, for all you schedule sticklers out there, how about this daily routine: waking up on the Greek island of Kalymnos, a cold frappé coffee and warm slice of spanakopita at Ethereal Café for breakfast, a scooter ride winding up into the hills, a day of sport climbing on some of the world’s best limestone, a late afternoon dip in the Aegean Sea, a sunset scooter ride back to town, and an ice-cold Mythos beer with your moussaka and honey-drizzled lukumades (Greek doughnuts) at the Aegean Tavern to finish the perfect day. And tomorrow? Climb, rinse and repeat.

This article has been tagged Opinion, Travel Tips