Here’s a thought. Do you think our two-week break from the humdrum restores our souls or is it all about getting a lie-in and on the other side of some large gins?
I know the bucket-and-spade ritual has a sacred status – nothing should get in the way of the great British holibags, and everything that goes along with that. Flight delays and getting up early to bag a spot by the pool if you leave these shores – traffic jams and drizzle for the stay-at-homes. Travel sickness, forgotten essentials and bickering kids. But is there something deeper going on? We start planning for it before the last of the pine needles are swept away, and almost always we remember it as marvellous.
Though when you analyse it – lumpy beds, squabbles and sub-standard wifi – you could argue that there isn’t that much going for it. I’m not talking about the glamorous slick city stays or the climb-a-mountain adventures, that’s easy to understand. No. it’s the jam-all-the-kids-in-the-car-and-drive-for-hours kind of holiday I wonder about.
Sure, this year we had a fine old time, with the sunshine, the bikes and the very many hours of playing Monopoly and eating Haribos. But when you break it down, was it all actually fabulous?
Maybe it’s the one time of the year when we do something a little bit more spiritual. No, not muttering “dear God, not again” as the people in the neighbouring accommodation settle down for a noisy night of booze-fuelled song and dance. It’s the little things that make a difference.
For a start, it’s all brand new. That gives us the chance to see things properly. The Buddhists call it the beginner’s mind. Everything is fresh and we have to learn it all – how things work, where to go and which cafes to avoid. I’ll bet you can remember all the details of your digs from your most recent holiday while you didn’t pay any attention to what’s on the walls at work today or the faces of the people on the train.
Then there’s the meditation. Sunbathing, snoozing, watching the world go by, whatever you want to call it – it’s a way of stilling the mind, quieting the inner voice and being at peace. There’s no debate that it’s beneficial. When it’s called Mindfulness it’s welcomed into business with hushed enthusiasm.
But it’s not all relaxing the brain. No, the problem solving that comes with a trip to somewhere new is good for the grey matter – apparently it keeps dementia at bay. I’m very glad, then, that I spent so much time and energy puzzling over the park and ride payment machine outside Amsterdam.
The unaccustomed communion with our nearest and dearest, can be something of a revelation too. After all, it doesn’t matter how much time you spend with them nagging about homework and suggesting they eat their veg, there’s nothing like being thrust together with no internet access to find out what they really think – and sometimes it’s an eye opener. Your kids may actually be worth talking to about something other than whose turn it is to put the laundry away.
And when it comes to adult relationships, it can be just as illuminating. Hands up all you divorcees who decided Enough Is Enough on that final fated holiday. Thought so.
Even if the relationships are going swimmingly, it can take a doze on the sand to realise that Enough Is Enough in some other area. I wonder how many jobs get left on the strength of a resolution made on a beach towel.
Perhaps it’s a benchmark – before next year I want (insert ambition here) for my ideal job, family setup, etc. Or, last year I said things would change, but they haven’t…
I don’t know what makes the holiday so special – particularly when it’s so grim getting back to the grind afterwards – but I do know it’s worth going again and again til I find out. Maybe more frequently, if I can get away with it.