I know holidays are not a thing everyone can financially afford, or take time to enjoy, but having just returned from a lovely 5 week stint in Europe, I am reminded of how important they are. I’m not necessarily talking about the extravaganza I’ve just had the privilege of enjoying. I’m more interested a process where the slog of every day life is interrupted and there is space and time for rest and reflexion.
I believe this is important for many interconnected and multilayered reasons that often get muddled resulting is an unhappy holiday experience. As a way to navigate holiday planing I’ll pick up on the anxiety theme of the last couple of blogs. Current anxieties can provide a guide to the holiday that is needed. If, when thinking about the holiday plan there’s an increase in anxiety, no joy, or excited anticipation – then it’s the wrong holiday.
I believe it’s important that a holiday enables opportunities to take of your watch and turn off your phone with the aim of getting into your own flow of activity and inactivity. This process of tuning into your own wants – is an important antidote to anxiety. Another important anti anxiety process is keeping the should’s at bey. Despite being on holiday just like every day life should’s can insidiously creep in: I should be doing more, should be resting more, should put up a Facebook post…the list of holiday should’s is endless and is often presented with the marketing hype of – ‘you can’t be here and not experience this!’
I do believe that keeping should’s at bey on holidays is easier than at home but nonetheless when they take hold they will steal the holiday benefits. This is a particular risk if a holiday is to be spent at home. When at home it’s very hard to keep the ever present list of jobs from interfering with the relaxation and rejuvenation process that a holiday should achieve. Whilst it’s wonderful to knock off some of those much needed maintenance or renovation tasks – this is not a holiday. There is no or very little tuning into what your own body needs.
Another advantage of holidays, particularly those away from home, is that they allow brain space for refection on the structure of everyday life: what’s of value, what’s not working, and what possible solutions could be put in place.
Holidays also enable time for all levels of ritual. Starting with persona rituals, which could be as simple as going for a stroll on the beach before brekkie or lying in bed reading. Then there’s couple or friendship rituals which will vary depending on your travel companions. Some examples could be: enjoying a drink before dinner, taking a moment to connect whilst sharing a beautiful view, or seeing new things that can build connection and potentially add a new activity that can be taken home and be built into a regular relationship ritual, things like kayaking, walking, photography are common examples. Even if you’re travelling on your own having relationship rituals are still important these might be things like the old fashioned practice of writing post cards or putting up a Facebook post. Then there are family rituals, if it’s a family holiday then potentially there will be some stress free time just to enjoy each other.
The reprieve from everyday pressures that can occur during a holiday remind us of what is important and why we bother with all the angst of everyday life. After all why bother if there aren’t times of enjoyment.
Over the years it’s been brought to my attention that what adults remember from their childhoods are the breaks in the mundane routine good and bad. In counselling sessions when seeking positive childhood experiences – childhood holidays is often what is remembered.
As a family therapist these stand out holiday memories offer a chance to explore a different family story to the one that might have become embedded in the dominant family folklore. A holiday does provide a space to potentially have a different experience of each other.
If a holiday is still in the same country, but within a different community, it opens up a little snapshot of other possible lives, this in turn feeds a reflective process. The question what would it be like to live here? Makes a little space between the life currently lived and other possibilities. The result of this playing with ‘possible lives’ could be a regaining of what is appreciated within a current lifestyle, or may provide the impetus for a major lifestyle change. It’s not uncommon for people to come in for a session after a holiday experience that has left them questioning the way they are currently living.
If a holiday is overseas even in a beautiful country like Italy, for me anyway, there is a valuing of the quality of life we have in Australia and when I go to Malta, the country of my family of origin, I always give thanks for my parents courage to step into the unknown and immigrate. I love being in Malta and can feel the terrible emotional pull that, especially, my mother had her whole life. Even though she loved Australia there was something lost that could not be replaced or soothed.
A holiday that involves a heritage aspect is very particular, it feeds a different aspect of identity. There is a process of stepping back in time. Stepping momentarily into the shoes of all the generations that have gone before. The loss of connection to heritage that occurs with immigration undermines belonging. The impact of disrupted belonging is often overlooked in counselling and sometimes tragically labelled as depression.
A good holiday heightens our belonging, the sense of ourselves as individuals and the importance of the connections to all we love – our significant others and our home. It rejuvenates us and puts our daily lives into perspective assisting us to work towards saving for our next holiday!