As the summer holiday season approaches, our thoughts may inevitably turn to sun-kissed beaches and leisurely days by the pool. Some of us might do something more strenuous - maybe an activity holiday or sailing; or perhaps a return visit to Florida or Vegas…but is that the best type of holiday for us, or just what habit has taught us?
It may have been the Victorians who came up with the concept of a beach holiday, but in those days it truly meant a break from the daily routine. Everyday life stopped and the lucky few could enjoy some well-deserved rest and recuperation.
These days, many of us our lucky enough take our annual holidays for granted as part of our lives, but how much of a break are we really gifting ourselves if we do the same old things over and over again? If we are not giving our brains new experiences to occupy them, aren’t we risking those precious moments of a change of scenery or true rest and relaxation?
Somehow, I think that novelty is important for mental recuperation. With this in mind, my recent holiday was something entirely different to the norm and I’d encourage everyone who has the opportunity to put this on their bucket list.
We decided to take a cruise to Alaska, and it prompted me to revaluate what I am looking for in a holiday. After a city break in San Francisco, we spent ten days on a cruise ship (Princess actually – if it’s good enough for Jane McDonald….!) immersed in the absolute majesty of the nature that surrounded us. The sheer size and scale of the mountains and national rainforest (17.2 million acres of it!), the sadly shrinking glaciers reminded us of the fragility of our daily lives in a constantly changing world. The abundant wildlife proved that resilience in the face of the harshest of conditions is part of our make up. The change in weather meant the White Pass railway was shut – there had been an avalanche – it was very humbling and I remembered how I can be disappointed with a bit of unexpected rain at home… The lack of internet made me realise just how much we take technology for granted in the west. I know what the libraries (free wi-fi!) look like in all the ports we stopped at!
I had peace, I had stillness, I had a totally different type of break - in a way that wouldn’t have happened on a beach in the Med.
When you are doing something new, you don’t have a mental groove to fall back on, and you are almost certainly “present” with whatever you are doing. I am not suggesting that everyone travels to Alaska or goes trekking in Nepal, but even the smallest breaks for the norm on holiday might well bring refreshing benefits? We might have booked that beach holiday - but there are probably still many options around how we spend our time.
When we are stimulated by a new experience, all sorts of fascinating thoughts can germinate. I have certainly come back from my trip with a renewed focus and sense of purpose.
I have a suspicion that even thinking about doing something different might make a difference to mental wellbeing – it’s exciting, adrenalin-fuelled...Conversely, of course there are times when we are shattered and just want to return to someone we’ve been before –as we know we like it…maybe there’s a new baby and it’s a first family holiday (that’s a bit change!) and other times we may volunteer and find that hugely rewarding on both sides…I’m suggesting that there are other times when perhaps we should be bold and appreciate wider horizons for annual break other than the norm, if and when we can.
It is a real treat when you give your brain permission to think these thoughts. How do you inject that sense of the unknown into your holidays?
Written by Julie O'Neill