One of the (many) things I love about holidays is that sense of escape. No shit, Sherlock, you may reasonably opine; but I mean escape not only from normal life, with its bills and bad weather, its toilet cleaning and train delays, but also from one’s normal self.
On holiday, I feel like a better-looking, fitter, more adventurous and somehow lighter version of myself. Just me? I don’t think so. I suspect it lasts a couple of days after you unpack your bags – you dress that bit more casually for work, roll with life’s vicissitudes in a slightly more carefree, unguarded way – and then, somehow, quietly, you climb back into the crate labelled ‘me at home.’
This may not be entirely unconnected to the fact that your welcome home committee probably includes bills, bad weather, toilet cleaning and train delays. But is there a way to retain one’s vacationary joie de vivre? Even until, let’s say, November?
Here’s my theory, for what it’s worth. Think about why you enjoy holidays so much, what you do differently, and KEEP DOING IT. Here are 11 starters for, ah, 11….
1. Eat outside. Everything tastes better al fresco, so crank up the barbie, find a good pub with heaters/blankets in the garden, and make like it’s Mykonos.
2. As Dory says: Just. Keep. Swimming. It’s one of the best all-body exercises, but I only ever do it on holiday. I notice the results within 48 hours but then when I get home I think, ugh, changing rooms, verrucas, chlorine, shaving, and I don’t go. Maybe you’re better, but if not, get into a once a week swim routine at home and rejoice in your sustainable Michelle Obama arms. Even if you’re a bloke.
3. Try new stuff. So obvious it hardly needs saying, but if you try new stuff on holiday and love it (kayaking) or loathe it (intestinal tapas) you always gain a story to tell and a sense of self-development. So don’t just order the pasta, or say no to the Gaultier show… dive in.
4. Be more sociable. This is so un-British but on holiday I generally talk to new people in a way I’d be too shy to do at home. I’ve made some lovely friends that way.
5. Read more. I know so many people whose beach reading is one of their holiday highlights, who then don’t find time to read for the rest of the year. Join a book club or get a worm to pass their top reads onto you. It’s a great escape, all year round.
6. Learn a skill. If your best holidays have involved sailing, painting or cookery lessons, book into a course for Autumn.
7. Dress like you’re on holiday. I actually decided to wear more bright colours this year because I was inspired by fellow 11-Londoner and colour guru Martha Roberts. I hate winter, but can confirm that wearing yellow, pink and cobalt DID help.
8. Learn a language. We Brits are awful (apologies to bi/trilingual readers) and yet ‘getting by’ in another language is one of life’s great pleasures. I’m sure it’s one of those activities that staves off dementia, too. Think about where you’ve been this year or want to go next year, and brush up your skills. If you have GCSE/A level standard in a language, try reading newspapers in that tongue.
9. Go sightseeing. We’re all great at it on holiday, but most of us neglect the wonders on our own doorstep. Galleries, museums, historic houses… make the most of them.
10. You know how your long-term hopes and goals always come into sharper focus when you’re away? Don’t lose that once you’re back in Blighty. Hold on to your dreams rather than simply firefighting the latest crisis.
11. And finally… how to turn work into more of a holiday? Well, I’d say: embrace challenges that seem outside your comfort zone; make an effort to really engage with new colleagues and clients; and finally, stay outside at a pub with mushroom heaters until it gets cold, and someone else has done the chores at home.
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