Last week I had the pleasure of talking to writer Holly Corbett about vacation or as we say in the UK, holiday (see Forbes article). The conversation was sparked by the stark percentage of people who do not take all of their allocated days – in the USA it’s 56% of men and 44% of women. In the UK we take a little more but one third of us are still guilty of leaving days for the company pot to swallow up. I don’t get an allotted number of days because I have my own company. In some ways this makes things far easier (in others more difficult) – but in most ways the lead up and aftermath of holiday is the same for me as anyone.
We’re off on our summer holiday in a week. I’m excited but also facing a mounting list of things to do both at work and home. For example, one client approached me mid June with a request for 12 profiles (each profile takes 4 hours in person and 6 hours of additional work) by end of July, so I engaged a colleague and we held time in our diary. So far only one has come our way and they are trying to squeeze as many as possible into the week before I go. This will ultimately create overspill both into my holiday (I can’t ignore them as soon as I step into the airport) and into the time when I get back.
I’m doing a book signing next weekend and much as I’m enthusiastic about the opportunity (Camp Bestival is by all accounts ‘The’ best family festival in the UK), there’s prep to be done and I’m dreading the crowds. I’m not suggesting I’ll have crowds flocking to see me, it’s the fear of being in and amongst crowds of people which makes me feel ‘marginally’ agoraphobic at best (don’t worry talk organisers none of this will be apparent to the naked eye I promise).
Yet another stress point – the prospect of remembering stuff to take away with us. I find packing for myself stressful let alone an entire family. I hate hauling around loads of stuff yet without a bit of planning I go for the ‘grab and stuff’ approach and end up taking half the house. I don’t know how I managed to circumnavigate the globe for 10 months with just one backpack (granted it was more or less as big as me but then again I’m not very big).
I stupidly buttressed my holiday not only with a talk before but doing a 4 hour session for 60 underprivileged teenagers on my return. And I have an operation on my ankle following which I won’t be able to move for 2 weeks or drive for 6. As a result client work is also piling up into the week I’m back (above and beyond the remaining 11 profiles).
Other concerns? Well, being notoriously last minute we’ll inevitably have forgotten to do or book at least one thing which will cause tension. We’re going to the West Coast of Canada and USA which means a 10 hour flight with our youngest asking ‘Are we nearly there yet’ before we even leave the tarmac plus we have the joy of kids waking up at 2am for the first few days to look forward to. Then there’s the arguments between the kids and the inevitable frustration of my tweenie daughter wanting to approach the holiday as a continual shopping spree (which makes me feel I’ve done something very wrong at some point – ‘experiences not things make us happy’) and utmost disgust when we end up somewhere remote for at least part of the trip.
I am looking forward to it though – honestly!
What I’ll do to ease some of the strain:
Create boundaries – believe it or not I have. My book launches in the USA and Canada this week so I could have (in fact did originally plan to) throw myself into a book tour alongside our holiday. I’ve decided this just isn’t going to be good anyone so the talks are on hold. Ultimately there need to be boundaries that work for us (not the company we work for) whoever we are.
Set child expectations – we’ll aim to do a bit of what everyone wants. For me that’s being away from anyone, for my eldest it will be shopping, my youngest Disneyland and anything that requires our undivided attention and for my husband whatever it takes to not stay still for more than 5 minutes.
Get plenty of light – in order to overcome the jet lag as naturally as possible (which sort of contradicts itself as we clearly did not evolve to move several thousand miles in the space of a few hours).
Get sleep – I feel lazy, selfish and like I’m wasting my time away when I sleep but I need it for my mental health and general functioning. This of course is true for all of us.
Explore –because I love it and to because it makes taps into curiosity which is so good for brain health. Using our brain to explore new things, places, people – literally allows us to return from our break with fresh perspectives. It also helps us to make lasting memories not just because of the fun we have in the process but because we remember things better when they are novel (it’s all to do with dopamine and other related goings on in the brain).
Be active – relaxing doesn’t necessarily mean sitting on a sun lounger (although a little of this may be good), it’s about using our bodies in the way nature intended. That means moving: anything from walking to learning a new sport (e.g. windsurfing, playing tennis) whatever works for you, it’s also great for our brain health as well as our bodies.
Then of course there’s reading. Bill Gates and Arianna Huffington’s suggested reading are in the links below but they both seem to have missed mine off the list. Defining You is out today in the USA and Canada (amazon.com and amazon.ca) and available in the UK via amazon.co.uk, Waterstones, Foyles and WH Smiths and in Australia.