This week the Times published an article on the secret of a good holiday. It was an interesting read, some of it good, yet I found myself disagreeing with many parts of it. It raised the possibility to the reader that holidays could actually be making us unhappy. Having spent the last 15 years running or working for travel companies, it really got my full attention. All that stress beforehand and spending more time than you ever have with your loved ones. Dr Oliver James, a clinical psychologist and author of ‘Affluenza’, about an obsession with keeping-up-with-the-Joneses that can lead to depression and anxiety, says that he has “no doubt that holidays can cause more stress than they resolve”. That’s a depressing thought. And as Alain de Botton said “the trouble is that when you go on holiday you take yourself with you”. The problems in your relationships will still be there and magnified in a great many cases.
The Life Adventure is, of course, very interested in this kind of talk. So much so that after reading other comments in the article such as ‘if you’re seriously stressed out, you’re probably better off doing something absorbing: learning to scuba dive, rock-climbing, painting in Umbria’, I felt this deserved a feature on our blog. This article touched a personal nerve. Business has always my default – I love to DO. I ‘do’ to take my mind off problems and I’ve always thought that doing made me more relaxed – oh to throw myself into an activity of some kind made my heart sing. Or so I used to think. However, after a year of Andrew Wallas’s ‘School of Wizards’, I’m learning that apparently ‘doing’ is not the done thing. In fact, it’s actually frowned upon in many circles of self-discovery and psychoanalysis. My challenge has been to ‘do less’ which has been a year long battle (and still is). As Shomit Mitter will tell you, ‘it’s in the no thing, that the magic happens’. That’s when I wrote this piece, when I was most confused about what ‘doing nothing’ actually meant and what the point was of all this delving inside of oneself.
So how does this all tie in with the Times article, which suggests that doing nothing by the pool all day is a disaster for your relationships and your health, in total contrast to my recent studies? I have to say, I’ve always been a little critical of those who sit all day in one spot rather than exploring and learning new hobbies and activities. So who’s right? To help clarify my confusion I thought I would ask Andrew Wallas for his opinion, after all he’s been quite a mentor to me these past 12 months. Here is his response, below.
Am I any clearer to knowing whether packing my day with windsurfing and tennis is good for my soul? It certainly helps me to ‘step out of my day-to-day life’, yet I suspect, contrary to the Times’ viewpoint, Andrew is telling us all to take a leaf from those lounge lovers, whose zoning out beneath their books and sunglasses (perhaps not the tequila sunrise, though) turns out to be rather sensible after all. Just be careful what you’re thinking…
“Interestingly, the word “holiday” comes from the Old English word hāligdæg (hālig “holy” + dæg “day”). It is an opportunity and invitation to literally “step out of” our day-to-day lives. We all need to do this regularly.
Why? Because we become more effective in every area of our life (work, rest & play) if we step out and step back. Therefore the pre-requisites for a holiday are:
- No computer
No mobile phone
No social media
We literally need to “disconnect” from our lives.
Of course it is true that when we go on holiday, we do indeed take ourselves with us, but we have an opportunity and an invitation to explore and experience a different part of the person we take with us. We also need to disconnect from all the rubbish & noise that goes around and around in our head all day long. It is a time for relaxation, calmness, stillness – creating inner and outer space.
Of course some people want to go and “do St Petersburg” (or wherever) and spend every day plodding around museums, ancient sites and monuments, but this is not a “holiday” in the truest sense. It is a personal choice and in their own way, good for them, but all human beings need some “down time” which is not about sitting in front of a TV screen or going 100mph around all the sightss they want to tick off their list.
If we can truly use a holiday to disconnect from our usual day-to-day life and re-connect with a stillness and calmness within, then we return refreshed, renewed, invigorated and ready to take on the world again (when we step back into all our usual addictions, distractions and avoidances).
The great irony is that we have created a culture with an epidemic of “disconnection” (loneliness) and it often takes “going on holiday” and disconnecting in order to re-connect with ourselves and our loved ones.
Feel free to comment below and tell us your own holiday ambitions, stories and life-discoveries.