We’ve just spent a glorious week’s holiday in Menton in the south of France. I’d never heard of it before we booked our flights a few weeks ago and now I have it to thank for a much needed seven days of rest, swimming in the sea, and more photograph-taking opportunities than any Instagrammer could hope for. (I’ve written a little guide to my favourite places and restaurants to visit in Menton for any future visitors).
But when we returned to normality yesterday, I felt myself automatically slip back into behaviours that simply don’t exist on holiday. My priority stopped being what felt good and relaxing, and I started darting from one thing to another, and ended up falling asleep early doors with a headache.
So, today I woke up determined to try to live life a little more like I do on holiday by adopting five more en-vacances-like habits. I hope you’ll find them useful too.
1. Drinking enough water
Following a horrific dose of sunstroke a couple of years ago (which resulted in a journey of self-discovery in a beach chemical toilet), I now know to respect the human body’s need for water. And nowhere am I more conscious of this than on holiday. This trip I got into the habit of waking up and drinking a 50cl dose of the good stuff, and then keeping it coming throughout the day until my bladder could take no more. If sunstroke taught me anything it’s that there are worse things than needing the loo all the time.
I’m pregnant so hydration is a constant agenda item for me at the moment, but it’s also just good sense. I prioritised it particularly on holiday because I was keen not to feel rough whilst away, but what about the rest of the year? Feeling good at home is just as important, so let’s keep that H2O a-flowing.
2. Using your phone in a more considered way
Despite having written my own set of rules for a healthier relationship with your phone, I’ve still been spending too much time with mine. But on holiday I’m much stricter. Every moment we’re away feels precious and cannot be wasted scrolling mindlessly through timelines. I didn’t have a complete cut off – I’d use it in the evening to post a photo or two on Instagram and to respond to messages – but I didn’t spend half as much time on it as I do usually. And I was so much happier and calmer for it.
But as soon as I got home, I had my phone in hand and was flipping from app to app for no apparent reason; it was just habit. Time is just as valuable here as it is on holiday, so I’m determined to introduce more of my vacation attitude to technology into everyday life.
3. Reading, glorious reading
And very much connected to the aforementioned mobile phone time cut down is the excuse holidays bring to indulge in books. Of course, this treat is in fact available to many of us everyday, but I for one do not make the most of it. I read all the time when we’re away. Every day we went to the beach I’d leave my phone in the hotel and sit reading under our umbrella (until I had to go back inside to use the bathroom again, that is).
Reading is the most wonderfully calming form of escapism, so why don’t I do more of it? Again, I think it comes down to the amount that we value our time on holiday. We’d never sit in our hotel room scrolling through TV channels for no reason – this is time we’ve secured to rest so we must make the most of it. Well, now I want to do that with the rest of my life, too.
4. Having a right good look at everything
Exploring new places is one of the best things about going on holiday. The slow pace lets you take in the sites in your own time, with only the occasional need to remark about how very sweaty you’re feeling to interrupt your activities.
When I’m on holiday, I’m there to look at all of the things. The views, the buildings, the sites, the colours. But I don’t think I give the world anywhere near as much attention the rest of the time. I’m too busy needing to get on the train or to the shop or back home for Coronation Street. And while it’s reasonable to move a little faster in your everyday life, it doesn’t do you any harm to try to do just one thing at a time. To walk down the street, not to do it whilst also looking at your phone. To have dinner with your husband, not to sit there looking over his shoulder at an episode of Friends you can already recite word for word.
I’m person #857849 on the internet to talk about the joy of being present and mindful and whatnot. But there is a reason it’s such a popular subject. Injecting a little of that holiday pace and focus into real life can only make it more enjoyable.
5. Listening to what you need
It’s wonderful to go away or just to take time off at home. For once you have the freedom to not just do what you want but what you need, too. You can lie down when you’re tired. You can have a dip in the sea when you’re hot. And you can get away with eating a pain au chocolat for breakfast every morning because “that’s what the baby wants”.
Time is in your gift when you’re on holiday, which makes all of this easier to bring about. But by taking a break you’re also giving yourself permission to look after yourself. And I don’t see why we can’t apply the same rules at home. We don’t have to go out tonight if we’re not up to it. Nor do we have to answer that email or tackle that nasty mark on the hobs until we’re feeling more energetic. We can go to bed if that’s what we need. Nobody is going to say anything (and you’ll be asleep anyway, so).
You’ll never regret doing what you need to feel well, rested and ready to face the world. Only you really know what that is anyway, so it’s OK to make it happen.
I think we should start bringing more of the kindness we show ourselves on holiday home with us. I started today – I took on one task at a time, I thought twice before picking up my phone, and I ate ice cream because I felt like it. As to how it’ll go when I have a more to do than a pile of washing I don’t know, but the determination to try is a good start.
Holidays may be a once-a-year treat, but the lessons they can teach us about how to get better at relaxing are there for the taking any time.