Holidays can be defining moments in our lives, can’t they?
The break from the monotony of everyday life allows you to savour the moment, to pause, to look back at how far you’ve come… and to where you want to go.
I’ve been thinking about what makes the perfect holiday. We’re heading to Whitby in a few weeks’ time, and it will be our first as a family of four. In fact, we’ve hardly been away as a family since having Ben nearly four years ago, so it’s about time we had a holiday. Also, Mark Warner Holidays are running a competition, so it’s got me reminiscing and planning.
For me, the perfect holiday would include:
Sun, sea and swimming
When I think back to childhood holidays, it’s in snapshots of Spanish resorts: eating ice-cream from a push-up cardboard tube; making friends with anyone else of a similar age; and learning to swim, doggy-paddle, towards my dad. They were blissful, idyllic times for me, and I could have happily spent the whole fortnight in and out of the swimming pool or on the beach. I could swim for hours in the sea – perhaps in some mythical former life I was a mermaid – and still really enjoy playing in the sand.
- Good food
Whether it’s curries or cassolet, we certainly love our food! Eating in good restaurants – or at good street vendors – is a real essential for a perfect holiday.
However, one culinary highlight on holiday was more the result of self-deprivation than incredible cuisine. We were on honeymoon, after a whirlwind 48 hours: we got married, had the reception and then flew to Gozo, Malta at 6am the following morning. By that evening, we were so exhausted and so overwhelmed, that I became a bit emotional. After months of dieting to look good in the wedding photos, I finally allowed myself to eat dessert in the restaurant of our hotel. I’m slightly ashamed to say that the sight of the dessert trolley actually made me cry! Yes, I was in tears over pudding. Story of my life.
- As we got older, there were the years of enforced culture-appreciation. Often on coaches, we would visit the capital cities of scorching European countries, where the crowded museums or galleries provided some relief from the sun, or drag our dusty feet around Ancient Greek ruins. Honestly? As a teenager, I wasn’t really into Ancient Civilisation, so I don’t think I fully appreciated the opportunity. But now, I will seek out the museums and the galleries. I long to learn about different cultures and how others live.
Surely, one of the essential parts of a holiday is the chance to relax and to rest. After a particularly uncomfortable experience when I was 22, I now believe a good bed is essential of a good holiday.
Arriving after midnight, the hostel room smelt of sweat, flatulence and beer. We found the two remaining bunks, and tried desperately not to disturb anyone in the dormitory. My mattress was, quite honestly, the most uncomfortable one I have ever slept on: the stuffing had parted company along the middle of the bed, so I lay in a deep groove on the springs, or rolled back into the middle if I tried to lie on one side. The room was unbearably hot, and the air was thick. Becoming more nauseated by the minute, I spent most of the night wide awake, counting the hours until it was acceptable to get up.
A good mattress, soft pillows and a cool room… essentials for a good night’s sleep.
Going on holiday is often about experiencing a new place, and trying different things. Tim is absolutely the king of this: while most of us will watch at a polite distance, Tim will leap in and have a go. So, when we went to India, he tried his hand at Indian calligraphy, and pedalled around in a rickshaw.
Now we have children, we plan our holidays through their lives. We look out for the things which will be fun for us as a family, and try to prioritise their interests over our own. Our holidays are less about pottering, and more about exploring; less about lie-ins and more laughing.
Escaping our everyday routine, and our everyday responsibilities allows us to enjoy new experiences. On holiday, you can indulge in your passions and interests, and try out new things. You step outside of your ordinary life.
For me, this allows me to reflect on where I am in my ordinary life. On holiday, I have freedom to dream. So I come up with plans and ideas. I journal, and make endless lists which I fully intend to put into practice when we return home. And that’s the challenge: keeping that spirit of adventure and experience alive in your everyday life. I guess the perfect holiday spills over into your everyday.
A break (from the children)
When sleep-deprivation was at its peak with Ben, I used to fantasise about checking into a hotel for a week, just to sleep. I became obsessed with the idea: I would create a sanctuary for sleep-deprived parents, with spa treatments, life coaching (you know, because I needed some direction in my life) and the chance to recover from the relentless treadmill of work and disturbed nights.
I don’t actually think this exists (and even if it did and we could afford it, I’d miss the kids). But some holiday companies do offer childcare, though, and that sounds amazing. In fact, that sounds almost too good to be true. Someone else will entertain my children while I can enjoy the ‘grown-up’ parts of the holiday? Yes please! Just for those few, precious, child-free hours, I would be first in line.
And finally… no-one getting locked in the loo
Once, my sister got herself locked into a toilet in a restaurant in Athens. She couldn’t open the door for love nor money, so I, being a good sister, went and fetched the tour guide, a formidable woman named Eva. Eva took matters into her own hands, and went in search of someone in charge of the restaurant. She returned with the chef: an enormous man, sweating in his whites, with the biggest meat cleaver in his hand. He was quite prepared to chop down the toilet door to get my sister out. Fortunately, after some adept key-wiggling, she escaped, just in time.
So, I’m looking for a holiday with a bit of luxury; an escape from the everyday; a chance to dream, and for those dreams to shape our normal lives. I’m looking for fun and adventure with my children. I’m looking for a few precious hours with my husband. Oh, and for no-one to get locked in the loo.
This post is our entry to the Mark Warner Holidays #markwarnermum competition under the creative writing section to be an ambassador for 2016. For more information, have a look at their website here.