Monday, August 22, 2011

Holiday Honesty

With a holiday, comes expectation. Living in the UK, which is (sort of) part of Europe, the holiday is regarded with the utmost of respect. People here actually insist on taking them, no matter what. There are no mutterings about how they don't actually have time to take all their vacation days or tales of working all the way through holiday time (although this may not apply to all professions, particularly investment bankers). But generally, holidays in this country are put on a pedestal. And whenever there is a lull in the conversation, you can bet that talk will turn to upcoming holidays or the glory of ones just past. "Have you taken your summer holiday yet?" is the question that invariably comes up at some point during a business lunch. Usually while eating the little chocolates that come with the cappuccino.

Coming back into the office after a holiday, you must be glowing. And not necessarily in skin color (although I must say, one of things I love about this country is people actually think I look tan sometimes – this never happens in America). It is not the done thing to speak ill of one's holiday, like it is a revered dead person. You can't say, "Actually, the holiday was horrible – we argued the whole time, the food was gross and I had a nervous breakdown about the direction of my life while standing in a church trying to look interested in a triptych."

This is not what just happened on my holiday. I promise you. It was a good holiday, in fact. We pretended to do some serious tanning and then spent an unusually large amount of time discussing if we had turned a darker shade. We learned that all's fair in love and war and also when it comes to sun loungers. We didn't realize that you had to 'reserve' one at about 7 a.m. with your towel and actually had to steal one on our first day (we did not get caught).

There was a nice mix of sitting by the pool reading and also driving around seeing interesting hillside towns and old churches. We even saw some really creepy relics and two whole mummies. It's still not clear why they – plus the torso of Saint Sebastian – are kept in a small Croatian village, but visiting them was interesting nonetheless.

We ate really good food (perhaps a little too much) and sat outside most evenings looking at the sea and drinking cocktails. Occasionally we played cards. And sometimes there was live music.

It was a great holiday. But it was not perfect. Whenever you go on holiday, you take your life with you – which unfortunately includes your anxieties, idiosyncrasies and problems. We were not happy every second and there were moments during the week when I felt quite sad, or even just average, and then annoyed with myself for feeling something but sheer joy (!) at all on an expensive holiday. But a holiday isn't an escape from yourself and often when you strip away your daily routines and coping mechanisms, issues can often be magnified. I am actually more likely to feel anxious on a holiday. And I am certain to have a grand sense of humor failure because there will definitely be a moment when I can't get anything to eat and I am actually very hungry.

I think the best way of approaching a holiday is seeing it for what it is – it's a break, a chance to change up the scenery. I may see some new amazing things and experience another culture. I'll eat some good food, enjoy The Hub's (or friends') company and maybe do some good reading. I know the types of things I enjoy (like getting extra sleep), so the more I infuse those things into my vacations, the better they become. But a holiday is not a panacea for all that ills you. And sometimes I feel like that's the perception, so I become worried that my holiday was not the most amazing week ever – while surely everyone else's must have been just perfect.

I feel as though I've made a confession, a little bit like the ungrateful turncoat. But like so many things, appreciating life as it is instead of yearning for perfection makes it much more enjoyable, in my opinion. And I read an Edith Wharton quote just today which sums it up all so well:

"If only we'd stop trying to be happy, we could have a pretty good time."

Do you agree with me? Or do you want to have me condemned for holiday treason?
 
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