It’s been five days since my return from my break in Chile and I remain well-rested, mentally de-cluttered and slightly browner than normal (even if I didn’t sunbathe, a hole in the ozone layer makes Chile ideal for roasting yourself.)
Within a week I expect normal levels of pale stressy-ness to resume.
But on the off-chance that I can keep them in mind, here’s a few personal truths that I remember every time I go on holiday.
Less is Calming
Lighter is Better
Slower is Better
Structure is not only Good, it’s Necessary
Random works when Usual doesn’t
Less is Calming – spending time in a clutter-free zone, reminded me just how stressful having way too much stuff can be. Holiday homes and hotel rooms are often restful because they aren’t filled with clothes, books, paper-stacks, pictures, decorations, shoeboxes, pens, paperclips, computers, printers, laundry, hula-hoops & mountains of other miscellaneous stuff.
Lighter is Better – I used to pride myself on how light I could travel. This is no longer the case. Maybe it’s because I’m going through a fat phase (or less thin, let’s say) and because of this I’ve nothing to wear that I’m happy to wear — I just have lots of options that are not quite right. All these depressingly unideal options can really fill up a suitcase. So to remind myself how tiresome (and eventually painful) it was to drag hefty luggage from London to Madrid and onto Santiago and back, I took a photo of all the stuff I didn’t touch once. See the right hand side of the case in the photo above … that’s almost half a suitcase too much!
Slower is better – The slower I go, the clearer I think and the faster I get places (both literal and metaphoric.) If being in a huge rush increases the chances of forgetting a passport, taking the wrong train or having an accident (like my friend who smashed an ankle to smithereens taking the steps down to the tube at too quick a pace) … slowing down speeds up smarter thinking, better memory retrieval … and promises smoother commuting.
Structure is not only Good, it’s Necessary — A day without any plans … a day which is allowed to free-fall shapelessly … is a day I’m likely to get depressed. Somewhere in my psyche, a lack of structure triggers a sense of pointlessness. No matter how nice it is to have nothing that I have to do, I still enjoy deciding what I am going to do with that freedom — not minute by minute, but at the start of each day. As someone with a significant amount of choice in how I spend my time (including at work), I’m aware that this is a grass-is-always greener burden. People reading this who have small children or very little control over their work are unlikely to sympathize. But I expect that people who are single or self-employed know what I mean when I say too much ok-what-next is taxing.
Random works when Usual doesn’t – This particular personal truth reminds me of the Einstein quote “We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.” … even though my point is somewhat different.
Whenever I’m overtaken by ennui I avoid chosing my own music or picking up the books I’ve been reading. When I’m emotionally or mentally stuck, the answer is to explore something new, something random, something unexpected. When it comes to music this means the radio or these days Spotify. When it comes to reading it means picking up a magazine. Preferably someone else’s.
And so while I was in Chile — even though I did enjoy reading my books and listening to my iTunes, I also zoned in on random. Thanks to an old copy of GQ lying around I’ve learnt things I did’t know about migrant workers in the US, why Clint Eastwood and Leonardo Dicaprio are collaborating on a new movie and how one guy saved his house after it was sucked away by a tsunami. I’ve always been a bit taken with surfing through music in a language I cannot understand, but on the assumption that you may not feel the same way, I recommend Spotify – as long as you don’t mind the adverts, it’s FREE and I find it’s the best way for finding new music that I’ll actually like.