It’s been an exceptional year of holidays of all lengths and types. We’ve managed short breaks as a couple, holidays with friends and family; activity holidays and chilled out breaks.
I have no idea why this year has been so holiday-focussed and can’t honestly say that it was intentional. But it has been great fun. We were in Edinburgh this weekend and spent a lot of time discussing how much we love trying out living in a new place. Being a bit further away geographically enables me to take a bird’s eye view of life and to check all is well. Somehow whilst living that life at home, I struggle to examine it.
Everywhere we go there is a conversation about whether we want to move there. It verges on obsessive. I was slightly concerned that it’s a symptom of being unhappy where we live now, which we are definitely not. In reality, it’s a good way to reflect on what we could do better- maybe spend a bit more time lingering over coffee and newspapers in a local coffee shop, or mooching around excellent museums, or walking along rivers (or canals in Birmingham terms) to get a break from city architecture. All of these are tiny tweaks of course. More than that, it’s a great way to discuss everything we would miss too much about where we live – there is a lot.
Admittedly the idea of living in an amazing Georgian flat in a European capital city, spending the days walking for miles with pit stops at lovely independent coffee shops and evenings putting the world to right over excellent cocktails in interesting bars and great food in friendly local restaurants is hugely attractive. Of course, I can’t actually afford that lifestyle for more than a few days. And that’s ok – I am home again now in a house and community I love and back to the job I love, and starting the saving for the next holiday.
“I hope you have a quiet weekend planned” in an email from a close colleague late last week evoked a firm declaration that my weekend, and the few days annual leave I have taken, are indeed quiet. They need to be, I am recovering from an injury and a hectic few weeks at work.
Swiftly following the declaration was the plan for the weekend. It involves visiting three siblings and their combined six children, my parents in law, as well as two sets of very close family friends, all in a 250mile round car trip.
I wasn’t lying though, this is resting. I love heading back to where I grew up and catching up with people I love seeing, but whom daily life rarely gives me a window to see. Seeing so many people on one trip is especially brilliant.
We are staying with various delightful hosts who are feeding me and handing me drinks on a regular basis. The walks are frequent, but gentle and in brilliant autumn sunshine on the beach or around castles. I live a long way from the beach and although I live close to a castle it really is not as stunning as those in Pembrokeshire.
The nieces and nephews are energetic and delightful, they’re all adoring of the auntie they rarely see and are mainly entertained by their teenage cousins.
Apart from chatting and catching up with everyone, there is plenty of time for sewing the cross stitch I have had lingering in the background for years, reading a chapter of a book and even a much-needed nap. I have had time to catch up on some blogs I read, listen to podcasts and even smarten up this blog too.
All in all, an energising few days of intentional rest, made possible by being in a different environment surrounded by family. Perfect. Not a perfect way to rest for everyone admittedly, but this extrovert traveller loves it.
I am away from home on a work conference this week and I am hankering after a bit of routine this morning, if just to overcome the feeling of discombobulation I have. I arrived in the dark last night and the moon was amazingly bright, so I could tell we were near a lake, there was forest. But that was about it. In the way of work conferences, it seemed important to get to know the people before the lie of the land, but I regretted that decision once everyone was heading to bed.
The evening had consisted of a couple of glasses of wine and way too long in the bar putting the world to rights – I should remember that if the world is not right by midnight, it is probably not going to get sorted at 1.30am – but I have been trying to remember that for decades now!
Inevitably, the wave of homesickness engulfed me as soon as I was alone. Interestingly, I was fairly detached from it – a new thing for me. I observed the homesickness, put it down to tiredness and discombobulation and went to sleep.
My brain woke me at first light and I got outside to explore straight away. The homesickness has completely gone. Knowing where I physically am helps to settle me down, definitely. I am reaching for routines that are familiar, hence the blog. Now, I need to remember that morning-after wisdom of not staying in the bar until 1.30am.
It is one of those weeks where I am doing consecutive travel days, it doesn’t happen too often thankfully, because working in London when I don’t live in the south east of the country feels like hard work. I am always comforted by the fact my commute is possibly easier than for many who do live in the south east though.
However, as well as extra travel, there seems to be a bit of extra everything. Why does that happen? A few years ago I came across Laura Vanderkam and her book I Know How She Does It which is a fascinating study of the time of high earning women who happen to have children. Vanderkam’s premise is that we do all have more time than we think – each of us has 168 hours per week and a few things are true of us all. Apparently, we spend more time with our children than we tend to think – we tend to discount mornings for example, or the time spent in cars taking them places. And we generally sleep more than we tell ourselves we do. And, this is fascinating, we tend to work much less than we think we do. The key to her work is asking people to track their time for at least a week, but preferably more. It’s something I have tried to do and am tempted to for the next month or so.
Does this week just feel busy, or is it busier than usual? Do I just notice it because the travel saps energy, possibly more so than usual because I am struggling with the tail end of a virus? Or is it because I am getting stuff done, but less time means I am not getting it done perfectly? My email inbox this morning contains various correction to the notes of Monday’s meeting – not even close to perfect apparently.
So in an attempt to discover whether this is sod’s law at work actually piling everything into one week when my offspring are lounging around on holiday, or whether it just feels like that, I think I need to write it all down for a few weeks.
It is a travel day for me, specifically Birmingham to Plymouth and back. Fortunately, by train, I think a road trip there and back would finish me off. It is a journey I do frequently enough and I enjoy it. The views are stunning, there is enough coming and going at each station to enable people watching to not veer into stalking (glancing surreptitiously at one person for three and a half hours is not a good plan).
All that said, I don’t use my time wisely. I tend to work hard, my laptop being bashed at a great rate of knots. Well, I say work hard, work busy more like. A stretch of over three hours sitting at a sort of desk is such an unusual occurrence that I do that thing of thinking “oh I’ve got ages” and so all prioritising goes to pot. And those people and views I mentioned? Nah, rarely even see them. I try and make myself look up through Teignmouth – a Birmingham-dweller needs to see the sea whenever she can frankly – but I often miss the whole of Somerset.
So today I am practising being a wise traveller. For a start, I am not going to work the whole way there and back. A wise friend of mine will be pleased to hear this. Instead I have a book to read and a blog to write and some Scouting to do (subject for another piece, but my Scouting is pretty much emailing).
This is being written on first leg of the journey, so I am feeling smug already. Technically I should not be starting work until about Tiverton, but I shall allow myself to get cracking by Bristol I think.
I also need to keep swapping seats – my ticket splitting shenanigans (I use Raileasy TrainSplit) have saved me money as always, but I have four different seats reserved, so that will also force me to stretch my legs and move my spine a bit.