Our family holidays were always a little bit different.
With 4 children in tow, our budget meant that holidays were primarily UK-based. We tried going abroad a couple of times. Once on a summer trip to Disneyland. This had to be one of the most stressful holidays of our lives. Lets just say it resulted in my dad pushing a buggy through a closing train door, with a child in it, and shortly after jumping in himself. Oh, and the train was moving. We were judged by the French onlookers. Quite rightly.
We were home-educated for much of our childhood, which meant we had the luxury of avoiding 'peak times', much preferring to holiday in the quieter autumn. I have fond memories of our childhood holidays. These were always packed full of nature, with many an hour spent treasure hunting on beaches, or exploring winding forest trails. We wouldn't be us without a hiccup or two, and we would inevitably get lost on at least one occasion, leading to slightly heated debate between my parents. But, overall, they did the job. We spent quality time together and felt refreshed on returning home.
Why 'traditional' summer holidays are not for me
What makes a summer holiday 'traditional?' To me, this means taking a large chunk of time off to visit hot countries abroad. It involves lots of pre-holiday shopping, to get that perfect beach look, long journeys and itinerates either packed with sight-seeing, or consisting only of lying on a beach. Now, there is nothing wrong with this. I'm sure these types of holidays can be great fun. But they are not for me for various reasons -
I have a shocking confession to make. Summer is my least favourite season...
Now, I know this is an unpopular opinion. Don't get me wrong, there are some aspects I enjoy. The longer days are marvellous. The warmth can be very welcome, especially living in a caravan in the Scottish Highlands. And who doesn't enjoy a summer dress? However, by the end of it, I am eagerly anticipating autumn.
My body is a mess in the summer. I do not handle heat well. My skin burns at the slightest hint of sunshine. The insects adore me and I swell at every bite. I also suffer from hay fever, so, all in all, I'm a bit of a swollen mess. The thought of visiting somewhere even hotter is entirely off-putting!
I genuinely think I live in one of the most beautiful areas in the world. Having barely scratched the surface of the Scottish Highlands, I am yet to feel drawn to visit anywhere else. I seem to have missed the travel bug entirely, as was too focused on pursing my career in my early 20's. For me, an ideal holiday doesn't require a huge budget or to travel far. By far my favourite holiday of my adult life was our November van trip around the NC500, which you can read about here.
Working as a wildlife conservationist, I don't have a huge amount of disposable income. I would never be able to afford the frankly eye-watering costs of the popular package holidays. It would require scrimping all year, which I am not prepared to do.
The environmental cost also doesn't sit well with me. The carbon costs of travelling make me anxious. I try to avoid flying wherever possible. There's also the cost of visiting these well-trodden beauty spots. Often fragile, it doesn't take long for these to degrade or become damaged by too many visitors. I've seen it where I live, so would hate to contribute to this anywhere else.
The aspect of summer I find the most challenging though is the people. I find my introverted nature really comes out in this season. I have always been blessed to live in beautiful locations, but the downside to this is it naturally draws a lot of visitors. As soon as June arrives, I've effectively battened down the hatches. I avoid known 'tourist-traps' entirely and instead frequent little-known nature spots, if I venture out at all. This year especially, I've spent a lot of time at home, and found my tiny garden to be a real sanctuary.
I have an issue with the concept of 'holidays'. I fully believe that time-off is important and we should all take it more regularly than we do. But living for holidays is quite a different matter. I've known colleagues that will work all the hours under the sun, always striving for promotions, just to ensure they can fund a luxury two-week holiday somewhere hot once a year. This is their choice, but I take a different approach.
Instead, I want to live a balanced life, where work and rest are blended in such a way that I don't approach a holiday in a state of complete exhaustion. I recommend incorporating the following tips where possible, to feel 'on holiday' all year round:
Take regular time off. Even an extra half-day a week can make all the difference. You can even consider reducing our working hours, where possible.
Ensure that your weekends remain balanced, rather than packing them all full of activities or chores. I like to keep one weekend a month completely free of plans, so that I can fully relax and recharge.
Fill your time with 'holiday' activities. Go on adventures and visit your local beauty spots. Spend hours reading outside in the sunshine. Treat yourself to an ice-cream. You'll be surprised how much joy you can find in your local area.
Wear your favourite clothes often, rather than saving them for 'special occasions'
Ensure that your home is a sanctuary by keeping on top of any stressful mess. You can read my top minimalist cleaning tips here
Have hobbies and take time to really enjoy them
Take lots of photos and make wonderful albums of your day to day highlights
Practise gratitude for what you do have, rather than comparing yourself to others apparently 'perfect' life
As many of us are still unable, or unwilling, to travel, I hope these tips may bring a little holiday magic into your life. When planning your next holiday, don't feel the need to follow the crowds, quite literally! Make sure you plan something that will really add value to your life. You may be surprised in what you come up with...