This Year’s Word Podcast Shownotes: Episode 14, Taking a break
Hello and welcome to This Year’s Word Podcast, I’m your host, Courtney Symes. I’m an author, entrepreneur, mum, and wife. In this podcast series, I will share my Word of the Year experience as I explore the meaning of the word “Love” and how you can use this word to change your life, one day at a time.
It’s been a busy year, and I have to keep pinching myself every time I look at the calendar and realise we are in May! Seriously! Where has this year gone?!
Today’s episode is the first in my mini-series on family, where I’ll be chatting about ways to nurture and show love within our family relationships. As I record this, we are about to embark on a three-week holiday, and if I’m being totally honest, I’m a little apprehensive. In addition to the standard COVID concerns about what to do if any of our family get sick, we are taking our two children and two dogs on an epic road trip up to Queensland, catching up with family and friends along the way…and hopefully we’ll all make it back! My daughter thrives on routine and finds it challenging when she has to deal with unpredictability, such as going to different places each day i.e. sightseeing, as you do on holidays – the polar opposite of my spontaneous Sagittarian self! And my son gets car sick. The dogs travel pretty well, but limit places where we can stop and stay.
With all this in mind though, my husband and I are desperate for a break from our hectic work schedules and are looking forward to reconnecting as a family (minus the car sickness and anxiety about going to new places!). Whilst we’ve taken some short weekend breaks over the last year, nothing really beats a decent amount of time away from home.
No matter where I go, traveling nurtures my creativity and I find myself spontaneously coming up with new ideas or solutions for problems I’ve been dwelling on for weeks at home. A change can be as good as a holiday, but often there’s no substitute for getting out of your comfort zone of home – especially at the moment when so many of us have spent ample amounts of time working from home, in lockdown, or isolating at home.
In addition to getting a fresh perspective on life, some of the other benefits I personally experience from taking a decent break include:
• Improved sleep, due to lack of distractions from work or housework
• Time and space to connect as a family, without feeling the pull of other things that need doing around the house. Family connections can also take place doing small things, such as going for a walk together, creating sand sculptures on the beach, kicking a ball, playing a board game together, or enjoying a leisurely meal.
• Time to exercise and new places to explore on a walk and run. I love my running routes at home, but it’s so refreshing to run along a beach or through nature.
• New food and drink to try. I love cooking, and eating out can be a huge source of inspiration for new flavour combinations and ingredients. I also try new drinks, such as cocktails I would never make for myself at home.
• Meeting new people. On our last weekend break we took our two dogs, and because we weren’t allowed to leave them unsupervised in our accommodation we had to take them with us everywhere we went. Surprisingly though, we found lots of pet friendly places, such as cafes, beer gardens and markets. At each of the “dog-friendly” places we went, we met other lovely dog owners. Footnote: I now believe that people who own pets and take the time to seek out pet friendly places are pretty decent people. Sure, some pet owners are dicks, but these appear to be the people who neglect their pets by leaving them at home alone for long periods of time, or worse still, letting them wander the streets unsupervised. I was astounded by the number of wonderful conversations I shared with people about dogs as we wandered through markets or around the shops. Animals are the best conversation starters.
• Learn something new. I’m a firm believe that travel is the best teacher. I share Saint Augustine’s perspective that, “The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.”
• Time to pursue “portable” hobbies, such as reading, or drawing and painting. There are many hobbies that don’t require much space or equipment, such as reading, or creative pursuits such as drawing, painting, knitting and photography. I love selecting a special book I have been looking forward to reading to take on holiday. I limit myself to one hard-copy book, then ensure I have other options loaded and ready to go on my Kindle or Apple Books apps on my phone. For me, one of my favourite holiday pleasures is sitting outside in the shade reading. I also take a journal so I can spend time journaling some of my new ideas. The kids love taking colouring supplies and sketchbooks on holidays, and I love how the new places we go fuel their imagination of things can draw or create.
• Reconnecting with family and friends. We might have taken this for granted pre-pandemic, but now we all long to do following eased COVID restrictions. I much prefer connecting with people face to face over a coffee or a meal than I do online or over the telephone. Family and friends also love it when you make the time to catch up throughout your busy holiday schedule, and catching up with people you know in an unfamiliar setting brings a sense of comfort and security to your holiday too.
• Living with less. Less stuff. Traveling with one bag for a couple of weeks is a healthy reminder of how little stuff we actually need to live.
On previous family holidays we usually stayed with family, which provided wonderful opportunities to connect and catch up, but it can be tricky striking the balance of enjoying each other’s company and outstaying your welcome. On our last holiday we stayed with my mum in law, who has the patience of a saint, especially with my sometimes-rat-bag kids.
However, it rained for ten days straight, and by day nine we were all getting cabin fever. I thrive on time quiet time by myself, so after the first week I put on my jacket and joggers and went walking in the rain. I didn’t care how wet I got – I simply needed to get out and have some time to myself. I returned saturated, but elated with a new-found energy for managing tantrums.
Part of the problem of staying with other people you don’t usually live with – no matter how well you know them – is the “stage management” that is often required with children. You can’t just lose it with them (which I’ll admit to occasionally doing at home), and likewise you do everything you can to prevent them from losing it in front of family and friends so you don’t look like a crap parent. This. Is. Exhausting. And unsustainable after a week (a week is my personal limit – but limits vary for each individual, and is directly proportional to the amount of space you have to coexist in – the smaller space, the smaller limit!).
This time, I am relieved to say we are only staying with other people for one night, and we have ensured the people we are staying with have enough space (and patience) to accommodate us. They also drink wine, which is helpful for everyone involved.
We have booked family and pet friendly accommodation for the other nights, which I’m sure will be a game-changer for stress levels. In addition to this, the minimum number of nights we are spending in our booked accommodation is three nights, which reduces the check-in, eat dinner, go to bed, eat breakfast, check-out, go somewhere new hustle that my daughter finds challenging.
Our longest stay is a week, which will give us the chance to unpack and make ourselves at home. Heck, we might even be able to cook some healthy meals at home instead of eating out most of the time, and get our kids to bed at a reasonable time! And I was wondering why their behaviour wasn’t good on holidays! In addition to this, we are mostly staying in houses with a living space, so, here’s a crazy idea – family and friends could come to us! Instead of us schlepping around the country trying to catch up with every man and his wife.
Now if you, like me, have found it hard to book a longer break, due to work commitments, or finances don’t permit it at this point, a shorter break is way better than no break! The South Coast is a couple of hours away from where we live in Canberra, and is the perfect distance to escape for a weekend. Heck if you’re short on time you could just do a day trip and save on the coast of accommodation…just make sure the trip doesn’t wipe you out more than the experience!
Whilst it’s nice to sight-see and potter around the local shops, sometimes time spent in nature is more restorative, such as a long walk along the beach or through the bush. Determine what you mind and body need and go from there. There are sleepy towns along the South Coast we like to visit that have a great fish and chip shop and convenience store for essentials, as well as a National Park homestead in the Snowy Mountains with no mobile reception we like to visit with friends. It doesn’t have to be flash – just clean and comfortable.
So, you know I couldn’t let you finish listening to this episode without giving you some actionable exercises you can do to right away to move you closer to organising your well-deserved break.
Firstly, I would like you to think of some words that describe your perfect holiday. Set a timer for 1 minute and brainstorm your words, or make a list of ten words. The aim of this exercise is to set your intention of how you want to feel on holiday – this will resonate with what you mind and body need right now.
Next, I’d like you to think of three places you like to go to for each for each of the following types of break:
1. A daytrip
2. A weekend
3. A long holiday of 2 weeks or more
Now prioritise your top three of each. What do you need to do to make these trips (especially the long one) happen? Do you need to save some money, book accommodation, organise care of pets, etc. This is your action plan for your next break away. My final recommendation is to have something planned every three months. This can just be a day trip that doesn’t require much planning, but if it’s in the diary it is most likely to happen AND you have something to look forward to that will get you through the rough days between now and then.
I share more about my experiences of connecting with family in my book, A Year of Love: Finding peace one day at a time, which you can find at here.
Thanks for listening, and I hope you can join me next time.
I’ll leave you with today’s mantra: I make time in my life to take regular breaks, knowing that rest is essential to restore and reset my mind and body.