We have just come back from a fabulous holiday. We were lucky enough to be able to leave the wet and windy winter behind us and head for endless sunny days, scrumptious summer food and long awaited reunions with friends and family.
Although the holiday was just the very best thing, the weeks leading up to it, filled with breathless anticipation; were pretty good too. I very much suspect that looking forward to a holiday can be even more enjoyable than experiencing the holiday itself. Why would that be? Probably because in the weeks beforehand, one can give one’s imagination free rein to conjure up various possibilities, various ways of enjoying oneself, various places to go, restaurants to try, wine tasting to do, beaches to visit, places to go walking/running/horse riding…you can imagine over and over how wonderful it will be to see friends and family, what you would talk about, where you would go and what it would feel like to give and receive all those hugs.
Even though looking forward to a holiday can be extremely enjoyable, it is difficult to wait patiently for the day of departure. It can become more and more difficult the closer you get to that day. Time certainly dragged the week before we left. I am one of those people who plan everything ages in advance, which meant a week beforehand I had more or less done everything that needed doing before we leave. My bags we packed, boarding cards, accommodation and car hire coupons were printed, multiple lists were made for the house sitters and all the food needed to feed the animals for several months was on board in pantry and barn.
To keep myself from going batty, I made a list of things to do to fill the time. I thought I would publish it here, in case anyone coming to our Mindful Meditation Retreats had the same tendencies as I do. Interestingly, I have come back to it now, a week after our return, when all the excitement of being back home and seeing all the animonsters again have worn off. This list can also come in useful when one wants to go on holiday but can not find the time/money/suitable house sitters.
Here are 10 things I do in while waiting to go on holiday:
- I join a new group on Facebook. Mostly it is a group that I have no business in joining, such as the « Iberian Horses for Sale » group (buying any more horse could lead directly to divorce). Other times I am more sensible and I join groups where I can learn something from other group members, like the « Equine Assisted and Facilitated Practitioners Network” group, or a group with voyeur value, like the « Equine Rant Room » or even better, a group that can give me ideas of what is currently happening around here (that could keep me entertained), like the « A faire dans le Gers (Out and About in the Gers) » group. Sometimes, in an unguarded moment, I even join groups purely to be helpful to others, like the « Horse Riding with Confidence » group.
- I have been known to sit down and watch « Grand Designs » on Youtube back to back until I have seen each episode at least twice. Youtube can be a bottomless font of entertainment and information that can keep one busy for hours on end and make you completely forget that you actually impatiently chomping at the bit because you want to get going on your holiday.
- Reading is good too – especially tourist guides, travel blogs, travel fiction, but any absorbing book will do. Once I have exhausted and memorised the travel guides, I often read fiction written by authors from the country I am visiting. I also stop by news sites to see what is happening and what people are saying about what is happening in said country.
- Meditation is also an excellent option. I often do a writing/walking gratitude meditation – I list all the things that I am grateful for about this holiday: that we found an affordable car to hire (with air conditioning!), that we found trustworthy house and animal sitters, that we can afford to go on this holiday, that we will see our friends and family again and before I know it I have a very long list. After the holiday I do the same sort of meditation in retrospect, listing all the wonderful holiday experiences and events that I am grateful for.
- If I am travelling to a country where people speak a language that I am not familiar with, I usually make time to learn a few essential words and sentences in that language. « Where is the loo? » have come in useful, more times than I care to remember, as well as finding out what is considered good/bad manners in the country that I am visiting.
- Writing blog posts to schedule while I am travelling keeps me out of trouble for long periods. This was especially useful on the holiday we have just come back from, as we often sometimes could not get access to the internet at all. Same goes for scheduling pins and tweets.
- In the week before we left, I made time to spend with each of our animals individually and as we now have ten of these (six horses, three cats and one dog) this kept me happily occupied for several hours. I brushed, groomed, massaged, chatted to and took photos of each, to take with us. I had promised to bring recent photos of everyone to show our friends and family. Everyone needed to be spic and span (or at least as mud-free as practically possible) before I could take a picture. If you keep in mind that the moment I turn my back, each and every one of our horses will find and roll in the muddiest puddle on this farm in a split second, you will understand that I had my work cut out for me. It really is a very good thing I have a still functioning sense of humour!
- This time, in the weeks before we left, I took a Coursera course about keeping chickens, something I have been thinking about doing for some time now. I also did some research online and found a supplier who will sell me a black Silkie cockerel and three black Silkie hens. I measured the field where we have decided to keep them and worked out what materials we will need to buy to construct the hen coop. I went to the co-op to talk to my man there about the different types and costs of chicken feed. Now I am doing a course about beekeeping. We have had a hive since April last year and although they seem to keep themselves to themselves perfectly happily, I am starting to think that getting some honey from them would be too delicious, so I am doing this course to find out how to get hold of it.
- At this time of the year, we visit our neighbours to taste the new season’s wines. We often end up doing as much catching up as tasting wine. Within walking distance of our farm there are three cellars. At La Prune, the wife of the wine maker also sells fresh fruit and vegetables in season. We always go there last and then we lug everything back here. Very good exercise and very good for neighbourly relations!
- I look through recipes on pinterest and choose one to try. I pick up the ingredients from a fresh food market – there is one every day of the week in one or other of the villages surrounding us – and prepare it for lunch/dinner. If it is a success, I add to my list of recipes to use when we host a retreat. My Recipes for Retreats Pinterest board will give you some interesting ideas.
With the above in mind, I created a pre-retreat preparation pack for guests coming to our retreats that they receive a few days before their arrival. Obviously, not everyone has time for all (or any) of the suggestions in the pre-retreat pack. Many of our guests lead super-stressed lives and work long hours, until the very last minute. The pre-retreat pack contains suggestions that will allow our guests to make the most of their time with us and will certainly keep those busy who, like me, are ready to leave at least a week in advance.
Admittedly, I do not always have time for all of the above before a trip. Some trips, especially the ones to the UK, are mad last minute dashes that feel as if I am trapped in a whirlwind from the moment I make the reservation until the moment I get back. I always feel somewhat cheated when this happens. I enjoy looking forward to a trip, however short, I enjoy planning what I will do, where I will go and whom I will meet.
I NEED the waiting time before we leave to make the holiday worthwhile. The list above can make the waiting time shorter, but I never keep so busy that I do not have to simply look forward to the holiday.
Pictures, as promised:
What is your style? Are you ready weeks before you leave or do you leave everything until the last minute?