In a pre-pandemic life I would never have considered taking a week’s worth of annual leave just to stay at home. Sure, I’ve taken a day or two off in the past to enjoy a long weekend or to run some errands, but a week off work would always equate to a holiday away to sunnier climates. Well this year has definitely been one of firsts, as last week I took a whole week off despite it being the pandemic – correction, particularly because of the pandemic. It was one of the best decisions I’ve made so far in 2020.
I have always considered myself to be a pretty balanced person, but on reflection my days off have always been filled to the brim. There has always been a “purpose” to the day off. Being British, naturally the weather in the U.K. has played a huge factor in deciding when and if I would be “treating” myself to a long weekend. (N.B. Regardless of what the weather apps say, there is zero promise of nice weather.) I would wait for an occasion, a Summer holiday, for Chirstmas time, or just until I was beginning to experience burn out. Somehow simply taking a few days to actively look after my own wellbeing, enjoying my own company, or to simply rest and relax never seemed reason enough.
Over the last few years, I have always looked forward to the month of June as I have begun to associate it with the promise of down time. I would (without exception) spend between 7-10 days in the summer sun letting go of the stresses of life. It would be filled with getting some vitamin c whilst enjoying reading a book, sleeping in, and sharing a delicious meal in the company of my loved ones. So when my Summer holiday this year to Chicago for a family wedding was cancelled due to the coronavirus, I was really tempted to also cancel my days off work. “What was the point?”, I honestly thought to myself. Somehow taking time off to simply rest (before reaching the point of a near breakdown) was a waste if I couldn’t do all of these aforementioned things. However the more I mulled it over, the more I realized I could really use some time out. Even though the idea of taking time off to just stay in the house that I was locked in for over 100 days seemed mad to me.
The week of my staycation rolled in and contrary to my prior beliefs, it seemed my luck hadn’t quite run out for this year like I thought. A heatwave made it’s way over to the U.K., so I was lucky enough to sunbathe in my garden where I reignited my holiday ritual of picking up a good book. I decided to re-read Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone and let my mind escape to another world, even though my body could not.
However after a couple of days, inevitably the clouds reappeared and I wasn’t as immersed in the world of Hogwarts as I had been on Day 1 of my staycation. The idea of checking my work emails briefly crossed my mind. It seemed tempting considering that the line (which happened to be a train line) that once separated these two worlds, had now become blurred. However I fought the idea off and made deliberate decisions to distinguish between the two again. Simple actions like preparing a different breakfast every day, helped kick me back into holiday mode. Nonetheless, I still maintained the mentality that I was going to be really productive and utilize this time off. I planned to wake up at my normal time and I made a list of all the things I wanted to do. I knew the amount possible that I could achieve in a working day so surely I would be able to do double in my own free time?! I suppose in essence, yes I could have done just that. But a voice in my head kept repeating that this was my time off. I should be enjoying it rather than adding pressure to what had already been an overwhelming few months. Did I just want to binge watch a new Netflix series? To be honest, not so much. But allowing that to be an option for one of my days off was more than ok. This was my time off to rest and recharge. So, what did I want to do?
- I started with sleep. I let my body lie in and sleep as much as it needed to without setting an alarm
- I set myself a blogging challenge! This was really fun and a great way to get those creative juices flowing again. Before I knew it, the ideas for more posts came in one after the other, alleviating the writer’s block I recently had
- I celebrated a virtual wedding, got dressed up, listened to speeches and danced to music despite being separated across continents
- I filmed a couple of videos for my YouTube channel
- I visited my grandmother (whilst socially distancing) who has now since been expanded into my social bubble!
- I cooked some new dishes that I had never attempted before
- I exercised daily at my own pace. There were no periodic checks on work emails or carefully timed workouts to coincide with meetings. It was very freeing and I got so much more out of it!
- Some of you may also be happy to hear, that not one quiz was played in my staycation, something that I am temporarily grateful for after playing at least two or three a week since March
Although I did not go anywhere new or do anything particularly adventurous, I was very happy spending time with just myself. Consciously deciding (or being forced) to stay at home allowed me to find time to be more creative and take time out from the strange new reality that has been 2020. I may not have been exploring a new corner of the world, but I was reconnecting with myself. It also meant that I saved a lot of money that I usually would have spent on going to the beauty salon, the hairdressers or what not. So I guess there are quite a few positives in there after all!
As much as I sincerely hope to be able to travel again and enjoy going out without any worry, I only plan to take a holiday abroad when it’s safe to do so. I honestly don’t know how this year is going to turn out and I won’t overwhelm myself trying to do so, but over the last week I have been reminded just how important time off from the daily grind is. It’s funny to think that as much as I resented hearing about “essential” journeys at the beginning of lockdown, it turned out this most recent staycation was indeed very much essential after all.
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