Holidays have never been a big thing in my life.
At the time, I did not appreciate the value of her advice. I have rarely taken holidays. Life has always seemed too busy.
As a child, I can only remember two “proper” holidays with my parents, one when I was seven years old to Gorongoza game reserve in Mozambique and a year later to Wankie game reserve. At age 10, there was a trip by plane to England when my mother took my younger brother and me to visit her elderly relatives. A dismal, dreary, cold and damp Christmas for two young boys used to the sun and warmth of Africa.
There were perhaps two weekend visits to farms in other parts of the country.
With no tradition of taking annual holidays established in childhood and with 10 years of part-time military service disrupting my early adult life, I never felt compelled to take regular holidays.
However, I have been lucky that for many periods of my life, I travelled to strange places on business. At other times, during my military service, I walked through remote parts of the Southern African bush rarely seen by any one other than local tribal people.
Those experiences were a huge change from my normal routine, stimulating, exciting at times, but certainly not relaxing. Sometimes quite frightening.
When I took time off work, I rode horses, and ran marathons. When living near Durban, South Africa for a few years, I did take my boys to the beach occasionally. However I could never take more than an hour or two of inactivity. My non-business trips consisted of quick visits to family in Zimbabwe every two years or so.
After returning to Zimbabwe to live, I did enjoy camping at weekend Polo-Crosse tournaments during the winter playing season. Those were three days of competition and opportunities to catch up with old friends. Enjoyable breaks, but not relaxing holidays.
In December 2013, I travelled to England for my mother’s 90th birthday. I spent two weeks between her and my brother. It was a bittersweet time, full of reminiscences but overshadowed by the certainty that it would be our last time together. I wrote about it in this post.
That’s why I did not fully appreciate the value of Kathleen’s article.
Until I went to Scotland and England for three weeks.
Sue’s son and his family have moved from Zimbabwe to Scotland. We spent a week with them in Fife, enjoying the magnificent scenery, wide open spaces and getting to know their two boys.
A week full of visits to castles, churches and cathedrals both intact and in ruins, cities and towns steeped in history: Edinburgh, Dundee, Perth, St. Andrews and. Small towns and villages, Cupar, Newburgh, Kirkcaldy and others I could not pronounce. We saw the new bridge over the Forth under construction in stages using a novel system of cranes lifting sections from barges, fixing them into place and moving on to the new piece to repeat the process.
Some heart stopping moments of being driven on narrow roads (and for us, on the wrong side) having to take evasive action to avoid oncoming cars, trucks and large farm tractors.
A visit to the small fishing village of Crail to buy lobsters and crabs for a barbecue.
Finally a 5 hour train journey through Yorkshire, to Kettering in England. We took the train rather than flying so that we could enjoy seeing parts of the country we hand never seen before. We had not anticipated the difficulty of two train changes with our luggage. One with 30 minutes between trains and a change of platform was relatively easy, the other in 5 minutes and confusion over which carriage to get in somewhat more challenging.
Our holiday continued in England, however I will write about that next time.
What I did discover was how good it felt to actually relax and not think about business, writing, or any of the things that normally fill my days. Our animals and house were in good hands, no worries there, I was in frequent contact with my sons Shaun here and Bryan in Zimbabwe thanks to WhatsApp.
Being out of my normal environment without having to worry about my safety was a novel experience. Being able to see and appreciate a different place as a first time visitor without worrying about what was happening back home was therapeutic.
The holiday certainly motivated me to arrange my life so that I can have regular holidays like most “normal” people.
Kathleen was right, holidays or vacations are important, enjoyable too.