As a child something about the word “holiday” used to confuse me. Whenever I saw “holiday season is here, time for some cheer” line of advertising I often wondered is holiday a season or a place ? Christmas , Diwali break, dussehra break , winter break and summer vacation were all “holiday seasons”. Then going to Manali, Dubai or your grandparents’ place was perhaps the real part of those “holidays”. Then there were the much awaited public holidays during “non-holiday season” or school months. Of course, all this thinking was triggered by the very predictable “holiday homework” which often had an assignment for writing about the place you went to in your summer break. What if you didn’t go anywhere in that set of summer holidays ? Would it not count as a holiday if you relax at home or learnt something new pursuing a hobby in the summer ?
Then as I travelled more growing up and discovered the joys of exploring the world, I learnt that some places were considered to be “better for holidaying”. May be clichés but I learnt about classification of holiday destinations-Like beaches and hill stations were sought after tourist destinations, Like the rich kid in class who stood up and said I visited my aunt in the US of A got more appreciative glances than the kid who went to Vaishno Devi pilgrimage with his entire family and grand parents, like places with forts and museums though full of interesting historical pearls to learn from were considered a tad bit boring and labelled “heritage holiday destinations” discrimination creeping in slightly to differentiate it from “fun frolic and sand “ holidays, like in your teenage years you start dreamily imagining a “honeymoon destination” when you attend a distant cousin’s wedding and hear animated discussions about why she chose this particular “romantic holiday destination”. Ah! Another category of holiday destination! So, in my naïve mind the words “holiday” and “destination” started getting paired up like two inseparable lovers.
Also I realised that when the ennui of routine sets in , a new destination offers you a much awaited break and so people go out of their way booking and planning holidays in advance. But when I am able to travel to a quaint British village while reading about Miss Marple’s attempts to solve a murder mystery ,why can’t others do that ? When Agatha Christie’s work could take me to a different place and era while sitting in the comfort of my bedroom why can’t others discover the joy of reading as a break from their routine ? But then, reading is a pleasure and books are a treasure type sayings often hang high in libraries more than being taught as a lesson in one’s home. For me going to the near empty quiet school library to issue books , choosing from so many intriguing titles and reading during few days of the summer holidays was as treasured an activity as going to mussorrie with cousins. Also, I realised that even going out of town on a Sunday was a mini-holiday and that tiny break sometimes gave immense joy incomparable to long “summer hols”. In toto, a change of scenery was becoming apt meaning of “holiday” for me while growing up. It could be an imaginary change or real , but it was a change nonetheless. So by my teenage years “holiday” and “season” had become estranged lovers.
More so because of the pressure of the competitive examinations one starts preparing for in the final years of schooling, summer breaks get associated with tuitions, crash courses and attempts to study uninterrupted and “finish the syllabus” before the school even starts. In class 11th & 12th School days began to seem easier than the so called summer break! Was it a break or an adrenaline pumped start? The boundaries of time were losing meaning. Later as a medical student summer break reduced to 20 days at home and public holidays and Sundays all were instances one looked forward to for going home from hostel life. From Running away from home to rushing to home became the norm in terms of holiday. Home and hence holiday now meant comfort, mum’s delicious food , your sibling’s teasing activities, catching up with school friends and loads of rest in your own bed, away from hostel life and stress of medical school. I started travelling home on every possible holiday every few months. The suggestions by family to travel in my breaks meant I had to cut on my “home” time which for me was the real holiday perhaps in those years. Though travelling to Europe during one summer with my family was a memorable trip indeed and gave us scores of cherishable moments , I didn’t realise it’s sublime importance back then. That was the last summer break I ever got in final year of medical school. Internship, post graduation and working as a doctor thereafter that have all meant no summer breaks or winter breaks. You have to count your “CL” casual leaves and think ten times before applying because you get almost 20 days a year only. Also, as a working person and more so for doctors your planning can go haywire any moment. A strike by junior doctors means senior residents’ leaves get suspended and have to work double covering the work done by juniors, or a sudden inspection by MCI team for head count could mean you have to cancel your flights at the very last minute. May be corporate sector has similar problems with high pressure deadlines and targets of the financial nature. You begin valuing your “holiday” time much more because those days are far and few. You learn to be prepared for the moment your meticulous planning to go to Goa could fail and you warn your school friends about it too whom you had dragged in to the plan. You learn to smile after cancelling the flights and hotel bookings and learn to say “it was never meant to be” or “something bad may have happened- may be God has better plans” to console yourself. So from being a “place” holiday has begun to have a little fling with “time” again in my mind (When it had changed partners from season to destination that is time to space earlier.). I also realised the paramount importance of “quality” over “quantity” of time for recreation now.
One day out of curiosity, I looked up the meaning of the word holiday in the Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary. As a noun it means 1 (often holidays) An extended period of leisure and recreation, especially one spent away from home or in travelling, 1.1 A day of festivity or recreation when no work is done, 1.2 [AS MODIFIER] Characteristic of a holiday; festive. [NO OBJECT, WITH ADVERBIAL OF PLACE] Spend a holiday in a specified place (as verb).
Dear Oxford Dictionary, as an adult now I beg to differ. My life experiences have altered the meaning of holiday so much for me. In truth holiday is neither in bed with destination nor with season but dear “holiday” is in a long term happily committed relationship with “feeling”. I discovered this secret a while ago and I shall let you know how!
Mumbai august 2011 : a 3 day conference trip which made me question my own life choice’s and look at my own life with a fresh perspective because of meeting inspiring great surgeons. It was a very hectic trip but the icing on the cake was spending a friendship day with an old friend from school, albeit for just an hour but it meant so much. It became a defining moment and a good memory thanks to the dear friend who came all the way on a rainy day to meet me after the conference ended over coffee and chocolate cake. Isn’t a holiday meant to refresh you? Meeting her and sharing my new vision for myself that day did just that, despite Mumbai not being a classic holiday destination and it being a conference trip.
Amsterdam October 2013 : again a conference trip that was about my dreams and loving myself and the solitude and lovely walks along the river Amstel introduced myself to a new “me.” Again neither had I visited with intent for tourism or in the holiday season.
Mumbai 2015 : A trip taken neither in holiday season apt for Mumbai, nor a very awe inspiring travel destination, and that too for a very short duration of mere 36 hrs stay with friends. But it was a much needed break for me and zest of my friends brushed off me and made me smile so much. It taught me how novel experiences albeit brief give beautiful memories. An evening to relax and look at the sea, a promenade by the lake ,delicious home-made meals by friends taking you back to your childhood, laughter shows and packing little bundles of energy in every moment made it a special memory.
Yes I have had wonderful travel memories at unexpected times and unpredictably bad memories too despite meticulous planning. A very brief 7 star resort stay in lousy company and sad mood is bound to bring back tears even today. Few hours with the right company can mean so much more than a place or a time. The place or the season doesn’t define a holiday in my thoughts now. It’s the beautiful spirit inside that will matter when you want to define a holiday. How invigorating an activity can be for you will make it memorable as a holiday. Being curled up in bed at home can be a holiday of comfort and rest too. Some seek adventure and thrill while some seek to explore history at museums. Some speak all the way to their co passengers in flight , some prefer to shut their eyes and ruminate while some may miss the upper berth of a train where they could read uninterrupted on long journeys. Some hotels take pride in calling themselves “home away from home” yet others advertise themselves as being an experience you have never had before. Whatever your choice is ,”Holiday” is about reenergizing the inner child a bit.
If the season is right, the best place is booked and some complication occurs which requires me to postpone the plans or request someone else to take over- I may choose to postpone plans because despite travelling to a different place my mind may still be with the patient/situation in trouble. Diwali spirit may lose its cheer if a student has important life altering examinations a day after. I would rather go when the time for me is right not just the holiday season. Someone may have a different choice and be happy with it. It’s a matter of personal satisfaction.
But ultimately holiday is a spirit or feeling where one is able to unwind or have fun and be happy perhaps. This recreational feeling may come on a said trip in a said season to a said place or the same beautiful feeling may be captured unexpectedly when the place and the season isn’t great but the company is excellent or your mind is thinking more lucidly and you break the shackles of monotony. Everytime I chat with A close college friend staying in a different continent we talk of visiting Cyprus together and have a nice girls time & we plan place wise-what we’ll do in Nicosia and other places. I hope I go some day with her and live it because I have imagined it so so much now! The mind which is a devious little devil can play tricks. The mind can imagine and bring so much joy or worry unnecessarily and rob you of your smile. The same mind can make spoil a vacation or enhance a mere picnic to a great level. It’s all about how much joy you capture in that moment. Just A drive to naddi near dharamshala and palampur with cousins was such an exhilarating experience whereas a sophisticated resort may not be that galvanizing an experience.
If holiday is a feeling or spirit why do we have to have it so less in our life ? Why is that we want to capture that electrifying spirit on fixed days via formal leave applications and visa forms. We can choose to capture a bit of the spirit every day. The deathbed mentality says live in the now and stop worrying so much for the future. I have seen people planning of 20 years from now die suddenly of cancer 2 years later. I have seen impulsive acts bring joys galore and pragmatic prudent well thought over choices fail. Not to say that vice versa doesn’t happen but no one can predict the future perfectly (even those of us who believe in astrology). Not that one should give up on planning for an amazing future, but postponing every happiness for a better tomorrow is no longer my choice. If I choose to be happier today by capturing that holiday spirit for few moments every day I may eventually live longer perhaps! We all can seize a bit of the precious holiday spirit daily- how? Listen for 10 minutes to the music that takes to a happier space, let somebody’s company stimulate your mind,or your favourite wine may enliven you or see pictures of beaches. A whiff of mystique magnolia body mist takes me to a picturesque flower valley for a few seconds. Despite the traffic, the music or audiobooks can keep you smiling. A limousine drive alone may not bring memories as beautiful as a sweet baggi ride in good company. A walk in the park,being in good company of positive people, a few pages of a book or even a special sweet of your choice can give you your little holiday every day. Steal those precious moments daily before time slips away. Living in the moment is your choice. Packing a little bit of holiday heaven daily is vital to us in this stressful life. Who knows what will happen tomorrow? I choose to have a bit of joy and excitement daily.
Now why just moments, wont life become an ultimate holiday in paradise if one follows one’s passion for a living, shares life with an exciting thoughtful person and lives in a place of one’s choice? Work would be stress free and energies will be flowing positively when you are with positive people. Unconsciously we all want to strive for that perfect life. Ironically we all may or may not be that lucky but life is all about striving to be that lucky and to be able to capture a dream life tailored for you where everyday seems like a holiday. Let’s atleast begin with capturing few holiday moments every day and may be life catches up on us in an unexpectedly beautiful way.