Friday, 5 July 2013

what fantasy?

Alain De Botton’s Art of Travel is a great little book.

“Few activities seem to promise as much happiness as going travelling: taking off for somewhere else, somewhere far from home, a place with more interesting weather, customs and landscapes. But although we are inundated with advice on where to travel to, we seldom ask why we go and how we might become more fulfilled by doing so. With the help of a selection of writers, artists and thinkers - including Flaubert, Edward Hopper, Wordsworth and Van Gogh - Alain de Botton's bestselling The Art of Travel provides invaluable insights into everything from holiday romance to hotel minibars, airports to sightseeing. The perfect antidote to those guides that tell us what to do when we get there, The Art of Travel tries to explain why we really went in the first place - and helpfully suggests how we might be happier on our journeys.” (Amazon’s brief)

Sometimes (perhaps even often) our travels are filled with idyllic experiences. But this last two weeks in Byron Bay has reminded me of De Botton’s wisdom. One of our friends broke down towing his ‘new’ caravan on its maiden voyage at Mittagong, and after a couple of days ended up getting the car and van shipped back to Melbourne. The trouper that he is, he hired a car and continued to Byron Bay. Just this morning I learned of other friends who broke down yesterday on their first day on the road.

At least 7 of our friends have been ill (some violently so) over the last week or so. A tent or caravan is not the best place to be with gastro!! The waterlogged days have given way to clouds, despite the promise of sunshine, which has only fleetingly tantalized us.

As De Botton reminds us, the problem with fantasy holidays is that we take ourselves. Life travels with us. Cars break down (as, by the way, ours did yesterday), the weather can be rubbish, and our bodies get sick. The real peace and joy in life comes from inside rather than via external realities.

I’ve admired the resilience of people this last two weeks. Smiles never failing. My view, for what its worth, is that people remain strong not despite the lack of fantasy style holidaying but because of inner strength.

When our kids were young, Maria and I decided not to use the word ‘holiday’ to describe what we did when we went away. With 4 children, the work never stopped. I wonder more generally if we need another concept, other than what the commercial world defines as holiday.

Sometimes holidays simply means ‘away from work’. While this is practically accurate, I’m not sure its helpful. The old fashioned idea of ‘Sabbath’ included the idea of regeneration – I like that. The beauty of the Sabbath was how it was integrated into life; 1 day a week for people, and even 1 year out of 7 for the land.

I reckon we should figure out how to integrate ‘regeneration’ into our lives. What do we need to do every week, every month, every quarter, every year – to make sure we are rested in a way that refreshes us.

Going away ‘on holiday’ would better be understood as a quarterly or annual change of scenery that refreshes our inner worlds, rather than a fantasy escape from the drudgery of work.