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Blog // Thoughts
May 5, 2016

Holidays Are For Thinking

We are in the midst of Golden Week here in Japan. This is a series of 4 holidays which run together in the calendar. Since we don’t celebrate Easter here, Golden Week serves as the big Spring holiday for most people and because of how the dates fall this year, a lot of people could […]

We are in the midst of Golden Week here in Japan. This is a series of 4 holidays which run together in the calendar. Since we don’t celebrate Easter here, Golden Week serves as the big Spring holiday for most people and because of how the dates fall this year, a lot of people could take 2 days leave and get a 10 consecutive days off work.

As you can imagine, this means parts of Tokyo, including where I live, are unusually quiet. Several of my neighbours have gone away for the week. The local cats are shedding their normal timidity and exploring the streets and gardens a little more openly. I’ve even seen a lot more frogs, like the one above, heading a little further away from the trees and creeks than normal.

There’s some pretty obvious things we can say about holidays. They are a chance to rest, to sleep a little more, spend some extra time with loved ones, the connection between holidays and rest is one of the reasons why we love them, so much.

But, holidays aren’t always about an absence of effort. Many people use holidays as a chance to do a little tidying up around the home. Going to the gym, going for a run, or a long bike ride, is a pretty popular holiday pastime. And, let’s not forget everyone who uses their holiday time to do some DIY, read a book or three, or engage in some challenging activity, like skiing or sailing.

With so many days off this week, I started to wonder what holidays are for, beyond rest and the whole “yay, I don’t have to work today” thing. The answer was pretty obvious.

Holidays are for thinking. Like many people, I always do a lot of intensive reading during holidays Many of the holidays we celebrate throughout the year are natural opportunities to think about culture and tradition. Heck, even Christmas, saturated as it is in sacred and secular chintz and glitter, is still laden with big ideas like peace and goodwill.

I’ve often heard it said we shouldn’t think on holidays. Thinking is work and holidays are, from this point of view, the opposite of work. I’m not sure about that. It’s like ting to meditate by blocking out the world. You could end up spending your holiday fighting yourself, as thoughts percolate up through you mind, since you can’t control every little thing that floats across our conciousness.

The thinking we do on holidays is very different to the stressful, sometimes rushed decision-making we do in our normal work lives. I like to think our brain goes into a different gear on holidays, using the space and the different rhythms of the day to let us have the kind of thoughts that help put our lives in context. Perhaps it’s no coincidence that we so often find ourselves thinking about how to live differently while holidaying. We have those “what if I sold everything and moved to VietNam/Copenhagen/Oaxaca” kind of thoughts.

We dream. Perhaps more important than the dreaming, we imagine ourselves living a different, better, more exciting and interesting life. We give ourselves permission to believe it could come true.

Perhaps instead of trying not to think on holidays we could try to bring more of our holiday thinking into our everyday lives?

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