Andrew’s Blog: Do You Need a Break?

“The past 18 months have been exactly what I was expecting and what I feel I deserved,” said no one on Planet Earth recently.

Whether you are a spontaneous person or you thrive in a routine-driven and controlled fashion, 2020-2021 has been for humans what the Hindenburg was for air travel. It has, naturally, taken its toll on all of us. 

The Groundhog Day-style existence we have all lived through, and continue to live through, contains almost none of the charm and whimsy of the 1993 Bill Murrey classic. But instead left those of us who were not on the front line, privately walking a tightrope of massive guilt and huge relief whilst an invisible war raged outside, over and over again. Andie MacDowell was nowhere to be seen. 

It has been said before that during the past 18 months, we humans have faced the same storm, but in very different ships. My ship, like many of my equally privileged friends, sailed with relative comfort and ease. I shared the boat with my family, and although I have struggled, I have not indeed suffered. I, therefore, felt the pandemic had not had much of an effect on me. 

That was until last month. You see, last month, like most months recently, seemed to hold very few surprises. The weeks started the same as they had the weeks before… And then something unusual happened…

The woman I promised, in front of a select group of family and friends, to have and to hold, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, had seemingly done the unthinkable. She came to me with a suggestion so outrageous that I immediately began to rant.

“How could you possibly suggest that?! What do you take me for?! Do you honestly think I’d even consider that?!” came to my response at a rate of knots any Olympic sailing team would be proud of. 

The suggestion my wife had brought to me that caused such a reaction? It was not:

 “Would you like to adopt a seven foot crocodile and have it live in the house with us?” nor was it “Should we document our lives in a Keeping Up With The Kardashians reality-style television show?”. 

It wasn’t even “I’ve been watching Breaking Bad and have come up with an idea for a new business venture that combines our interests of science and investment..”

Nope. My wife’s suggestion that left me ranting and raving at her?.. 

“Do you think we should go on holiday?”

My reaction? Stone cold evidence that she was, as she often is, absolutely correct.  

As a father, businessman, coach, husband and writer, I very rarely stop. I often talk a good game about the importance of rest. I can enthusiastically and whole-heartedly encourage others to take a step back and take some time out. I also see the benefits of people doing that. I know it works. I know that in the same way sleep is essential for our development, a holiday is vital for us to recharge. I know this… but I am equally enthusiastic when it comes to pushing myself further than I’d advise anyone else to. I convince myself that I am different… 

There is a drive-in me, and I am sure that has led to outstanding achievements. There is also, on occasion, an urge to push me beyond my limits. It has meant that I have forgotten birthdays, missed parties and cancelled plans last minute because “something has happened at work.” The truth is, there is always something you could be doing, but sometimes you need a break. A proper, relaxing, off-grid, no-pressure break. 

I took a two week holiday with my family, and I’d like to tell you what I learnt from it…

  1. Anything served in a coconut tastes better. This is, of course, a joke, because I didn’t learn that on holiday I knew it already. 
  1. I was more present and in the moment than I had been for ages. I wasn’t distracted thinking about what was coming up or what had just happened. I was fully present with my family, and we have all benefited from that time together. 
  1. Being on holiday with my children reminded me of being a child. When I was young, I used to go away on holiday with my parents. Those holidays formed some of my best memories and some of my earliest. It was on holiday that I learnt to swim. It was the first time I remember hearing live music. I can remember playing boules on the beach and winning for the first time.* My best childhood memories are from being on holiday. Not because it was always sunny, and I got to eat ice cream every day. Still, it was a time when I remember my family being together… And that’s what it was like this time, but as a parent, I spent my time explaining why we shouldn’t have ice cream for breakfast rather than explaining why we should.
  1. A holiday is a time to nurture relationships. It is a time when you can talk to your partner about their feelings and not just ask them what they want to watch on Netflix. It is a time to taste your food properly, really soak up the atmosphere, and rest most importantly. You can rest safe knowing that although you are not at your computer, the Earth is still turning. You can relax with confirmation that even though you might have missed a company meeting, the sky above you has not fallen down. And you can sit back and enjoy that even though you have not read a single message on Slack or had a Zoom conversation, you are, in fact, happy.

I came back from the holiday with more energy than I left with. Humans like to think that we are far more advanced than most creatures because we generally look good in hats and shoes but need the same things all living things need—food, water, warmth, and rest. I have been putting off a holiday for lots of reasons. “How could we justify it? After the year we’ve all had, how on earth can we take a break? We don’t need to stop. We need to start”. All things I said to my wife when she suggested we take a holiday. All questions told I needed one more than ever. 

This holiday was also the first I have had sober for 30 years, and it was the better for it. I felt more present, more active, happier, all the things that drink companies often promise you but never deliver on. A drink won’t dramatically improve your day, but maybe not having one will. That was certainly my experience.

I want to leave you with a couple of questions. What personal or professional relationships do you want to nurture this week? Or is it time to plan a vacation and allow your mind to wander? Whether you start planning your next get-away or stay-cation, or just put on “beach sounds” into youtube while you put on a Hawaiian shirt, enjoy your break. You deserve it.