Recently my partner and I took a short trip to the west coast of Scotland. Our holidays away together tend to be planned around his personal quest to run all the munros (mountains in Scotland with a height over 3,000 ft). Which means a lot of holidays driving to the west or the north of Scotland, parking up at the bottom of a hill, where I am left to amuse myself while he runs up a Scottish mountain or two.
Here’s the part in the tale where he would interject and protest that I’m painting him in a bad light. So I should state here, I go willingly. Because while me from 10 or 15 years ago would never have had this down as my dream holiday, I must admit that I'm rather fond of these trips.
While the campervan leaks (it’s a Land Rover) and it’s often cold and windy (it’s Scotland), I love our trips away. So much so that I was inspired to write this post, and share with you just a few of the very valuable things I’ve learned to love about our time away:
You don’t need to be surrounded by luxury to feel comfortable and taken care of. Though little luxuries do go a long way.
Every morning in the campervan we have the same ritual. My partner gets up first and starts making coffee. He pours coffee beans into a Porlex mini coffee grinder, and once these are ground, he puts through an Aeropress with water hot off the camping stove. This is then poured into a mug and topped off with UHT whole milk. He then uses the rest of the milk to make porridge, which is based on large chunky oats, and topped off with fruit, chocolate spread, and in his case, peanut butter.
This to us is the perfect breakfast. Freshly ground coffee, decadent porridge, and fresh air, with the hills outside just waiting there patiently. The bed is made of two thin foam mattresses that are too short and narrow for two people to fit comfortably. The tap doesn’t always work. The midgies (and the rain!) get into the cab via gaping holes between the doors and the frames they’re supposed to fit in. But every morning to me is pure luxury.
Try letting go of expectations for your holiday
This is a big one for me. Because the truth is, I know what it feels like to try and manage your way to enjoyment. I know how it feels to grip onto control, thinking that achieving a particular outcome somehow guarantees happiness. In my experience it doesn’t make you especially fun to be around, and it doesn’t lighten the load of your holiday!
It’s also not exactly fool-proof either. In fact, it’s a rather risky strategy that’s tied up in expectations and the inevitable disappointment when things don’t always go to plan. The harder you want something, the more bereft you feel when it doesn’t come through for you.
I have been inconsolable when it comes to holiday plans not pulling off (and it’s always the silliest things, like not being able to get into a restaurant when I’d already picked out exactly what I wanted on the menu)...which says quite a lot about how I need to step back and reassess my priorities.
So instead, I now practise quite a lot of ‘letting go of expectation’, whilst still being mindful of what I really want for myself from this holiday. Turns out a lot of the time I just want to feel free and rested. I want to centre myself in the moment and really appreciate what I have and where I am. And it turns out that trips away to the hills of Scotland where there’s nothing else to do but admire the view and spend time with yourself are a really excellent way to do all of that.
Being in the moment doesn’t need to lead to anything profound; sometimes you just want to enjoy yourself.
I include this reminder because sometimes I can kind of feel like I’m supposed to be feeling something deep and reflective when I’m practising being present. I know that this isn’t what being mindful is specifically about - but for some reason I also have the vague impression that mindfulness (and meditation) are somehow also about connecting to something of a spiritual nature within us. See all the ‘somes’ in there, really indicating that this is a very vague notion. Maybe I’m being wacky. Maybe it’s clear and dead obvious to you that being in the moment isn’t about gaining deeper insight into yourself. But if you have even the slightest sense that there needs to be something more than simply experiencing what you’re experiencing in the moment - just let it go.
Sometimes breathing is just breathing, and listening is just admiring all the beautiful sounds there are surrounding us.
Other practical tips:
If you want to ‘switch off’ from the world, willpower only gets you so far. Stay in a location without a signal and you won’t be tempted to reach for your phone.
Washing in a stream is great. If you’ve worked up a sweat beforehand.
I still find washing outside hard. I’ve found the best way to combat this is to go for a run beforehand. If you’re already hot and sweaty, not only is cold running water bearable, it’s actually refreshing.
Nature poos also get easier with practice.
And some of them have stonking views.
What about you? What have you learned to love about your holidays, and what tips would you share?