It’s taken me a while to publish this due to silly concerns over people’s judgement but here goes…..
We took off in our caravan in September with our two dogs. We had a loose plan on where to go and had booked the first night but other than that were footloose and fancy free and the spirit of adventure had been reignited (albeit the middle aged version!) The first night was spent near Rutland Water and to be honest the campsite was a bit of a let down but you live and learn so we were more careful on how we picked the next one and opted for a site on a farm approx. 3 miles from Leek in the Peak District. Essentially it was a field but that was all we needed as the caravan has a loo and shower. More importantly were the views which were stunning as we looked out over the Roaches hills.
The previous few holidays we’ve taken have been poolside in Europe in the heat of summer and this couldn’t have been more different. Although we’d had a long beautifully hot summer, the hot spell had come to an end and we had a real mixed bag of rain and sun.
Having the dogs with us meant each day began with one of us walking them while the other did the essential caravanning chores (details omitted for the sake of your mental health!) without having to dance around the other person. It’s a 4 berth caravan – how you’d manage with 4 people in there is beyond me!
Bizarre though this sounds I found starting each day with this routine incredibly therapeutic. You seem to feel a sense of achievement before your day has really got going. William H. McRaven has written a book on the power of this called ‘Make your bed’. It doesn’t seem to matter how big the achievement but the effect is the same.
Whilst on holiday I pay more attention to my mental health, partly because I’ve more time and it’s a good opportunity to ‘check in’ with myself but also because I’m out of routine and all pressures are off so I know that I’m a little more ‘up and down’ around holiday times. I found myself thinking about the good and bad fairy that I sometimes feel sitting on each shoulder. The bad fairy is the negative influencer so suggests things like putting off tasks til later or will present a distraction to encourage jobs to go unfinished. On the flip side the good fairy is the positive influencer who tends to be the conscientious and empathetic one. Letting the good fairy conquer the bad so early in the day definitely sets me on the right path.
While away, Johnnie and I reignited our passion for walking. We’ve always enjoyed this but find that life often takes over and we don’t make time for it (post holiday goal there!) Again, thanks mainly to the dogs, we got back in the walking groove and we’d end each day by planning the walk for the next. The more we walked, the more we wanted to. We did some hill walking where your sole focus was on where to place your feet next (at times I couldn’t look up as my stomach would flip when seeing the drop beside the path!) and I could feel my head and thoughts clearing with each step. I’d a couple of work emails to check and a newsletter article to write but I made a deliberate decision to stay off the devices as much as possible.
The extra time, clear headspace and lack of pressure gave rise to creative thinking and my imagination went into overdrive about the future which leads me onto worms (bear with me on this!) A recent realisation is that at times I have what can best be described as worms in my head. You have a problem, idea or any particular thought that nags away at you as it burrows and tunnels through your mind. They may be good worms or bad worms but either have to be dealt with in the same way by writing down whatever they represent. It literally stops them wriggling and flushes them out of your head! The key thing is not to ignore them as the longer they’re in there the bigger they grow and the more irritating they become.
Each night I’d jot down what we’d done that day and clock up the mileage. And as we walked and I flushed the worms, my sense of perspective returned and I could see what really is important and matters to me. If we’re not careful, day to day life gradually takes over and it becomes very easy to get bogged down with its minutiae.
We’re now home, enjoying the luxury of a flushing loo and continual running water. More importantly we’re planning our next walk to ensure we stay in touch with the bigger picture and good fairies!
So, if you want to give your mental health a boost I’d recommend camping in the rain with your dogs – am I selling it to you?!