So what makes a good holiday?

I’ve just come back from a really good holiday.

I hope you have too.

Nothing remarkable in that, you may be thinking. That’s what we all hope for, right? What makes the fact that I had a good holiday surprising is that that unfortunately is not normally the case. I am rubbish at holidays. Always have been, I don’t do holidays well. There are lots of reasons for this, the main one being that I have to take myself with me.

Yes, that.

It never ends well. The low point is usually some time on day two. I’ve come to expect that now: the only variable is how low that low point plummets down to.

I therefore did not have high expectations for this holiday. For a start, it was in this country. Which meant it would rain and be cold and we wouldn’t be able to entertain our kids and our dogs. I was bracing myself for staying in a self-catering cottage. Preparing meals away from home was always a nightmare in my experience. I was so busy the week leading up to the holiday I didn’t feel at all prepared.

Having said all that, this was a really good holiday.

And here are five reasons why:

  1. I took the best version of me

I don’t know how or why. I wish I did. I could then do it again next time. I have never felt so chilled so quickly. Even in the car on the way down the country, I was smiling to myself. Maybe it was because we were heading back to East Anglia. My roots. A familiar landscape. I found happiness on this holiday: a happy me overflowing with gratitude.

2. The cottage was perfect

As soon as I walked through the door of Little Turnpike Cottage, I felt at home. Everything had been thought of. The kitchen was more well-equipped than my kitchen at home. The vibe was stylish but homely. Lived in. If I was designing a holiday cottage, this is how it would be. We all relaxed into it straightaway.

3. There was something about Woodbridge

Having grown up in Ipswich, I’d never considered Woodbridge a tourist attraction. But it suited me and my family perfectly. Good walks for my man and his dogs. A great cafe Honey and Harvey with a fantastic flat white, a delicious cheese scone with chilli jam and cool vintage decor. And a warm welcome for the dogs. Bookshops and vintage shops and a sale in Fat Face.

4. I felt able to be unapologetically me

I stayed in bed until ten some days. I gazed at the gibbons at Colchester Zoo for as long as I wanted to. I read a lot. I challenged my husband to many games of LINKEE – or KINKEE as our friend insisted on calling it! I had a long bath with bubbles and candles and a glass of wine. I let myself relax and not feel guilty for doing so.

5. I took time out alone with my man

We went to Greenbelt Festival as day visitors on the Saturday. It took some organising. It would have been easier not to. But it mattered. We reconnected with each other and with the essence of who we are. He came alive listening to a debate about poverty; I shone with enthusiasm when I emerged from a session about the spiritual lessons of the zombie apocalypse.

So that was my holiday. Yes, the car broke down in the outside lane of the A12. Yes, getting us, two kids, two dogs and A LOT of luggage back home was a logistical nightmare. But these are not the things we will choose to remember.

We spent time reconnecting with each other, with the family, with friends we hadn’t seen for years. We spent time reconnecting with our past selves, our selves from nearly thirty years ago as we were starting out on this journey together. We reconciled who we were then with who we are now. We found peace in that process.

We stripped everything back and reconnected with ourselves.

That’s the essence of a good holiday.

Helen R loves words, running, dance, her dogs and yoga. For her, age really is just a number. She believes in living life to the full and adopting an attitude of gratitude.

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