It always seemed to me that one of the daftest reasons for taking a holiday was to ‘get away from it all’. I used to think if ‘it all’ was that bad, why not fix it, so you didn’t have to escape from it? I’ve never really liked taking holidays and wondered if this was because I lived for many years in a villa on a beach in Dubai where, when it wasn’t too hot, we would walk over the mound of sand covering the back garden gate and onto the beach. Us ex-pats would look forward to holidays in cool, green Britain and stocking up in Oxford Street’s Marks and Spencer that sold garments with peel-off labels to avoid the ban on taking Jewish goods into Arab countries. But most of all we’d look forward to being with relatives and friends again.
So it was interesting to read in psychiatrist Dr Max Pemberton’s weekend column[i] that he loathes holidays. He takes time off, but he very rarely goes away. And that’s because he loves his day-to-day life, and he’s worked hard over the years to get the balance of work and play just right. In other words, he doesn’t need to ‘get away from it all’.
He was responding to a suggestion in the media that doctors ‘prescribe’ holidays to middle-age patients to protect them from heart disease, after research found that people who took less than three weeks leave each year were 37% more likely to die young than those who enjoyed plenty of holidays. I wondered if the research was funded by the travel industry, because the findings are like many that show correlation rather than cause. It’s like saying that people who drink green tea are less likely to develop dementia, where the significance is in the overall lifestyles of people who drink green tea, not just the green tea itself. Perhaps they have less stress, for example.
Of course, if you love skiing, or climbing mountains or kayaking over white-water rapids, or just exploring new places, there’s joy in those holiday. That’s not about ‘getting away from it all’, that’s about travelling to places for a purpose.
It puts me in mind of two elderly men who used to look forward to their annual holiday in Wellsborough, one of our care homes in the countryside. They enjoyed each other’s company very much, and appreciated the good care they received. What blessed them especially was knowing that their families, who were caring for them, could have a holiday knowing that they were in safe hands.
That’s the sort of prescription the government should be enabling doctors to write – a few weeks’ respite care for the families who are caring for elderly relatives. It’s known that long-term caring can cause hypertension, diabetes, immune related disorders and even early death, so I’m sure the benefits would far outweigh the costs. It would be good if those decision-makers living in their individual government silos could join the dots, and help families by funding holidays like these.
[i] Daily Mail, Saturday, September 1, 2018