Tuesday, 3 July 2018

Anyone else have a problem with Holidays?!

View from the boat on Lake Garda
I got back from a break away at Lake Garda in Italy just over a week ago and faced the usual questions on my return. Did you have a nice time? Did you get a good rest? Let's face it - there were stunning views of the lake and mountains, wall to wall Mediterranean sunshine, fabulous fresh local food and wine. All very romantic with my lovely hubbie. I mean - what's not to like?! 

The weird thing is - I've always found holidays 'difficult'. I call it ‘existential displacement’, but other psychologists have labelled it ‘adjustment disorder'. As you know, I like unravelling mysteries, so for anyone else with a similar experience, I'll try to explain what this 'mysterious thing' is about. 

It's not the usual holiday 'stress' 

View of the Alps from the plane
It's not the work involved in organising a holiday - all the planning (where to go, what to do), booking flights, hotels, hire cars etc. It's not about a fear of flying. It's not even about coming up against a different language and culture, new currency, reading maps, not knowing where things are/how things work, timetables etc – those are simply extra hurdles.

No, it's kind of Existential.

The feelings I get when I’m away from home for more than a couple of nights are summed up as follows: ungrounded, lost, alienated, trapped, agitated, unable to relax, displaced, cut off and feeling like an outsider. The apartment we stayed in was lovely: bright, airy, clean and had everything we wanted. But it was alien to me. I felt like I had no personal space there and I was stuck with someone else’s things around me. In those circumstances,  I feel I lose my SELF – there is nothing of ME there and no familiar structure. Something akin to my 'thing' with mirrors (see my earlier post).

I feel as though my very identity is compromised. As well as not feeling relaxed in the apartment, I find being out and about for long periods tricky. I like exploring places, love expanses of water, but I find being 'in the world' all day for a full week terribly exhausting - psychologically. As soon as we arrived, I found myself counting down the days to my return. It sounds terribly sad ( and wasteful, even), but it's just the way it is. I try very hard to make the most of everything. I try to find ways to go with the flow (I even took my own pillow), but  the sense of discomfort persisted. My long suffering husband is amazing, by the way. He knows I find being away from home hard and does everything he can to soften the issue! 

What about leaving home to go to University? 

What is strange is that I had no issues leaving home, aged eighteen. I never found that ‘difficult’ – quite the opposite in fact. This condition isn't about being ‘homesick’ in the traditional way. It's not a yearning to be with certain people or 'family'. As it happens, I've moved loads of time - different colleges, different cities.

Each time, I was creating a new world around me – new routines and structures. A new home. And I loved it! I never had any hankerings for going back (quite the opposite, at Uni I used to have stomach upsets at vacation time and even stalled returns for as long as possible). It wasn't my parents' fault at all (poor loves), but it was as though the family 'home' had turned into the alien space, because my new identity at uni was the one I’d created and belonged in.

The Answer

My husband and I used to have a cat and tended to take 3-4 day city-breaks to places like Bruges, Amsterdam, Lille, Paris. These holidays worked better for me and he likes the idea of returning to this short-break structure, too. Phew!

The Value of Photographs

Grotte di Catullo


As a result of this 'condition', I tend to enjoy holidays more afterwards and that is why photos are so important! I take lots of them. After the event, back home in my own space again I’m relaxed, looking back from a position of total calm! I often think of Wordsworth's lovely quote about poetry: 'emotion recollected in tranquility'. Coming home is like a return to myself.

I'd be interested to hear from any other folk out there who can relate to this! Meanwhile, I'm back editing my next book (set on the water, as it happens), PERFECT BONES. And I couldn't be happier!


AJ Waines is a No 1 International Bestelling Author

All books can be read in any order 
(including Inside the Whispers (Bk 1) and Lost in the Lake (Bk 2) which are also in a series)
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