Setting my ‘out of office’ on Thursday, April 2, didn’t have quite the same sense of satisfaction as usual. Like all my colleagues, I’d been out of the office since mid-March, but the routine of working from home was about to pause as five days of annual leave I’d booked in the run-up to Easter loomed.
Lots of those fortunate enough to still be working will be finding themselves in this position, with employers keen for staff to take their pre-booked annual leave, for obvious reasons. While this may initially seem to add insult to the injury of a cancelled or postponed trip, in the grand scheme of things it cannot really be considered a hardship. And in fact, though the prospect of 11 consecutive days of lockdown leave at home in London remained somewhat daunting, by the time they rolled around I found myself readier than ever for a break from my laptop screen.
Global pandemics are exhausting, it turns out, and despite saving an hour or two a day not commuting, getting up later, not having any human dependants to look after (just one mischievous cat) and not leaving my flat for anything other than exercise and grocery shopping, I had been somehow falling asleep on the sofa each night at record early times. The ‘noise’ of constant virtual communication and relentless suggestions for productive ways to fill every minute of every newly vacant hour felt overwhelming, especially when even the basic sourcing of essential supplies was taking so much more time and energy than usual. I wanted to rest, really rest, in a way I realised I actually very rarely do when I’m away.
I’m a compulsive planner when it comes to travel, and love nothing more than a multi-destination adventure that leaves me coming back to the office in need of, er, a holiday. Take what I originally had planned for that week: a road trip around the north of England, taking in Manchester, Hebden Bridge, Halifax and Whitby — across four nights. Then rushing back to London for various social occasions before driving again to see two sets of family over one night for Easter.
It’s not that I don’t like relaxing, I just prefer not to do it in one place. On the rare occasions I commit to what is most people’s idea of a real holiday — a week (or longer, heaven forbid) in a villa somewhere hot with a pool — I will invariably find a way of tagging on a quick city break or overnight stop in the vague vicinity.
Returning to my home workstation this week was the first time in years I’ve come back from holiday feeling truly rested. No jet lag; no unpacking; no mountains of laundry. The only tiredness I felt was physical, after a couple of afternoons of spring cleaning and gardening; that lovely heavy sense of satisfaction. I finished one novel and started another; I saw a recipe, realised I had all the ingredients and felt like I’d won the lottery, then actually made it. I took a blissfully quiet walk around a nearby nature reserve that is usually too busy outside of working hours at the moment. I slept, with no alarms to ensure breakfast wasn’t missed.
It helped that the sun shone and I have a balcony and garden from which I could enjoy it (along with aforementioned cat, Salem), feeling as lucky then as I have on beautiful beaches or out in spectacular cities in far-flung destinations. When this is all over, I’ll take my northern road trip, and hopefully many more like it — but I’ll also be planning that villa holiday.