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By Kay Hannaford

How do you value a holiday?

How do you measure the value of a holiday? By how much you packed in, how many places you visited, how many boxes you ticked on your bucket list? Or how satisfied, rejuvenated or energised you feel at the end of it?

I only ask because, at the end of our summer holidays here in the southern hemisphere, I’m very aware of how much I’ve benefited from having a decent break. I have even been working during January but at a leisurely pace and interspersed with short trips interstate, catching up with friends and whole days to myself.

As a result, I’m bursting with ideas, I’m observing and appreciating things I don’t even notice or take for granted when I’m busy and I’m generally relishing the richness of life.

It’s hard to get to this state without taking a break, switching off, resting. And that’s what it takes to kickstart our energy and enthusiasm not only for work, but for life itself. So I can never understand why so many people fail to appreciate that holidays are not an indulgent waste of time, but essential to well-being and optimal performance.

Being an inveterate photographer, one way I have of reflecting on the value of my holidays is to look back over the photos I’ve captured since mid December. Family Christmas, Boxing Day and my mother’s 98th birthday celebration highlight good times and happy faces, interspersed with beach walks and swims, glorious sunsets AND finding time to shop around, test drive and buy a new car! Now that was an experience – therein lies another story.

I also found time to update my website with new photos and copy; we celebrated the offical opening of their impressive shed with friends at McLaren Vale and enjoyed another great lunch at Leonards Mill at Second Valley. More swims and stunning sunsets, a trip to Melbourne including an exciting day at the Australian Open, sunsets, the Tour Down Under cyclists racing past our front door, sunsets, an Australia Day brunch with neighbours, more sunsets, the Brighton Jetty Sculpture Classic and lunch at Brighton, cooking (and eating) an Ethiopian dinner and cycling round the neighbourhood. So from the point of view of action, I could say I achieved all I planned, wished for and more – and these are just the events I photographed!

I’m a compulsive recipe collector too and another measure of success for me is always how many new recipes I actually cook. I notice these holidays I have tried out more that half the recipes I have scavenged since mid December, so that’s a tick, right there.

Other holiday successes I neither cooked nor photographed but which rank highly for me involve making big decisions. Letting go of the old and exploring new ideas. This somehow never seems possible in the midst of scheduling meetings, working and fitting in all life’s other commitments but a few days off was all it took for me to realise I was ready to make some changes. As often happens, I then found myself seated next to one of the people I plan to collaborate with this year on a flight to Melbourne and, as a result, new ventures are already in the air (pun intended). I’ve also chosen and booked a place in my annual professional development program, another tick on the must-do list.

One of my new (unplanned) holiday initiatives is learning French. I heard about Duo lingo, the magical free app for learning languages, at Christmas.  I’m now on a 36 day unbroken streak, aided and abetted by insistent text and email reminders of the commitment I made to practice for 20 minutes each day.

So, while it’s hard to put a numeric measure on the value of this year’s summer holiday in general, Duo lingo tells me I’m now 10% fluent in French. I’m pretty happy with that.

Vacances très bien passe!

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