Have you ever had a holiday that changed your life? Not in the “holy sh*t I woke up in Bali with a chilli tattooed on my bicep” kinda sense but more in a way that shifts the entire way you look at and move through the world. That was Quobba to me.
Quobba is a really remote station in the Gascoyne Region of Western Australia. I’m talking a no wifi, take your own water, ninety kilometers to the closest town affair. It is what us Aussies refer to as ‘woop woop’. Just a great expanse of red dirt and blue water.
I will confess that in the lead up to my holiday I had been working beyond my limits. There were late nights, early mornings, moodiness and tantrums. This holiday had been the oasis on the horizon and I somehow knew that it was going to change me. It did not disappoint.
Within days I was bouncier, my skin was glowing again, my stomach debloated and I felt (for the first time in a long time) rested. I felt so happy that it made me a little nervous. I didn’t want to let this feeling go.
So, sitting on a shell covered beach, I made myself a promise that I would do everything I could to feel like this every day of my life, rather than reserving it for the two times or so that I go away a year. Really, that’s just a shitty life investment.
I am happy to say, a month post-holiday, that my experiment is working. So without further ado…here are my lessons, learning’s and memories all rolled into some clear steps on how to make everyday feel like a holiday.
1. Be outside. A lot.
Our cabin was tiny and stuffy and a little uncomfortable. There was no couch. No tv. Just a whole lot of close living between me, my parents and an adventurous almost three year old. Needless to say we spent a large portion of our time outside. During the day we would sit on the verandah and watch birds, whales and even a giant shark cruise by. At night we would rug up and sit outside listening to the cicadas.
Fresh air fixes a lot. Walk outside. Work outside when you can. Go on walking meetings. Lie on the grass and watch your kid play with bugs. Let the sun or the wind or the rain touch your skin and feel yourself come back alive.
2. Explore. Adventure.
Without many “entertainment” options we were left to walk and really explore our surroundings. When I shifted from my “A to B” mentality that usually shapes my walking sensibilities there were surprises and adventures at every turn. From the reefs (with the clams that would spit at you when you poked them), to the stretch of beach (where we bumped into a charming goat) and up to the point (where we watched waves roll in one after the other) and out into the bush (with hundreds of Seuss-esque cacti).
It made me think of all the places back home – on my doorstep – that were left unexplored. Us humans are creatures of habit, which can be useful at times, but how much are we missing? Go to a different beach. Walk down a different street. Eat something you haven’t before. Try a new cafe. Catch a train and get off somewhere new. Be a tourist in your own town. Marvel at the world.
3. Be barefoot.
I do not take kindly to shoe-wearing. My husband calls me The Hobbit (not due to hair distribution I swear) and is convinced I could walk on broken glass without flinching. So on this holiday – in the beautiful red dirt and the sandy dunes – I was in my element.
Besides “barefootedness” being legitimately good for you there is just something a little magic about sinking your feet into the sand and connecting to earth. Reconnecting to the ground is called ‘earthing’ and the science behind it’s health benefits is gaining momentum – to the point that child care center’s across Australia are starting to adopt a no shoes policy due to the importance of it for our children’s development. So… Take your shoes off. Walk on grass. Splash in the white wash. Dig your toes into the sand.
(I’d also like to point out that one night I relented and wore shoes on the campsite. I stepped on a stick so brutal that it went through my shoe and into my foot. Didn’t happen when I was barefoot. Jus sayin.)
4. Stop. Appreciate. Repeat.
As a culture we have become so obsessed with collecting moments (and instagram proof) that we are not actually absorbing what we are seeing and feeling. In his book, Hardwiring Happiness, Neuropsychologist Dr. Rick Hanson talks about the fact that we rarely allow moments to actually sink into the fabric of our brains (which creates long-term happiness).
When experiencing something wonderful in your daily life, for example, like your husband playing with your daughter take a moment to watch it and feel it. Feel the happiness and marinade in it for a moment in time. Locate it in your body and soak in it. This has been one of the most life-changing practices I have ever experienced.
5. See Sunrises.
For the first time in I don’t know how long I sat and just was. No lists. No tidying. No doing. Just watching what was in front of me and being deeply awed by it. Do this often. If you need more encouragement listen to this song.
(and yes that is a humpback whale breaching in the below photo)
6. See Sunsets.
*please refer back to above point*
7. Be bored.
As beautiful as the view was though, there was still time to get bored. It was good. Guess what happens when you get bored? You make fun. Like we did in “the olden days”. We made houses out of sticks and shells. We went on adventures. We made sand mermaids. We walked. We rested. We kissed. We read.
Nowadays in every queue, train, cafe and office we are looking at our smartphones not realizing that boredom is a blessing. Boredom allows us to appreciate our surroundings, talk to fellow humans, say hi to dogs, be grateful for your life or just allow our minds to stop.
I’m bored’ is a useless thing to say. I mean, you live in a great, big, vast world that you’ve seen none percent of. Even the inside of your own mind is endless; it goes on forever, inwardly, do you understand? The fact that you’re alive is amazing, so you don’t get to say ‘I’m bored.”
– Louis C.K.
8. Feel cold and hot and windy. All the feels.
A moment that has for some reason stuck with me since I was twenty-two was when I was walking along the beach on a stormy, wet, wild day. I felt so tiny next to the ocean and the wind puffing up my parka made me feel mad and comical. Then I bumped into the only other human on the beach that day – an old man with crazy hair. He looked at me, gestured to the lonely beach and then yelled over the wind “Do you think they’re crazy… or that they are?”. We both roared with laughter, silently conceded that we were indeed insane and then continued on our merry way. I thought about this a lot in Quobba as I sat atop a cliff, buffeted by the wind, feeling very alive.
Call my crazy but I feel that if we only enjoy the outdoors during “perfect conditions” we are somewhat programming that attitude into our lives. To only love the sunny days – where it’s smooth sailing – is to not appreciate the magic of our mess. Cold wind, dry heat and freezing water wake us up and make us stronger better people.
9. Play board games.
This is a no-brainer (unless it’s Scrabble – then it’s a full brainer!) but board games are fun. Playing Scattergories into the wee hours of the morning will go down as one of my favorite memories of the holiday. We were cheering and whooping and laughing and it felt like family. I may as well have been in a goddamn Christmas movie.
Games connect us with laughter and intentional focus. They ignite our innate need for play. They are completely pointless and utterly delightful. Swap the Friday wine for a game instead. But not Monopoly… burn the Monopoly.
10. Talk to strangers.
I will never not be awed by Western Australian sunsets, and we were particularly spoilt with them on this holiday. One particularly brilliant evening I walked up to a sandy lookout to sit and absorb the view and joined two women and their dog. After sitting in silence for a while we got chatting. We talked about their dog, their campsite, discovered mutual interests and connected over her t-shirt (she was involved with Oscar’s Law, an animal charity that I support). It was a wonderful human moment.
Instead of feeling awkward let’s just be humans again. Talk to the checkout guy or girl. Say hello when you walk past someone. Ask ‘how are you’ and mean it. Reach out if someone looks sad. Don’t ignore the homeless guy. Be kind and chatty and a highlight in someones day.
Would love to hear from you in the comments…