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Happy Holidays!

In honour of his birthday, the Roman Senate in 44BC named the month of July after their powerful leader and statesman, Julius Ceaser. Prior to that it had been known as Quintilis (meaning fifth) being the fifth month of the old calendar year.

July is on average the warmest month of the year here in the UK and one we often associate with holidays. But where did the first idea of a holiday come from? Once again we turn to the Romans, for it was them that invented this wonderful idea. But unlike the one or two weeks we might manage to get away from it all, back then wealthy Romans would escape for up to a staggering two years! This was partly due to limited transport methods, but also because foreign travel required a period of peace and prosperity. The Roman Empire was the first civilisation to enjoy such a period and so put the infrastructure in place to allow for holidays to happen, even producing their own guidebooks to recommend interesting places for fellow countrymen to visit.

Modern day provides us with not only high-speed travel options, but with an unlimited variety of destinations and adventures to be had. Whether we want to lie on a sun lounger in an all-inclusive luxury resort drinking cocktails for two week, or learn to sail around Greece, the choice is ours to make. Restricted perhaps only by budget and motivation, we are all faced with the same dilemma in making that all-important decision, how do we best spend our precious free time?

As a single mum, I don’t get a lot of time off to do the things I would like to do, especially where travel and adventure are concerned, therefore my desire for spontaneity is often curbed. So when my girls spend two of their six week summer holiday with their dad, this is now known as ‘mums crazy holiday time,’ when I get to do exactly what I want without compromise. Two years ago I decided to cycle 300 kilometres around Cuba on an eight-day adventure holiday. My friends and family thought I’d finally gone mad, one friend tried to convince me that I’d be better off lying down on a beach, as she felt exhausted just reading my itinery. In fact it was actually the most liberating, stimulating and yes at times scary holiday I’d ever embarked upon. I came home feeling elated, if not slightly saddle sore!

So while adventure holidays may have become the norm for some, as we attempt to escape our own domestic routines and responsibilities, what else drives us to spend so much time, money and effort planning our great get away, and what are we really hoping to get back in return?

For some, it’s about switching off and relaxing, for others it’s about switching on and being inspired. But without doubt, we all share the same needs and those are to feel refreshed, renewed and invigorated, in the hope that we create new experiences that will capture our hearts and imaginations; so when we return to our old lives, we do so with a different perspective and a positive outlook.

A survey conducted by Expedia asked 31 million people who’d been on holiday in the past 12 months to share their thoughts on such matters. Perhaps not surprisingly, 46% of people said they felt more relaxed, 42% said they felt happier and 35% said they felt less stressed. Perhaps unexpectedly 10% of respondents reported improvements in the condition of their skin, 6% said they had a higher sex drive, equally 6% of people also said they experienced weight loss as a consequence of their break. I’m now curious as to whether those 6% were in fact the same group?

Yet if those figures aren’t quite enough to convince you of the potential benefits of a holiday, perhaps take comfort in the fact that the ‘holiday effect’ can last anywhere between an average of three weeks to three months.

Scientists from Icahan School of Medicine, University of California and Harvard found that just six days away triggers genetic changes, which dampen stress, boost the immune system and lower levels of protein linked to dementia and depression.

So perhaps the early Romans were really onto something, and while the modern tradition of taking a one or two week holiday once or twice a year may not be a match for them in terms of duration, perhaps we can take heart, that wherever we end up escaping to, will fundamentally have a positive affect on our physical as well as mental health and wellbeing, now that’s definitely a good thing!

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