“To move away from your work environment means, in a sense, to move away from yourself. and this is often the main benefit of travel and change. ” – Charles Horton Cooley
The world of vacation and travel has been restricted by lockdowns, cordons, and curfews; Most were quickly picked up, but protested by a few in western countries. At the time, some Sri Lankans were sneaking out of the country on bank holidays while the government or its Covid Task Force decreed that we all stay at home to contain the infection. With the bumps, at least in Colombo and some of its suburbs, restrictions have been eased, travel bans lifted and airports opened to incoming tourists.
A nation of vacationers – often betrayed
Sri Lankans tend to eat lotus so they really don’t need any definitive shutdown and vacation plans. Whole life is a long vacation for some, while others take the time, even when officially at work. I have said goodbye to teaching at a local private school where the rules were strict and legitimate. Leisure vacations were frowned upon and the employees themselves were aware of their responsibilities and duties. So we really taught from 7.45 a.m. to 3 p.m., guided our students and took care of all the other tasks.
I moved from there to a southern Maha Vidyalaya, where the teachers’ attendance was irregular and some even when they visited their timetables. An oft-told story of mine, the horror of which increases with each story, is how a teacher (the headmaster’s wife) conducts her English class with sixth graders in the open space next to the staff room, where she spends the 40 minutes chatting with those who have free hours. She dropped the class and recited “Row, Row, Row your boot,” which of course came out loud and clear as “Raw, raw, raw your boot” for a solid half hour and stood all the time. We dared not comment, cowards who we were, even the ones who saw the torture and sheer waste of time. It’s so easy to see no evil.
Different work ethics
I moved to the oldest and most prestigious international school and was impressed with the bustle of the place. I was in the senior library and heard the steady and rapid clatter of high heels and men’s shoes while the teachers were moving briskly back and forth. Everyone was busy so the overall atmosphere was not a dawdling; no time to waste. The children were a different matter, of course. And then on Friday lunchtime it was TGIF for administrators and office staff working until 3:00 p.m., including librarians. There was beer and crunch munches in abundance and happy bonhomie for everyone with no skin color taken into account.
Of course everyone was from the headmaster to the first name. Not this conservative who turned to the leader with his companion. This busy period taught me a good lesson: work hard and then relax completely, forgetting about tasks and duties as they were all done.
He moved into a semi-public office and watched the schedule of others in the hierarchy. Arrive at 9:00 am arrange the desk with dust etc as the peon was loose. Then tell about bus trips, problems at home and the marketing blues of the previous evening. 9.30 a.m. breakfast whipped – full by Hodi and Stringhoppern et al. The newspapers had to be looked through and some read. The work was done at 10.30 a.m., stopped punctually at 11.30 a.m. – to prepare for the lunch break. The afternoon was a little less laconic. However, the office had a dedicated, albeit indulgent, leader and therefore the work of the unit was considered efficient. We senior officers had cabins. The head of the institution paid special attention to the cleanliness and cleanliness of the environment. Hence frequent inspection of drains and backyards. Saw us, the cubic ones, at 4:20 a.m. – just before we left the office – our make-up and hair done. He had removed half of the wooden partitions! We sat open; good for an information center. We still looked after each other!
Benefits of free time
I’ve talked about free time and stolen time. There are of course set holidays that are a must. This is a recognized human right. Schools have their three vacations; Timed differently in local schools and international schools. All specialist departments and institutions also have a mandatory vacation period of usually two weeks. The annual holidays are strongly emphasized. The employees should escape from everyday life. The change of scene alone is relaxing and helps to recharge the batteries. Perhaps vacationing within the country could be better than traveling abroad as it avoids visa problems, travel worries and a lot of time at airports. Physical and emotional benefits result from the vacation and the time is guaranteed for the relatives.
In the good old days of the second half of the 20th century, when vacation was a must for everyone, it was mostly like vacationing with extended families. Children had cousins to play with and many aunts to indulge in, and more freedom than just with their parents.
My late husband went on vacation three times a year, mostly with my siblings and their families. Most preferred by him, and even by us, were holidays in racing bungalows where you could take care of yourself. His vacation started earlier than ours as he loved buying the necessary solid and liquid supplies! No newspapers were allowed, mainly to restrict myself, because if a message were to be seen there would be a cry to return home to see the dear deceased being laid to rest. Discrepancies can arise; So get rid of the likely cause: newspapers, radio, television.
This is how the use of time is spoken of in Preachers 3: 1-8 of the Holy Bible; Including to be swept away and have fun. As we all know, Sundays are days off.
“For everything there is a season and a time for every thing under heaven: a time to be born and a time to die; a time to plant and a time to pluck what is planted; a time to kill and a time to heal; a time to break down and a time to build up; a time to cry and a time to laugh; a time to mourn and a time to dance; a time to throw stones away and a time to gather stones together; a time to hug and a time to hug; … “
For Buddhists, the full moon poya day means breaking away from the routine and paying attention to the mind. We humans spend so much time, energy, and money taking care of our bodies while many neglect their minds and spiritual wellbeing. Equanimity (upekkha), which means being steadfast in whatever comes to you – good or bad – is the highest blessing. According to Buddhism, when one is away from routine for a short or long period of time, there is rest in both the body and the mind. They are totally dependent on each other. Thus, vacations offer the benefit of alertness of the mind and relaxation of the mind. I have found that meditation retreats, with all the inherent limitations of discipline and less comfort, were the most relaxing, rejuvenating and also gave happiness. Why? You cut yourself off from normal life and took care of the mind for at least four days. Ten is much better.
“Buddhism seeks happiness using knowledge and practice to achieve spiritual equanimity. In Buddhism, equanimity or peace of mind is achieved by breaking away from the cycle of desires that dukkha produces. So by reaching a mental state in which you can detach yourself from all passions, needs and desires in life, you liberate yourself and achieve a state of transcendent bliss and well-being. “
So the benefit of taking a vacation away from home or even an hour or two of distancing, reflection, and purposeful focus of the mind also invigorates the body.
A saying comes to mind: “What is this life when, full of caring, we don’t have time to stand and stare.” It is now the holiday season: Easter and the Sinhala and Hindu New Years. Even if Covid 19 or another obstacle prevents the start of the vacation, we can go on vacation very well in our familiar surroundings. Just relax completely; strolling around while deliberately looking up at trees and appreciating the show of multicolored araliya and bougainvillea; exchange a warm smile; grateful to be alive. This is going to be a holiday!