It is then, and only then, that you really know you are on holidays.
No one can reach you now. You are free. Safe from the distractions, stress and demands of others. Literally an escape. The euphoria is equal to that at the end of the movie Argo when the passengers learn they have left Iranian airspace.
Contrast this intoxicating feeling to that experienced at the end of a holiday. It really does feel like the end.
The plane touches down on home soil, even though you secretly had hoped it would be diverted to somewhere else. You shuffle off the plane, trawl through the duty-free shop knowing you'll be needing every drop of that alcohol during the weeks ahead, and line up at customs just to be let back into the life you so willingly left behind.
It's not that there isn't anything good to come back to nor look forward to. It's just that everything else just isn't as good as being on holiday.
Which begs the question: what's so good about holidays?
This may seem like a stupid thing to ask, but in the many hours, days and weeks after you've unpacked your bag, washed your clothes and downloaded your photos, you have plenty of time to ponder these things.
For me, it comes down to these elements:
Choose your own adventure
One of the first things I do when going on holidays is turn off the work calendar on my iPhone. Do I want to be reminded of the Monday morning staff meeting or the regular Tuesday client teleconference while I'm away? Absolutely not. They belong to the schedule of things I HAVE to do back at home. On holidays, there are no demands. There are only things I would like to do. Suddenly, enjoying yourself is the number one priority.
|Choose your own path, such as at Beijing's Summer Palace|
Everything is shiny and new (even when it is old and dusty)
Nothing cures jet lag like a new, unexplored city. I want to see everything immediately, despite the fact that I haven't slept in almost 30 hours. The excitement of being and seeing something new can be so revitalising. This is aided by the fact that without familiar surroundings, it's easy to forget what you left behind. You are literally thousands of miles away so it really is an effort to care about it.
|Everything seems shiny and new... even when it's really old|
Almost anywhere on Earth is more tantalising to the senses than sitting in your office cubicle for eight hours a day. Even if it is the smell of uric acid in the tanneries of Fez, new sights, sounds and smells serve to constantly remind that you "aren't in Kansas anymore".
|Fez: smells like I haven't been here before|
A modern day Captain James Cook
I love going for a morning run in a new city before it has fully woken up to the day. I feel like an early explorer, like Captain James Cook, "discovering" a place which the locals already know about. I have a vague idea where I'm going, but my mental map is blank ready to be filled in.
|Discovering places like Laos' Luang Prabang|
The journey rather than destination
Home life is about getting things done as quickly and painlessly as possible. Get to work. Get to the supermarket. And so on. Life can seem like nothing more than a series of things that have to be done. But on holidays, train rides, taxi trips and even the walk from the bus station can sometimes be just as exciting as the destination itself.
|The train from Oslo to Bergen in Norway: one of the most scenic train journeys in the world|
You become a better you
My good friend Christine (author of The Global Goddess) believes there are two actually Matts. There's the everyday Brisbane Matt and then there is Holiday Matt. Holiday Matt is much more interesting. He's more outgoing, interesting, funny, happier and energetic. Sadly, only Brisbane Matt makes it past Australian immigration. Holiday Matt waits at the airport until I run into him him again the next time I go on holidays.
|Somebody I used to know: Holiday Matt|
It's you. It's your bag. And it's your travel plans. That's pretty much all you need to worry about on holidays. You've streamlined your life into a bag. Bills, issues and dramas are the rude awakening you return to. Once, I when I came home from holidays to find chunks of my apartment's roof lying scattered across the lawn. On top of the building was the repairman who was simply meant to be cleaning the roof. When he saw me, he gave me a grave look and said "We need to talk about your roof. It's not good". Welcome home, I thought.
|The simple life: paddling down a stream in Lithuania|
So here's the real question: is it possible to feel this way everyday, even when not on holidays?
I'm sure a gaggle of therapists, life coaches and eternal optimists would scream "yes!".
Sadly, those of us with a more practical / cynical bent say it's very hard to keep that holiday feeling alive when back in the routine of everyday life. On holidays, it just comes to you naturally. Back home, it takes a lot of effort, mental energy, the right attitude, and well... work. And that is precisely the problem.
Needless to say, any tips on keeping that holiday feeling when not on holidays will be gratefully received.