As I return to my job after three wonderful weeks of holiday I can’t help but ponder what holidaying actually means this day in age; can we consider it a luxury or a necessity?

I dare to think that nowadays we all agree that taking time off work is important: Switching off regularly is crucial. Outside work hours one can do so too, but it proves easier during weekends and longer holiday periods.

In whatever spare time I have, I read. Reading is my life –  my learning. It is crucial to me,  especially fiction. However recently also non-fiction. Fiction takes me on journeys with other people, other people’s lives and their cultures, their challenges, their worries, their joys and how they deal with them. Reading enriches me. Books deliver additional perspective and room for reflection. Needless to say, my holidays are always highly dominated by reading.

So for this particular holiday, we went to Corsica: A beautiful island, with breathtaking nature (3/4 of the island is a protected nature reserve) and a lovely combination of French and Italian history. Of course besides extensive reading (and having to make do with a broken Kindle),  I found time for other cherished holiday activities, allowing myself to wind down and recharge my batteries by swimming, walking, cultural visits, (slow) dining and debating with friends and family,  with whom I would like to spend some more (quality) time.

I enjoyed watching and talking with my children; now teenagers. Listening to their different views on life, the challenges they face (and pose) and their ability to relax. They are the best reminder of our responsibility to make this world a better place.

Time off allows one to gain insight and perspective on things that matter in life, which could shape ones work and positively re-order priorities. After a period of ‘down-time’, I believe sharpness and effectiveness increases and one can apply these to the job again.

Coming back to my passion for reading: Non-fiction and fiction seem to have their place and time. My mind enjoys escaping to fiction after a hard day’s work and during weekends. While once far enough away from the hustle and bustle, I can settle into non-fictional books again.

I read two wonderful non-fiction books during this holiday. ‘Heks’ by Susan Smith (http://susansmit.nl/). ‘Heks’ means ‘witch’ in Dutch and the author describes the old religion in a ‘down-to-earth’ and very inspiring way. She takes a personal view on the ‘old Wicca religion’, which beautifully focuses on the laws of nature and also involves the ritual practice of magic. You will hear more from me on this topic,  as I am reading Phyllis Curott’s ‘Witch crafting: a spiritual guide to making magic’ next, having decided I need to learn more about Wicca and cultivate the ‘heks’ in me. (Even though my daughter told me ‘you already are one, mum’ – by which she meant a good witch, not a wicked one).

The other non-fiction book was Alain de Botton’s ‘Religion for atheists’, also an amazing book. His main point is that to solve the problems humanity faces we ought to look at what religion has taught us, for example in the way it communicates and what the secular world can learn from that. I will come back to this in another blog post, but do check out his web site: http://www.alaindebotton.com/ or read the book.

Needless to say, I love to read fiction. I much enjoyed ‘One moment, one morning’ by Sarah Rayner and ‘A secret kept’ by Tatiana de Rosnay. As my Kindle broke down, I bought ‘Headhunters’ by Jo Nesbo in one of the shops on Corsica. An easy read and a true page-turner, but not as rich a learning experience as I had hoped, pure escapism. I cannot wait to get back to reading ‘The Shaman in Stiletto’s’ by Anna Hunt and ‘Rhumba’ by Elaine Proctor and I wish to finish ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ by E.L. James and join the debate as to whether this is trash or actually a pretty good read.

In our male dominated (working) world, we highly underestimate the power of learning through reading fiction. I came across a very interesting related article in The Times during my holiday by F.R. Tallis. In his article he wrote that ‘stories provide insights into human behaviour, a vocabulary for emotions and serve as a mental laboratory in which new situations – beyond everyday experience – can be investigated’. (‘The key to happy ever after’, The Times 6th August 2010). If only we would appreciate what can be acquired by reading fiction. As Tallis states ‘fiction is often rubbished as escapism. But escapism has never been a problem and it might be the solution.’

Looking ahead, I hope to use my weekends (and evenings) to recreate my holiday reading feeling and my thirst for escapism. I would like to continue to be able to gain energy whilst continuing to learn through reading fiction and non-fiction.

6 thoughts on “The power of reading, crucial part of holidaying.

  1. Inge, Having the opportunity (and giving yourself the permission) to devour books at leisure does feel decadent; actually to me, it’s necessary. You get to live many other lives in one lifetime through reading. It’s an invitation into someone else’s world, real or imagined; an act of intimacy and connection with the writer, the depth and expanse of which they never truly know. Not to mention, a crucial part of living an examined life, I think 🙂

    These days, I am moved by stories of resilience and transformation, especially by/about women. I connected with ‘A Thousand Splendid Suns’ by Khaled Hosseini; ‘Infidel’ by Ayaan Hirsi or (and for something a bit lighter), ‘Adventure Divas: Searching the Globe for Women Who are Changing the World’ by Holly Morris and ‘Tales of a Female Nomad: Living at Large in the World’ by Rita Golden Gelman. I will check out ‘The Shaman in Stilettos’!

    “It is what you read when you don’t have to that determines what you will be when you can’t help it.” –Oscar Wilde


    • Love the input/commentary that you gave me and further inspiration to keep on reading. I love the sound of ‘Adventure Divas: Searching the Globe for Women Who are Changing the World’ by Holly Morris and ‘Tales of a Female Nomad: Living at Large in the World’ by Rita Golden Gelman (reminds me of my gypsy spirit) and I will check them out. Thank you.

  2. nice post, thanks for sharing. I am very curious about both topics.

    As to the love for fiction (which I share) there are many cognitive studies proving that narrative is our way to exercise problem-solving and mind-reading qualities, so actually a good fiction story is like a playground for the brain. The nicer the story is written the more we can by having fun in the playground without feeling tired. 🙂 I believe Tallis got a point there!

  3. Hi Inge, lovely to read you’re still getting inspired and indeed being inspiring with your literary sojourns. I have this week devoured The Lighthouse by Alison Moore. It is a short, exquisitely written novel that, I felt, is reminiscent of my uni dissertation book, M Shelley’s Frankenstein. Point is this has made a connection in my mind and I’ve opened Frankenstein again, which has opened up portals of rediscovery. Reading for me is very much about discovery and centering and is a place to retreat to when the pendulum of life swings too wildly – but also when it doesn’t!

    • What a lovely comment, Lydia, thanks so much. Opening up portals of (re-) discovery, how wonderful. I so relate to that. And that pendulum, for sure. I am now finishing ‘Rhumba’ by Elaine Proctor, very moving and excellent description of the love between parent and child (son and mother in this instance).

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