Why post-holiday resolutions are so difficult to keep...
Travel Tips & Advice
It's hard to maintain the post-vacation bliss when you land in a puddle as soon as you step off the plane, says Judith Woods.
You've just returned from holiday and are scrolling through those photos of precious moments in the sun. Wow, don't you look radiant, rejuvenated and relaxed?
Look - there's a doorstop literary novel on your lap, a plate of exotic fruit on the table and a serene smile playing about your lips while you watch your children with genuine fondness as they shriek, splash and try to murder each other in the pool.
You love this laid-back, laissez-faire version of you.
So what's stopping you from feeling like that every day? Absolutely nothing, that's what. It surely just takes willpower?
Forget those prosaic, pious promises we make on a grey January 1; they stem from a sense of duty, not desire. It's the Summer Holiday Resolutions that we really care about.
There's nothing like a glorious week on the Algarve, 10 days in Andalucia or a fortnight island-hopping off Greece to give you a fresh perspective on what's really important.
The vows we make then are about self-improvement and spiritual enrichment. Easy to embrace when it's 36 degrees and someone has just handed you a daiquiri. But Seven Sun Lounger Steps To A Better You once you're back in Ireland? Tricky.
1. Be more mindful
Remember how each sun-dappled moment counted as you gazed across the lavender fields in Aix-en-Provence? And the days were packed with tiny incident; the leisurely walk to the boulangerie, the siesta after lunch, the first aperitif before dinner?
Back in Ireland you'll be lucky to get the last croissant at the corner shop and you feel guilty about napping during the day.
2. Eat fruit for breakfast
So easy, so refreshing when five kinds of melon have been sculpted into swans and laid out on the all-inclusive hotel buffet. Passion fruit pips on Greek yoghurt, real pineapple chunks and mango smoothies are fine in theory.
In practice, three days after your trip to Tesco you're looking at a rock-hard plum, a blackened banana and a load of fruit flies by way of a protein chaser.
3. Learn a language
Who could resist the urge to master Italian? The mellifluous vowels, the fluting cadences all spur you on to sign up for evening classes.
Once you've overcome your surprisingly acute sense of disappointment that there are no like-minded people in the class, you will set off purposefully every Thursday night until it rains, when you will find a pretext not to go. You will never return. Or watch 'Inspector Montalbano' without the subtitles.
4. Read more books and watch less telly
Great works of literature go hand in hand with travel; for every destination there is a splendid work of fiction bringing the landscape, customs and people alive.
When you return home, you suggest rationing television until everyone starts raving about the new series of 'Stranger Things' and you succumb to a bleary-eyed Netflix binge once more.
5. Set aside me-time and practise yoga
Yoga is great, isn't it? Part meditation, part fitness, surely the best investment you can make when it comes to your physical and mental well-being.
At home, however, it's rare to practise it by an infinity pool, instead you have to take your pick between a sweaty gym or a draughty local community hall. It's at 9.30am on a Saturday morning, just when you most need a hair of the downward dog. Oh and it's a drop-in, which is ironic because almost the very first thing you do after joining is drop-out.
6. Reconnect with nature
It's easy to admire the concentrated focus and beauty of a honeybee on a blossom or a tiny lizard on the stone wall when you have literally nothing else to do all afternoon.
When you are abroad, off work and have time to stop and stare, even the racket from the cicadas has its own musicality.
But finding the joy in the natural world is considerably harder when you've come back to an empty fridge, half the garden has died and the cats keep peeing on the soft furnishings as punishment for going on holiday.
7. Eat more fish and salad
Fish aren't just snorkelling companions, so you resolve to adopt a Mediterranean diet and feed the family mounds of whitebait and fresh salad every day. It's the way you ate in Rimini, so why should it be any harder in Islandbridge?
It's not, as long as you take time off work in order to squeeze the tomatoes in the local market every day, lovingly prepare delicious salads from scratch, keep the kids off school so they can fit in a two-hour lunch, then a nap and stay up past midnight eating dinner.
Which, when you think about it, is pretty much the definition of a holiday.