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Holidays - Serenity or Stress?
Do you find holidays to be re-invigorating, relaxing and refreshing?
Do you return home feeling re-juvenated and with your batteries re-charged?
Or, is it just one big headache and you can't wait to get back to "normal", sleep in your own bed and slot back into a comfortable routine?
Holidays can be challenging experiences. We step out of our normal environment with the aim of a pleasurable experience. Our expectations are often set by glossy brochures or travel programmes showing idyllic settings, beautiful scenery or even the promise of adventures in wild places. But, are we up to the reality of the challenges ahead or do we set ourselves up for disillusionment and disappointment? How much excess baggage do we take on holiday and how much do we bring back!
Reality can quickly take the rose coloured glasses from the view of the "wild places" when basic needs are delivered via "basic methods" - dig your own toilet perhaps or carry your own trash!
Even if you opted for a luxury villa in a tropical paradise, you might still find yourself catering for the family, but without the familiar equipment or having to use "foreign ingredients". Challenges come thick and fast. From truculent children who will NOT eat anything but their favourite brand of breakfast cereal, or from the intricacies of foreign plumbing systems - such as what times of the day you can expect hot water (or sometimes any water!).
Then there are the "decision dilemmas" - a group of people on holiday trying to make a collective decision about where they are going next is often painful. As with all committees, the end result is usually a choice that no-one particularly wanted but which had the least objections all round. That's of course if you managed to make a decision in time to go anywhere at all!
Add to that, cultural and language differences and it is easy to feel like a fish out of water. As expectations for the holiday and the reality of it start to diverge, the inner tension levels can soon start to rise and will leak out in many ways.
Personalities often change on holiday!
Some people suddenly become the main song and dance act, trying to impress everyone. Others may withdraw into a little "leave me alone" shell and only come out at feeding time. Some may try and "fit in" with the culture and customs of the new environment without any clue about how or why and become more of a hindrance than a help.
Some of this can be laid at the door of insecurity. Dealing with a new environment, having to relate in new ways with people you may only see occasionally, or even with total strangers, can bring forth inner demons. Insecurity, means that there is an inner need to bolster one's self esteem. Children will be more obvious about their demand for attention in order to "feel good" using someone else's energy, but adults have learned subtler ways to do this.
For example, competitiveness - who can be the most extreme? Who can drink the most, have the biggest hangover, swim the furthest, "pull the most chicks", wear the sexiest bikini, etc... Being "the best" or "having an opinion about everything" puts you at the centre of everyone's attention and lapping up their energy.
And, for those who don't join the "competing games", the opposite ploy is often a total withdrawal, tummy bugs, headaches, illnesses that attract attention in the form of sympathy and some TLC. These aren't necessarily scheming strategies and the players are most likely not even aware of their actions, but they are an inner response at a sub-conscious level to feelings of insecurity.
Another aspect of personality change on holiday is the release of the controls on "normal behaviour". The brakes are off, indulgence is the name of the game and on holiday "I can do what I want, eat/drink what I want, NO LIMITS!"
But, just as freewheeling downhill can be exhilarating and exciting, it can also be dangerous if you aren't able to steer where you want to go. That's when you might discover the brick wall of reality and "wham, what hit me, where did those kilos come from, where did the black eye come from, how did I end up here!"
Those people who feel restricted in their normal environment by parents/spouse/responsibilities/etc.. are often the ones who just "let rip" when freed from their shackles. They are also usually the ones who need another holiday after their holiday to recover!
Holidays are a great opportunity for self-awareness.
Returning back home to our "normal" routines, there is an opportunity to reflect on our behaviour on holiday, did we "like" ourselves, did we discover another side to our personality that we weren't aware of, did we discover hidden talents?
We can reflect on the difference to our "norm", and consider if there are aspects of our life that could do with some change? Perhaps we have also become aware of a bigger picture than our own life. Maybe, understood a different culture, experienced a different way and can now ask ourselves pertinent questions about how we might improve our life, our environment, our relationships?
Or perhaps we just returned home with a sense of gratitude for what we do have and for the people that are part of our lives.
Holidays give perspective, if you are willing to stand back and look.
They may be an escape in the short term, but can also be life changing for the longer term.