End of July, beginning of August was time for a brief summer
break. A few days in Elounda, Crete, a few days in Palma, Mallorca. Here’s what
went through my mind, well… some of it! Get ready for my fifteen holiday rules:
1) You don’t need that much. As much as you can fit into your luggage. You realise you don’t need that many clothes, shoes, nothing formal. (Women excluded! Be
prepared to pay at the airport extra luggage fees more than the price of the
ticket). A few T-shirts, swimming trunks, goggles, sneakers. People respect you and treat you well without your Italian ties or pressed trousers. (No, I am not planning to introduce a new dress code to my outpatients’ clinics).
2) You don’t need TV, Internet or text messaging. Why watching other people’s lives when you can live your own? You don’t need the news either. You are not missing
anything. If the world comes to an end someone will tell you. Would you read a
newspaper from last week? Why read it today? What you are buying as today’s
paper was written at least two days ago and was printed yesterday. Here’s what
doesn’t expire, talk to someone, listen to their stories, tell them a few yourself. So, here’s the next lesson:
3) Make new friends. We make things complex. It’s much more easy than you think. Smile, say “how are you?” genuine small talk always does wonders. No, you don’t need anything smart or witty or funny! The harder you try the more artificial you will come across. You are conscious that the other people might be judging you and the other people afraid that you are judging them. This is silly. Make the first step!
4) Watch a sunrise. There are two ways to achieve this, one is to stay up all night (strongly recommended), the other to go to bed early (big turn off on holidays). It has
to be a beach. Ask the locals where is the best beach to watch the sunrise (It’s
not very clever to be waiting at the wrong beach). There is something mystically
positive watching a sunrise, like a miraculous fresh start happens one more
5) Watch a sunset. A beach is a must. On planet Earth there is no more magical sunset
than at Oia, Santorini. Find a rock, and sit with your partner at least a mile
away from about one hundred morons with cameras bigger than their heads speed
shooting the sunset. Some things should be printed in your heart.
6) You don’t need a watch. Wake up when you want, go to bed when you want. What you need the time for? Sleep when you are tired, on the beach, after lunch or whenever
you feel like it, and, (here comes the next rule):
7) Eat when you are hungry. This is much less that normally. Most of our eating is
because we subconsciously want pleasure, not because we are hungry. On holidays
you learn to listen to your body. You eat later. It’s so normal to have lunch
at two or three, dinner at nine or ten. It’s OK to have yummy ice cream for breakfast, juicy watermelon for lunch. Who said you can’t have desert before dinner? (Just to be on the safe side, no need to tell your mum).
8) Use all your senses. We are normally used to sounds of mobile phones, text
messaging blips and blops, background chatter. We hear but we don’t listen. We
look but we don’t see. Listen to the swishing sounds of waves, the rustling
noise of the water at the sides of a boat, look at the deep blue of sky touching
the sea, gaze at the distance from one end to the other and you can swear, this
line is nearly a curve, you are almost certain, our planet is round!
9) Walk barefoot. Our feet are wrapped in shocks, sealed in shoes. Feel with your
feet a sandy beach, hot asphalt in the middle of the day, cool tiles of a
10) Embrace your body. Well, not literally. Let the sun touch your body, feel the
summer breeze, the blond sand, the warm waters. Swim, see your body floating,
moving in the water, whoa! Look around you, skinny people, overweight people on
swimwear completely comfortable with their own bodies. Respect.
11) Enjoy the heat. There is something cathartic at extreme heat, like with the sweat you get rid of not only your body but also your mental toxins. Observe how your
body goes into survival mode, feel how primitive it is. Wear super light
clothes or go topless. (I am talking about islands :-) not London). Yes, there
are always people who complain about the heat. Notice that these are the same
people who complain about the rain or the wind. Here’s my advice, spend as
little time with these people as possible. Misery is contagious. But there are
good news. Happiness is also contagious. Here’s the kicker: solid
neuropsychology experiments showed that happiness is more contagious than
misery. A lough is much more likely to spread through a crowd than a sob. You
see, we are programmed with a bias to survival. So your parents were dead
right: be careful who you hang out with.
12) Drown in sunlight. You won’t find more crisp, strong, clear light on this planet than the light of the Aegean sea. Marc Chagall, the most poetic and dreamlike artist said it
before me. It’s like you notice things you never noticed before, the lines of a
leave, the stones on a mountain, the white shades of a cloud. And with the new
light all of sudden you realise that some things you thought so important
before they don’t seem that important now. And vice versa.
13) Do nothing. Nothing at all. Like a master reset. No reading novels, no browsing
magazines, no reflecting on the past, no planning the future. Make your body
still. Empty your mind. Super difficult. And awesome.
14) Make memories. Like unique moments you live, people you meet, new sights and
sounds you experience, inspiring thoughts, crazy adventures. I gather, when the
years pass by, you won’t say I wish I had watched another series of “The
apprentice”, I wish I had watched more TV, I wish I had read more newspapers.
Doesn’t this sound ridiculous? And yet this is what most of us do.
15) Listen to this sound! Actually imagine this sound. A deep, bass, slightly metal
clung, like releasing air from a vacuum, it lasts about fourth tenths of a
second. You can’t’ find this sound anywhere in nature. Do you know what that is? The sound of turning on the operating theatre lights. Listen again. When all the preoperative
preparation is done and we are about the start and put knife to skin we switch
on the main operating lights. That’s the sound! I love this sound! It tells me
one thing: Showtime. I always miss this sound when I am away from the hospital.
You see life is a mix and match, a bit of this and a bit of the other. You can’t live your life walking barefoot in beaches (some people do!), you can’t just work and work and work, no matter what you do (some people do!), you can’t just try searching for answers,
scientific or philosophical to everything (some people do!). The secret is to
find the perfect cocktail. But here’s the catch (and the beauty)! What’s
perfect cocktail for one is not perfect for another. You can’t get another’s
person’s cocktail (some people do!) you have to mix your own with your very original
ingredients, that’s what makes you a unique human being like no other existed in
the millions of years gone and billions of year to come. But enough with all
this thinking! You are on holidays. Drink your cocktail and forget everything!