I have just returned from a month in Norway visiting my wife’s family, having not been able to meet them at all for two years. As you can imagine, for my wife especially, it was incredible to be with them again after so long.
What is harder to imagine is that when we – us and our three teenage children – discussed the whole trip, every single one of us had a surprising highlight: the four days we spent right at the beginning of August in a non-descript quarantine hotel within a stones’ throw of Oslo Gardemoen Airport.
Our food was brought to us three times a day in brown paper bags and hung on our hotel room doors. We had our small and by-no-means-impressive rooms to live in and a concrete car park with a small banked grass verge for a bit of outside time. We could also head off-site once a day for a walk.
It was the most severe simplification of life I have ever experienced, even taking the lockdown life we’d become used to over the last year to a whole other level. It could have been a nightmare. Why it wasn’t is tremendously interesting and something I’m keen to learn from.
We enjoyed large quantities of time together. We watched some movies, talked lots, read some books. We played very simple games (UNO anyone?)! Most of life’s distractions were removed. It felt like genuine rest.
There are some massive lessons to take with us back into ‘normal life’. What we do with these, I’m not quite sure yet, but to do nothing would, I’m certain, be missing a big opportunity.
I can empathise with this completely Nick, I was talking with someone just last week about how the first lockdown in 2020 felt like a very welcome “break” from life, and how much we relished the opportunity to slow down and focus free time on the people and activities we wanted to, without the distractions of the everyday.
There’s a fantastic recent TED talk about the concept of observing the Sabbath, and how done fully, this is much more than just the passivity of not working, but a more active approach to stepping away from the bustle of life for a day, and the benefits it brings. It echoes a lot of what you have described here.
Thanks Andy. I’ll look up that TED talk. I’m reading Oliver Burkeman’s ‘Four Thousand Weeks’ which is excellent and he also talks about the idea of sabbath and it’s value. His premise is that ‘free time’ is most valuable when shared with important others and that’s what the Sabbath creates for us…like quarantine!