Taking time to be more spontaneous, do things differently and not plan every trip in minute detail can reap massive rewards – as Fay Doyle discovers on the Balearic Island of Mallorca.
“I really need a holiday” I thought to myself as I was closing in on the Christmas break. I’d somehow managed to create a pocket of time over the Christmas holidays where I could relax and recoup after what had been another stressful and busy year due to all things covid and a never ending wave of things changing on last minute. You see, I always love to take stretches of time off over Christmas. As someone who finds it incredibly hard for several reasons to relax, it’s one of the main times where I feel like everyone in marketing and advertising does pretty much the same – so I’ve sort of convinced myself (in a good way) that trying to do any semblance of meaningful work over this period is pointless. This was different, however. I wasn’t just in need of some time to catch up on my sleep and eat mince pies. I was craving the experience of a new place to go and have some sort of adventure.
Image description: A landscape image. A bending, grey mountain road snakes through the bottom third of the image. Around are brown and green grassy hills. In the background, grey Rocky Mountains form upwards and hit the sea. The sky is blue.
As I started to put the wheels in motion for booking a trip that was exclusively aboutnotworking, I decided upon the Balearic Island of Mallorca. Within a few hours, my trip was booked and, contrary to my usual incessant production mind planning everything to the letter, I just did…nothing. It terrified me. What if I got there and I couldn’t find anything to do? What if I couldn’t find the best places to go? What if it was a disaster and I was bored? Normally, these questions would be enough to put me into a kind of anxious spin, but instead, I saw these as exactly one of the reasons I needed this trip. To take a step back and recentre myself. To give my brain a rest from all the tiny things that it gets anxious about on a daily basis because of the experience we’ve all had over the past two years. What if, instead, I could go into this trip with the most minimal of planning, and try to just decide, day by day what I fancied doing instead? What if this could be the perfect opportunity to give myself some evidence that it’s perfectly ok to do that, too?
Image description: A landscape image. In the foreground, out of focus branches and bushes in green frame the shot. In the middle is a rock formation that stands proud. The colours are white, pink and red. Behind is a scrubby tree and the sky is bright blue.
Arriving at Palma airport on Christmas eve, we headed straight to the supermarket to get stocked up on treats for the following few days at the Finca we’d rented near the mountains. As we drove further and further from the built up areas that surround the city of Palma de Mallorca, I started to jot my eyes on the landscapes that surrounded. At this point, I was starting to get glimpses of what was to come – but I also had no idea, as I’d done no research. It was incredibly refreshing, and quite alien to be driving along a road and not saying out loud ‘to our left is the something mountain range’ like some kind of proud holiday rep. Instead, I was a combination of both quiet as I took things in, and excited that I might get to explore. As we reached our Finca and put our bags down, I went to sit in the garden. Excited over what I’d seen as we drove, I took out my phone, wanting desperately to learn more of my surroundings and what activities presented themselves. As I opened the Instagram app, I started to feel a wave of anxiety coming back. At that moment, I decided that I was going to use this as a great opportunity to take a break from social media.
Image description: A landscape image. The shot is mostly in shadow as the sun is setting. To the left, a cliff frames the shot, completely in shadow. Behind, another mountain in shadow creates a stack. To the left is a pocket of cloud with hazy yellow and orange light hitting shafts over the mountains. The sky is darkening in blue with hazy clouds.
This might sound trivial, but in many ways, it felt like the break I needed. I don’t see myself as someone who is constantly glued to a phone screen, but even I’m guilty of not seeing the scene around me sometimes because my head is stook in scroll mode, headfast in comparison. As I put my phone down, I started to look at the scene around me – the beautiful garden, the pool, the sun as it was starting to lower in the sky. A trickle of warmth flowed through me as I started to appreciate how lucky I felt. Right then and there, everything felt ok. In fact, it felt more than ok.
Image description: A landscape image. Three mountain peaks frame the shot – with one central mountain at its foothills being covered in green mossy grasslands. As we reach the top, is exposed as grey rock. The right hand mountain is covered in cloud. The shot is dark and the sky is stormy.
When Matt asked me just before we headed to bed that evening what I fancied doing the following day, saying ‘let’s play it by ear’ felt incredibly refreshing. The idea that I was going to wake up the following day and not know what it had in store felt like a rebellious thing to do. I often used to think that one of the things I liked about adventure and travel was that it felt spontaneous. But in all the years of planning quite involved adventures and client projects with tight schedules, a lot of this spontaneity had left. I think as humans, we often feel like we want to have a plan for how things are going to go, and it can, in the short term make us feel ‘better’. I’m not saying planning is a bad thing – I think that planning can give you the clarity you often need to turn something into a reality. Sometimes, though, actually being able to not plan allows you to go into something with a fresh set of eyes. A different feeling of eagerness. The world can feel like a much bigger place again. Sometimes you can have an amazing experience when you don’t plan. You almost feel like some kind of pioneer. You haven’t seen it on Instagram. You just find it on a map and get there to realise that you’ve found an incredibly beautiful place. You can also get there and find it’s not what you had in mind, but that can be part of the fun, too.
Image description: A landscape image. In the foreground of this scene that presents a sea cove, rocks are pictured. The middle of the shot shows a calm blue sea. In the background are rocks to either side of the bay – with small boats on the water at the horizon line. The sky is blue with light cloud.
The following few days felt like a breath of fresh air for me. We drove through spectacular mountains with no expectations and exploring as we went. We hiked trails into hills right from our front door. We swam in the most incredible of bays just by pointing at a yellow spot on the map and saying, ‘that looks interesting’. I took photographs of places that inspired me without the pressure of them having to look a certain way or fit a certain brief. I ate glorious food that made me remember that this isn’t just about adventure for me, it is about so much more. What I realised very quickly was that I was experiencing life in the moment in a way I hadn’t for a long time. That felt like medicine, and it made me realise just what I’ve missed in the two years that we’ve been experiencing differing restrictions and limits on the life we were used to. Every step on every trail I took, or conversely, didn’t take, felt like I was taking a step further towards reseeing just why I got into travelling in the first place. It wasn’t because it removed me from my day to day realities, it was because it helped me to see clearly what was important to me, personally in life.
Image description: A landscape image. This mountain scene presents lots of grey rocks in the foreground and green grass. In the background are triangular peaks made up of grey rock. The sky is overcast with pockets of bright blue sky.
I started to become aware of my senses again. The smells of mountain herbs and the scent that’s left when the sun hits a place constantly for years on end. The feel of the air and the gentle breezes coming in from the sea. The sense of ultimate freedom…and also the slight fear I felt as I looked over the edge of incredible, sheer drop off cliff faces with the detailed of rock formations. I realized that I wanted to try and maintain some of this sense when I got back home – to not feel as transfixed to my incessant need to plan everything all of the time. It’s a very easy for people to say ‘just go with the flow’ or ‘things will work out’ but when you’re someone who is looking through a lens of trauma, it can be a whole different experience. The situations that would calm most people can give me intense anxiety. So, the idea of becoming that bit less ‘in planning mode’ all the time, felt both refreshing and slightly nerve wracking.
Image description: A landscape image. To the left and right, trees with red and orange tones frame the sides of the shot. In the middle is a vast mountain scene. To the left, the hills curve down and in the background, a rocky formation makes up the shot. There are tones of pink, purple, oranges and browns as the slight haziness of the scene is revealed. The sky is mostly bright blue with a few isolated clouds.
To this point, even two weeks after the trip, I still feel that sense of calm, in many ways that I experienced in Mallorca. It’s taking a lot of work. However, the healing and thinking time and just being in the moment that I got to experience whilst there, without any expectations of who I needed to be allowed me to see what Ineededto give myself – which is a break every now and then, to be myself, and find out who exactly, that is.
Image description: A landscape image. In the foreground, the dark sea meets small dark pebbles. In the centre of the frame is a rocky small island in the water which is bright orange and on the top of the small island are windswept small trees pointing to the left. The sky is cloudy, but blue and quite dramatic.