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During this time of year, everyone is talking about holidays, ‘Where have you been?’ Where are you going? ‘,’ What are your plans? ‘. Holiday seem important, but what does holiday actually mean, and is it indeed so important?

If you try to find out the meaning of the word holiday, or vacation, then you come across a number of different definitions. Wikipedia says:

Vacation is […] is being free of obligations. It is a period in which a person ceases to do the usual daily activities, such as going to school or work. This is a period (much) longer than a weekend (in which many people are free), often at least a week. Employees have vacation when they need to take a leave (or other days off). Pupils, students and teachers have holidays when their school is closed and they have no other obligations.
[…] Strictly speaking we mean by a holiday residing for a period of five or more days with at least four consecutive nights not spent in the home for recreational purposes.

Some other definitions:

– Period of several days during which you are free and don’t have to work.

– During a holiday you are staying outside the home environment for relaxation or fun with at least one (1) night outdoors.

– Regular number of days a worker is free from work, whilst still being paid, regulated by law, to distinguish: holidays, leave, short leave, absence.

– 1) Contiguous leisure 2) Number of free days in a row 3) Absence period 4) Granted annually leisure 5) Relaxation 6) Relaxation Period 7) Period of not working 8) Period of leisure 9) Period where one is not working 10) Recreation 11) Travel 12) Rest Period 13) Rest 14) Recess.

The common feature in all these descriptions is that you have a period when you are free of your obligations, and you do not have to work.

Holiday, or – to be exact – vacation, stems from the Latin word ‘vacare’: being empty, or becoming empty. And that’s exactly what you’re trying to do during your holiday: you break away from your obligations, and try to be empty. Vacare is also interpreted as holding an empty space, where everything is possible.

Why is it so important to be empty? You need it to get new ideas, to be creative, to be able to have a fresh view on what needs to be done.  You probably know the feeling:  as you have been working very long and hard, at the end of the day, you don’t see ‘it’ anymore. Whilst the next day – after a good night sleep – suddenly several ways to solve ‘it’ appear.

It’s actually like breathing: you cannot just inhale or exhale, you need both. Without inhalation no exhalation, without exhalation no inhalation.


But as you know, being empty or keeping things empty is s easier said than done. You probably find it difficult as well, because we are so used to fill our head with all kinds of stuff. And our vacation preferably as well…

Therefore six tips for emptiness:

1. Not everything needs to be finished before you go on holiday. It isn’t not possible. It might be useful to – if you are away for a few weeks – leave yourself a ‘to-do-list’ to use when you get back. So you know where you have left off, what the situation was, what your thoughts were. It helps you to not have to start all over again. Such a to-do-list is still a kind of completion, so you can keep your head empty.

2. It is actually not possible to not think about your research. It happens and you can’t help it.  So for your own piece of mind: take a notebook with you. Write down the ideas and thoughts that come up. By writing them down you won’t forget them and you can revise when you are back home.

3. Give yourself the chance to actually be empty: plan nothing for a few days, and see what happens. Just see what presents itself during the day, and allow yourself to be surprised by what comes your way.

4. Is a few days ‘void’ too much for you? Just give it a go for one day then. Don’t make any appointments, promise nothing to anyone, and let yourself be guided by what you want. Just see what suits that day best.

5. Vacation does not necessarily mean you have to leave; it’s about letting go of your obligations. And you can also do that by the end of the week and deliberately have a ‘holiday weekend’ or by letting go of your obligations by the end of the day, so your have a ‘holiday evening ‘. Or take your ‘holiday break’ during the day. Some conscious moments of emptiness, for example during a coffee, can make a big difference. So don’t drink your coffee behind your computer screen…

6. Another way to create a few empty moments’ in your day is doing a few breathing exercises, taking a short walk or just walking away from your desk for a few minutes.

So ‘holiday-moments’ are vital to remain creative, productive and fresh. Make sure your head is empty, by leaving instructions for yourself what to do when you come back, by having a notebook to jot down ideas, by planning nothing for a few days and by creating ‘holiday-emptiness’ during your weekend, your day.

Wishing you a great summer period with lots of emptiness during your holiday, to make sure you can have a fresh start. Please let me know how you have created your emptiness!


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