This summer my mood has shifted; everything feels a bit sombre and just about everything in my life feels stressful at the moment, for no particular reason. I can’t quite place my finger on a reason for the shift but the looming fact that third year is fast approaching probably hasn’t helped. I was raised as a homebody, as a country girl and as someone who struggles with big emotions, leaving my comfort zone and waving goodbye to all that makes me happy each year is a struggle for me. Despite the fact that I move from one tight knit group into another and from one home to my second home, university is hard for me and this year the thought of leaving again has left my stomach doing somersaults, my heart pounding hard against my chest. So while the reality of my final year has loomed over me like a bad smell and with life pressing down on me, a holiday was just the thing that I needed.
Sometimes I find that, while I love the life I lead at home, routine is just as suffocating and constricting as change can be. It’s all too easy to fall into a routine and while that can be comforting, it’s because it is safe but I know all too well that life isn’t meant to be led like that. Sometimes an escape is just what I need to wake myself up, to shift the negative weight that sits on my heart from time to time and after a few days away I find I can fall back into reality quite comfortably, without having to fall back into the same routine. I return ready to face facts but equally ready to change.
In July this year that escape came in the form of a holiday to Holkham in Norfolk but this holiday was like no other that I had been on before because not only did I have to pack my own bags, I had to pack Beano’s too as my friends and I had booked a trip to the beach not just for us but for our four legged friends too.
I have found few things more exhilarating than the feeling of galloping across an open stretch of land on a horse; feeling the tug on the reins as they drive ahead, watching their ears prick forwards with eagerness and listening to the thunder of their hooves on the ground below – there is nothing that compares to that. Times that experience by three days and you’ve found yourself right in the centre of horsey heaven, which is where I was in July. Or, if we are going to be slightly more realistic, at a little campsite called WhiteHall Farm just a short distance from Holkham Beach.
On a Friday morning way back in July, my friends and I loaded all six ponies up onto the various lorries and trailers that were parked up in the front yard, piled all thirteen people into the cars and set off on the four-hour trip to Norfolk. And boy was it worth it. The sun shone for us all weekend, it beat down its rays and burnt us to a crisp but we were all too busy unloading the stress of life to care, or at least I was. As I relaxed into this new routine, a routine so vastly different to my one at home, I could feel the stress falling away in chunks. I felt physically lighter and it seems that a weekend with my best friends, humans and horse, was just what I needed.
The nights were spent with a drink in my hand and the mornings flew by as we spent them clearing up the strewn out empty bottles of cider, prosecco and spirits away before anyone else could spot the telltale signs that would give away our evenings of drinking. After that our time was spent scouting out a fresh fish and chip shop and sussing out the local area alongside a few pub rides, hacks to the beach and two afternoons of bareback swimming in the sea on the ponies.
We spent the weekend largely in the same clothes, with messy hair and close to makeup-less faces and not once did any of us care. After day one our phones were all out of battery and no one rushed to charge them. It’s times like those, when you leave the tent looking a mess but with a smile spread across your face, with no way of contacting the outside world that you know you’ve found a good bunch of people; people who make you feel comfortable in your own skin, who make you laugh so hard you want to cry and who know all that there is to know about you (from the good to the bad) but still want to spend time in your company. And for those blissful three days all I could think was, I’ve found that good bunch. To know that you don’t need to look any further than the tent three steps away to find someone who is truly your friend is pretty magical and it’s something that everyone should find at some point. And for that one weekend I loved being cut off from the outside world, it gave me a sense of peace that I hadn’t even been aware that I was searching for until I had found it.
And what better place to spend time, cut off from everyone else, with just that one group of people to keep you company than in the beautiful setting of Holkham? With it’s quaint towns on either side and with the infamous beach that seems to go on for miles there is really little else you could want (except perhaps some toilets to limit the ungracious warm spots in the sea…).
Most days it is the reality of these small things, the things that surround you on a daily basis, that slip past seemingly unnoticed. But on holiday, where distractions are few and far between and there is little else surrounding you, they becoming glaringly obvious. In an area where few things seem commonplace, as humans we cling to the things that are still familiar and it is in those fleeting times that reality doesn’t seem all so bad. Or at least it doesn’t to me. Returning home from my holiday in Holkham left me with mixed feelings. As I battled with the holiday blues and the return to work, I fought to remind myself that there are snippets within reality that are pure and perfect. My friends, my horse, my job, my blog, my family – there are small pieces in the mundane that make it all worthwhile and it’s both a shame and a blessing that it takes going on holiday to notice these things.
Now, as life seems to be pressing down on me again and university is racing up on me I’m clinging to those small, simple things. To the friends I won’t see for several months, to my family, to the countryside I live within, to the memories of the holiday to Holkham that now seems so far off in the past…