It was only four nights in a static caravan in Dorset. But after four months of lockdown, it felt more like four weeks in a luxury suite in Dubai. And getting out to explore the scenic Jurassic Coast at times made us feel like the Famous Five.
Okay, so our adventures weren’t exactly like the Enid Blyton books. But there were definite similarities. There are five of us, for starters. We stayed on the Isle of Purbeck, which provided the inspiration for the Famous Five’s Kirrin Island. And while the final member of Blyton’s five was Timmy the dog, we have Kara, who thinks she’s a cat. So, near enough.
Breaking the cycle of anxiety
I will admit that I was quite apprehensive when Heather first suggested we book this getaway. It felt too soon. We hadn’t been anywhere even remotely crowded throughout lockdown. The most adventurous we had been was to go for weekend walks, where we could be out for four hours and still encounter only 20 people. So the thought of venturing to beaches and mingling with hundreds of people didn’t sit easily with me.
But the voice in my head kept reminding me that at some point we would have to start to move back towards normality. We would have to step outside our family bubble and interact with the rest of the world again.
That first step is the hardest one, though. The longer lockdown went on, the more anxious I’d become about social contact with other people. And the more anxious I became, the longer I kept putting it off. And so the spiral went on.
It was time to break the cycle of anxiety.
Keeping our distance
In truth, going away when we did turned out to be an inspired decision. As it was the week before most schools broke up, it was considerably less busy than the summer peak. Isaac had already finished his term the week before. For Toby and Kara, it meant missing only the final two days of school.
It was quiet enough that we were able to spend entire afternoons on the beach four or five metres away from anyone else. And while the promenades were busier, it was easy enough to keep ourselves a safe distance from others, even though many had obviously long since abandoned any efforts to maintain social distancing.
So while I was initially concerned about keeping ourselves safe, the reality was that we were probably less at risk than if we’d stayed in Thatcham and sat in the beer garden at a local pub. Or pushed a trolley up and down the aisles at Tesco.
Now we’ve actually done it, I feel like a huge weight has been lifted from my shoulders. We’re still observing social distancing. We’re wearing masks when we go into shops. But the almost paralysing level of anxiety I used to feel the moment I could see more than one other person in my eye-line is gone now. I’m still being cautious – but I’m no longer paranoid.
While we made a point of avoiding more crowded spots, we were still able to do everything we wanted. Other than eating out in restaurants, this was as close to a normal holiday as we could have hoped for.
We visited three of Heather’s aunts who live in the area. The kids enjoyed two days on the beaches at Weymouth and Sandbanks. We spent a happy morning poking around the ruins of Corfe Castle, followed by a glorious walk up from Studland to see the Pinnacles and Old Harry Rocks and a fish-and-chips supper looking out across the water from Swanage. And every morning I would get up early for a stroll to either Durdle Door or Lulworth Cove.
We even managed to fit in one of our longest-standing holiday traditions: a round of crazy golf. It ended in frustration and tears – Kara claimed her ball “wasn’t working” – but even that’s part of the tradition too. It wouldn’t have felt like a proper, almost normal holiday any other way.
A change of scenery
Ultimately, what we got most out of our five days away was the simple joy of a change of scenery. (And what scenery! The Jurassic Coast is a World Heritage site for good reason.)
We have spent the last four months with all five of us spending most of our days cooped up staring at the walls of our house, with the occasional daily walk or geocaching expedition to break up the monotony. Being in a different location and spending our time either in the great outdoors or inside our caravan playing games was just what we needed.
We returned home on Friday night equally knackered and refreshed, and declared it one of our best holidays ever. After so long stuck in the same home-bound routine, a change was as good as a rest.
I said at the beginning of lockdown that the big short-term concern was physical health, but the longer-term threat was to mental health. Five days in a caravan has done wonders to restore my mental well-being. Hopefully we will all look back on this simple, modest holiday as a turning point on our journey back to normality.