I read an article in National Geographic once, about the innate reflex of personal space, how clever it is that our minds can imagine where objects are in our vicinity without them even being in sight.
It talked about how our environment affects our stress levels, making us more or less effective at work or school and generally influencing our well-being. It got me thinking about how important holidays are in this day and age of always being on the go, surrounded by technology and the built environment. There have been so many amazing advances that make the everyday more convenient for us, so we can achieve more than ever before, but perhaps we’re moving so fast we don’t see the wood for the trees. It’s ironic that we have so many time-savers but so much less time.
Behaviourists argue over how much screen-time is too much screen-time, and naturalists argue how children should be playing in the mud, but I think each has it’s time and place in our modern lives. It’s all about balance, isn’t it? For most the balance has been tipped towards the practical, the routine, the perceived must-dos to make sure everyone is toeing the line to reach made-up expectations – and there’s nothing wrong with that. Discipline and boundaries are a necessity that help our self-control and keep us productive (and alive!). That said, it’s all too easy to let that mechanism get stuck in a rut, the mundane take over and the routine feel like a security blanket. It’s easy to tick boxes if you’ve a set way of living. But isn’t life for living? We need to redress the balance. We need a holiday to right the wrongs, cure the ills and remind us what a wonderful world we live in.
And it is such a wonderful world! There are little wows around every corner, under every stone, behind every luxury glamping accommodation door. Little pick-me-ups provided by Mother Nature that build up a bigger picture and create an exhilarating ecosystem for us to inhabit. The world is a busy place. It’s easy to miss these organic gifts. That’s why you need to make the time and space to appreciate them. It’ll be for your own benefit.
So scientists say we need to see more greenery in order to thrive; The World Green Building Council have done studies that conclude daylight, outdoor views and nice, clean air make workers happier (and as a result, more productive) and healthier – short-term sick leave was down by 35% in those offices with access to nature. So I’m not just hypothesizing here.
An extension of their studies showed even the shape of your surroundings can make a difference, which sounds odd, but imagine how you feel in a soft, rounded room with pillowy furnishings compared to a spiky, hard, more threatening environs? Seems obvious really. But curved, rounded furniture and layouts are linked to positive emotions, both aesthetically and in sensory terms. This is confirmed by the Legend of King Arthur’s Round Table; a known psychological sentiment whereby seating around a circular table enhances feelings of togetherness and belonging, where everyone feels equal.
All the way back in 1958, Gaston Bachelard wrote a book called, The Poetics of Space. It’s really interesting, questioning how our mental health is affected by the space around us, with places that allow us to daydream helping us to thrive compared to oppressive places that cause us to stagnate. Our minds are constantly mapping where we are and how we exist within a space; ‘who we are’ is intertwined with ‘where we are’ and ultimately your environment influences your self, not just in that moment, but cumulatively in life.
So how to take advantage of these findings? Well, that’s kind of the point of this article. And so we look to Edward O. Wilson, author of Biophilia. In his book he explains the biophilia hypothesis, biophilia being the ‘urge to affiliate with other forms of life’ and tells of how humans possess ‘an innate tendency to seek connections with nature’.
The luxury of space
Put on those rose-tinted glasses and think back to your favourite childhood memories – weren’t most of them outdoors on family holidays? When the summer used to last forever, climbing trees, poking bugs with sticks and picnicking in the sunshine yet still having enough breeze to run through the fields flying a kite. Idyllic, wasn’t it? Well, the fields and the bugs and the trees are still out there (for now) so why aren’t we out there feeling the freedom of the Great Outdoors? As cities get busier and we build higher, space is at a premium, yet there is 29% pastureland in Great Britain, 27% is non-irrigated arable land (or land where crops are planted), 24% is forest and other natural land (such as beaches or moors) and 11% is wetlands (2012 data from fullfact.org) so kick off your shoes and get exploring.
Where to stay
Choose your holiday properties wisely and choose a place to stay where space is a luxury as standard. If the shelter is quirky and contained, it should still be beautifully designed with plenty of gardens or countryside all around you. Avoid a site overrun by others, with greedy commercially-minded site owners cramming as many units as they can to try and fill their pockets with pennies instead of being generous with the potential and letting the site breathe. Holiday parks aren’t luxury, even when they have en suite properties – a velvet couch and freestanding bath does not a high-end experience make. The luxury you want to be paying for is the luxury of space. Space to breathe. Space to run around freely. Space to sunbathe naked without being overlooked. Space to just be.
Open space in our natural world is one of life’s greatest luxuries, unspoilt and free to grow as nature intended you can feel the joy of an outstretched tendril reaching for the sun. Even in the rain, the pitter-patter of wet leaves, trees soaking up much needed moisture and increasing their chlorophyll content, creating a lush jungle of greenery. The organic forms bring a sense of contentment, easiness and an unconscious appreciation for life; it sounds hippy but it all happens without you even realising. You just get to feel a weight lift and relax into your luxury holiday. After a day or two you’ll notice that you’ve grown a bit more observant, taking note of the quirky details in your treehouse or watching how the light falls on the rough hewn wood of your cabin, the shadows dancing through the fabric of your yurt. And it’s all because you’ve allowed yourself time and space away from the everyday. Away from the hustle and far-too-close bustle that you feel back home and don’t even realise how much it’s all weighing you down until you can throw your arms out wide and twirl like Julie Andrews in The Sound of Music. That’s the Luxury of Space. And you should use it to find yourself again.
Katie Chown is Co-Creator of Where Oh Where. Where Oh Where is a new way of discovering your perfect place to stay in the UK, with luxury hideaways that go beyond glamping.