For many people, living in the UAE goes hand-in-hand with travel, whether that's exploring the region, going home to see family or visiting the friends you've made around the world.
As such, annual leave is a precious commodity. Something to be spent wisely and carefully, savoured for the trips that mean the most.
This mindset is common among those living far from home, and after years of rationing and intricately planning how to use annual leave, the thought of taking a chunk of time off with nowhere to go, for many, is an uncomfortable one.
It’s why, with September fast approaching, many people will find themselves in the position of having much of the year’s leave still to use. Since March, international travel has been off the cards, and only in the past few weeks has it become a realistic option again. But with restrictions and worries still very much present, many aren’t willing to take the risk for the sake of a holiday.
But many are not taking their leave either. This valuable currency we have all learnt to cherish feels hard to part with for the sake of a few lazy days at home, or a staycation just a stone’s throw away.
What we are forgetting, however, is that holiday or no holiday, we all need a break – especially after the stress 2020 has brought about.
After saving, planning and hoping my days off may take me somewhere exotic or filled with familiar faces, I finally caved and took a week off. Seven days to spend at home in Dubai, with no plans, no structure, no places I had to be. And it was wonderful.
My alarm clock remained firmly off, instead letting my body guide me into starting each day. I went out for breakfast, caught up with friends, read. I pottered from place to place with no sense of urgency or purpose. For the first time in months, I felt truly rested.
How many times have you been on holiday and, due to savouring every day of leave, not given yourself a day or two to get settled back into the UAE before heading back to work? “I need a holiday to recover from my holiday" is a joke we’ve likely all made, but often not a joke at all.
"A 'vacation' does not always mean you have to spend more money or travel, but just a decision you make to spend your time off like a vacation," says Dr Saliha Afridi, clinical psychologist and managing director at Lighthouse Arabia centre in Dubai. "This means you do less housework, you do less work-related work, stay in bed a little bit longer, don't worry about your to-do lists, do more fun activities or eat 'holiday' food — small shifts that put you in a 'vacation mindset'."
Getting into this vacation mindset is surprisingly easy to do, too. It helps, of course, when you live in a country like the UAE. A place millions of people around the world dream of visiting for their holidays each year. Living here, it’s easy to take all that for granted, but we have some of the world’s best holiday destinations right at our feet.
During my week off, I visited multiple pools in a number of Dubai’s incredible hotels that only required me driving a few minutes down the road. And the best bit? I got to go home to my own bed at the end of the day.
While it might not be the first choice for using our time off, there really is joy to be found in spending vacation days on nothing but yourself. Without the packing and flights and hectic schedule sightseeing or cramming in catch-ups with as many friends and family as possible, you can switch off in a different kind of way, and feel how you are meant to feel at the end of a week off.
Everyone has dealt with more than their fair share of stress this year, make sure to give yourself a break. Literally.
Scroll through the gallery below to discover 17 of the UAE's most spectacular pools: