There is no doubt Abu Dhabi is experiencing some of the best weather in the world right now. As cities in Europe face enduring gusts of arctic wind and winter rain, and tourism hotspots in Asia remain in the grips of seemingly never-ending humidity and the occasional storm, we are enjoying our so-called "winter season".
With all of this in mind, it is holiday time again and – unless you have compelling family or professional reasons – you would really have to be mad to leave the country at the moment.
That said, I somehow always manage to step outside the region for a breather towards the end of each year. The reason for that is perhaps even more stupefying – hot or cold, I would rather be anywhere but sitting at home twiddling my thumbs.
Fear of the staycation
It wasn’t always this way. My fear of the staycation took hold from the moment I moved to Abu Dhabi from Australia eight years ago. You see, considering the isolated nature of the country I had been living in – heading overseas was often a long-haul proposition – a staycation Down Under was often the only option, and something I looked forward to. It was a chance to make home improvements, visit friends or enjoy sleeping in after waking up in the small hours of the morning to watch the football.
Back then, a holiday at home was an opportunity to hit pause on the grinding work schedule, while it was also a reminder that being still and enjoying mundane everyday things was something we often take for granted.
I realised early on in my Abu Dhabi adventure that this was no longer going to fly. In fact, one of the first pieces of advice I was given from a colleague when I moved here was to leave the country every three months. “Otherwise, you will begin to lose it,” she told me solemnly.
Now, I didn’t know what it was that I would lose, exactly – perhaps it would be my hair, or even my intellect – but I took her words to heart nonetheless, and after taking a trip to Istanbul at the end of my work probationary period, I’ve been on the move constantly.
'Travelling became akin to eating at a hotel buffet'
However, while that has resulted in an impressive array of passport stamps, I have lost the joy that comes with truly relaxing. Every scheduled holiday has since become a challenge that must be overcome, a new land to conquer. Travelling became akin to eating at a hotel buffet where you consume as much as you can only to return home with a headache and the need to lie down.
As a result, I decided to use my most recent time off to have my first Abu Dhabi staycation, in an effort to see if I could finally experience that sense of emotional and physical wellbeing that had fallen truly by the wayside.
Time off at home
Let me tell you that the first day was horrible. I stayed in bed until 2pm, a full five hours after I had woken up, wracking my brains and wondering what it was that I should have been doing. I realised eventually that, just like a holiday, I needed a plan for my staycation.
I duly dedicated one afternoon to doing all the things I had put off for a year, like replacing the living room lights, actually turning the gas on in my apartment (which led to a breakfast of scrambled eggs), unrolling some of the carpets I had bought on my travels, and rearranging my bookshelves alphabetically. Boring stuff, I know, but it was all laced with an almost meditative satisfaction: here I was, making time for me and working on things I hadn’t had time to do previously.
Another day was dedicated to exploring all the eateries and foods I have heard about, but was always too tired to try, from the hearty breakfast at Tasha’s in Al Bateen to the Club Sandwich at the lobby of Jumeirah at Etihad Towers that had been recommended to me by my friend Mehdi – a self-proclaimed club sandwich aficionado.
Then, of course, there were the quiet nights in. My job often requires that I work late into the night, but I finally got to enjoy spending my evenings in the dark halls of the Khalidiyah Mall cinema complex or walking aimlessly around the Corniche promenade.
With no deadlines looming and absolutely nothing happening around me that was worth posting on social media, I felt lighter and looser with each passing day.
As the break comes to an end, I have developed a greater understanding of the staycation. It is a much-needed opportunity to jump off the treadmill of life for a few days, close to home. It’s a reminder that life without an agenda can be as rewarding and revitalising as an existence spent on the move. I’m planning the next one already.
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