My Sabbatical Part 2: Creating the perfect balance between solitude and socialising

July 24, 2018, 7:53 a.m.

During his first three weeks our adventurer Paul experiences a bit of well-needed solitude and spends some valuable time with friends and family in Italy. Here’s part two of of his bucket list adventures!

So the big day is here and I fly off on my own for a few weeks in Tuscany, Italy! I’m staying at the apartment I own so naturally I’ve been here a number of times before but I’m determined to make this trip a bit different to give it that ‘bucket list’ feel.

Red wine in Tuscany

To start with I have a few days to myself ...what a treat! A chance to take stock and truly rid myself of the rat race. I’m missing my work colleagues and the hustle and bustle but to be honest..not that much. I read a book I should have read a while ago and make some decisions. This is the stuff I find difficult to do when focussed on ‘normal’ life although I think of myself as quite a reflective and thoughtful person. Obviously something must stop me doing this kind of thing...or maybe my days are just filled with ‘busy stuff’ so I don’t get the chance. Or maybe I’m just lazy / ill disciplined...hmmmm.

After a few days on my own I’m ready for company which is another thing that I learned about myself. I yearn for solitude sometimes but I love company. Maybe the answer is to make time for both!

A couple of my friends arrive and this gives me the chance to try out some decent-length cycling for the first time. We hire some bikes and get a good ride in every day. The hilly terrain is very challenging but rewarding and the scenery, as always, is stunning. I think every time I’ve been here I’ve said to myself ‘hire a bike and explore’ so finally doing it feels great and I’ve certainly got the cycling bug now. This is actually a great outcome for me as I can’t run anymore and have struggled to find a replacement that helps me enjoy exercising regularly outside of the work gym.

Cycling in Italy

Next to arrive are my two sisters. We haven’t been alone together to talk about stuff for a good while so it feels very precious to have this time. We chill, go sightseeing and generally just chew the fat over food and wine. We are close but don’t spend that much time with each other so it makes such a difference to the quality of conversation when you are free of distraction and time pressure and can let things flow naturally. I think we managed to cover most topics in the end (both trivial and important 😬).

To finish off the trip my 16 year old daughter visited for a few days. She’s just finished her GCSEs so has left school for the summer and deserves a rest. We go prom bag shopping, visit a water park and travel to some beautiful parts of Tuscany we haven’t seen before. To be honest, what we do isn’t really that important - it’s just having the opportunity to actually connect properly - it’s very special. Of course we have family time together within the normal routine but being one-on-one with your teenage daughter is different. If you’ve got one yourself I think you’ll know what I’m talking about!

Father and daughter quality time

So now it’s homeward bound after nearly 3 weeks and I’m more than ready to get back to my normal family environment. I really need some time at home to recharge with that special home/family ‘magic’ before the next leg of my trip...boy have I missed it!

I feel really lucky to have spent the last 3 weeks with a range of people and get some time on my own in an area of the world I love. I know the experiences and conversations I had with people close to me will live long in the memory and enrich my life from this point forward.

Next stop Ireland!

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