Planning holidays

After a couple of weeks’ absence, I’m back! The last two weeks I just lacked inspiration and didn’t feel like sitting down and writing. I don’t know whether it’s because my Dutch lessons started again (six extra hours of class + homework) or because I’ve been working more on actual writing for my PhD/papers, but I decided not to force myself as this blog is meant to be for pleasure and not another obligation.

Over the past month Noémie and I have been planning and booking our summer holidays. It’s been a while since we’ve taken proper holidays (by which I mean a whole week off rather than a citytrip over a long weekend) – in 2015 I graduated and wasn’t sure whether I would have a job or not over Summer, and then last year Noémie did the same thing. So proper holidays were more than overdue!

About a year ago, I was talking with a professor from our faculty who was telling me that many PhD students don’t take any holidays at all during their PhD. It surprised me at the time, but now that I’ve learnt that my colleagues are pretty exceptional even for our faculty in not working on the weekend (and have read more about overworking in academia in general) it isn’t that surprising. Although it does still shock me that so many PhD students in Belgium – where most students don’t have to teach classes and the majority of their time is spent on their own research – work on weekends and don’t want to take time off for fear they’ll fall behind.

It’s obviously easier and ‘safer’ not to take holidays: I’ve found myself falling into the trap of postponing booking a holiday for fear that the dates will clash with a particular summer school or conference. But there’s always the possibility that dates will clash – at some point you just have to bite the bullet and book something. Having a partner who doesn’t work in academia helps too, I suppose! The crazy thing is that even four months away, I feel more relieved and relaxed simply having booked holidays. Knowing that we will be going away – and that it’s all booked and waiting for us – gives me something to look forward to and work towards.

So where are we going? This year we’ll be going to Budapest for five days in June (sun!) and then biking in the Loire Valley in France for a week in July (more sun!).* We’re also visiting Sydney for a month over Christmas and New Years, which will be even more sun to look forward to (can you see a pattern here? Almost three years without holidays in Belgium leads to a severe need for sun).

Moral of the story: take holidays if/when you can! Resting is important even for PhD students. And taking some time away from research might just spark inspiration and lead to better results before and after your break.

See you next time (alas, not yet in the sun),

Francesca

*We’re also staying in the coolest Airbnb ever, which is an old house which has its own Wikipedia and Tripadvisor pages: https://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maison_de_Denis_Papin. We are very excited.

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