One of the problems that all business owners face is the issue of holidays. It’s not easy to step away from a business for a few days, let alone two weeks, especially when there are hundreds of animals to look out for, as well as staff and land to keep an eye on. It can be so difficult to take a break, in fact, that many farmers simply decide to not take a break at all.
When you own your own business, every minute that you spend feels precious. Every second that you spend not doing something is a second wasted, you can almost feel the money drip out of your bank account. For that reason I spent the first 12 years of my farming life in a relentless sprint, not stopping for even a day to take a breather. This might sound a little extreme to those not from farming backgrounds, but seasoned farmers will know otherwise.
Farming can be a 365 day-a-year job, which is both a blessing and a curse. It’s a blessing in that you’ll always know what you’ll be doing on a day-to-day basis, but then it’s a curse knowing that same thing too. It took a stern talking from my parents to shake me out of this cycle and an even harder separation period for me to come to terms with leaving my farm for two weeks for the South of France.
In the end, they had to buy the flights for me. So stubborn was my refusal to go on holiday, that the entire thing was organised by my parents who insisted on frog-marching me to the airport along with my sister and her family. The notion of taking a holiday was so alien to me that I was nervous when it came to entering the airport. I couldn’t remember the last time that I’d stepped on board a plane and I remember looking at my nieces who were happily swinging their bags as they stepped aboard.
My parents had chosen villa in the south of France based on the recommendations from some friends who insisted that it would be the place for me to unwind, but it felt like the opposite was happening. With every mile that was put between myself and my farm, I felt my chest tighten and the urge to call and check if everything was OK was close to unbearable. Of course, I couldn’t get a signal on the plane and when we landed in France my phone had run out of battery.
The warm sun on my face was the first distraction that took my mind away from my business. We hired a car at the airport and set off for the villa. I sat in the back seat of the Volvo with my nieces who’d fallen asleep. The landscape outside was verdant, filled with forests and I could even see mountains on the horizon. I tried to think about the last time that I was driven anywhere, there was something so liberating about it.
I took a deep breath and relaxed for the first time in years.