Can you work, and be on holiday at the same time ?

plus, 10 little things you can do to feel like you’re on holiday

Last updated Nov 24, 2020 at 4:29PM | Published on Sep 2, 2020

If it looks like you have time to enjoy yourself these days, people assume you’re not working. If you also live on a sunny holiday island – they assume you are also on holiday.

It feels like in order to belong, people have to show they’re suffering. Stress is worn like a badge of honour, and having time is a crime ! Life certainly isn’t perfect for us, but the way we’re living allows us to make the very best of it, and makes us happier than ever. So back to that question.

Probably the no. 1 question we get asked.

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…followed closely by 

“Have you bought a place yet?”   &  “When are you going home?”

 What does the word holiday even mean ?


Does Holiday mean… taking a break… being in the sun… loving life… travelling… feeling free.
Does Work mean… what you have to do… your job… what you get paid to do…  or what you just love doing anyway.

Of all the questions we get asked – this one makes me think and question ourselves the most. Are we trying to do both, and have it all ?  Is it even possible ? We’d like to think so. I didn’t think we ever made a conscious decision to ‘go on holiday’  but…

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I think we just took a holiday !

About 2 weeks ago though, we had a long awaited visit from our daughter because of the Covid pandemic. We hadn’t seen her for 7 months. It was such a joyous time, even though we had to wear masks most of the time. I found it very hard to do any work when she was here – I didn’t want to waste a second with her. So yes, we kind of took a holiday.  ( And to begin with I felt a little guilty about that too ? )

We wanted to cook, eat, drink and be merry all the time – that’s what we love to do. But it was like we were on holiday together  – a kind of holiday at home. For us, we find it hard to go and lie on a beach for more than an hour, we’re not used to a typical holiday, but we tried of course ! It was good for us too, so we thank her for that.

So how did we end up with this mixed up kind of life  – neither on holiday or working fully. I know it’s not normal, and there are plenty of pros and cons. However, like every adventure we’ve taken, I wouldn’t change it for the world right now.

The work life balance

I started writing this about 3 weeks ago, when yet again someone asked the question. Sometimes I even feel irritated and sometimes guilty that people think we’re just on an endless holiday… simply because we’re living on a sunny holiday island. All of Spain isn’t on holiday… but I guess we’re not the norm 😉

Often, the people asking, are also complaining about the cold weather they have to endure, or the stresses of their job etc. And, we understand ! Yes, we have good weather, and I need it to stay healthy too. The weather has such an affect on our lives, and that’s why a quick break to the sun is necessary for so many people.  2020 has been a rotten year for that,  and I bet it’s made more of you think again about the whole work life balance.

Most of us have to work, and most of us have ups and downs.  That’s normal don’t you think – even if you don’t have to work. I know though, that so many people that ask us the question could easily make the same decision to sell up and simplify, and even better – they may be able to afford not to work !

We also like to vote with our feet. So we made a decision to simplify and make happiness a priority, in order to keep the balance. And that’s why we gave up so much to be here.

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 Little things make me happy.

We too have stresses and worries, but we try not to dwell on them for long, or focus on the woes. Sometimes it’s other people’s stresses that are passed on, and we try not to let them get to us – but this week has been full of them, one after another after another. Finally they got under our skin. But… we try to get back on track as fast as we can. Yes I did reach for a glass of wine in the end… but also got chop,chop, chopping vegetables as a great distraction ?  We’re also so lucky to be able to support each other.

We’ve tried to learn that the ups and downs just part of the journey of life. We’d rather learn from the bad but maybe share the lesson. Although we prefer to celebrate the good, sharing the joy it brings. So being aware of the little things helps. Like a squirrel storing it’s nuts, we build a little store of joyous moments to keep feeding the happy us.


10 little things you can do to feel like you’re on holiday


1. Start making a daily habit of doing something you would normally do on holiday – for example about 10 years ago we started “Aperitif time” to make sure we stopped, or took a break from work at about 6pm and made a cocktail, put the music on, maybe had a few mediterranean style snacks (fuet, hummus, crisps).

2. Treat yourself as if you were about to going on holiday. I think maybe I’m unusual never doing that but Paul started to offer me a grooming type of treat every now and then and now, I try not to turn it down, because it always makes me feel special. I like to have nails done, he likes a massage. You can even do it for each other !

3. Look after your skin, as you would if you were in the sun. Buy a nice body cream, or use Aftersun – the smell alone will take you to a sunny place in your mind.

4. Rest… Meditate. Meditating works in so many ways. Choose a guided meditation to start with from YouTube. You’ll find someone that you can relate to ( some people are just right, some get on your nerves – that’s normal). Imagine you are on a beach, or a holiday destination when you meditate. It only needs to be a short meditation.  I remember going back to Ireland to visit my parents last year – I took mum to yoga and in the wee meditation at the end she asked us all to imagine being away on a beach in paradise… I smiled and thought of ‘home’. If you don’t want to meditate, then try a power nap. Can you do that for 20-30mins? I can, Paul can’t. Try it. It really revives me. Matcha tea also gives me the same renewed energy.

5. ‘Dance around the diggy’. A phrase our daughter made up when she was a toddler. When we lived in Hong Kong, she ordered us ( me and Mercy, our Amah) to do this every day, when we announced Daddy was on his way home. She was so excited, so we all danced around the diggy and he arrived home to a totally over-excited welcome – we were so happy to see him ! Basically it meant put the music on loud and everyone had to dance around a rug in the hallway. Music is so evocative – we have ‘going out’ music and Paul pays it when he wants to go out for the evening and I’m not sure. He pops the music on, pours a glass or cava and I’m in ! So why not make a playlist of music that reminds you of holiday – Spanish music, or music from a particular era. Put it on, even in the car, or dance around the diggy with it.

6. Eat holiday food. Holiday food isn’t only reserved for when you’re away. It could be a foreign dish in from a land you’d like to holiday in, or it could be a treat like an ice-cream. I’d like to try to make a liquorice ice cream one day to remind me of Finland !

7. Be aware of exactly when and where sunrise or sunset is wherever you live. Make at least a weekly date to go seek it out and enjoy. Don’t rush it. Let it sink in. Sunrise rejuvenates and feels like a new beginnings. Sunsets help close the day and give a feeling of rest and completion – it should help destress and allow you to get a good night’s sleep so don’t go rushing off to do more work after it !

8. Do something a bit out of the norm for your home life – but would be the kind of thing you might do on holiday. Take time to read an easy book that you might enjoy on the beach. Or go to a museum. Maybe take a short trip into the country if you live in the city, or vice versa. Even take the bus instead of your usual car trip to work. You see things, and people so differently depending on how you travel.

9. Send a postcard… I don’t mean literally , but maybe why not ! I mean, think what you would write to someone you would send a card to, and call them, or go tell them instead. Something about the length of what you could write on a card. Tell someone you love them, you appreciate them, you miss them, and wish they were with you etc.

10. Wear holiday clothes… maybe even a bikini / trunks under your clothes instead of underwear. No-one will know and every time you realise your little secret, have a giggle and think of being on holiday !



Take a little holiday from something you’re responsible for. You pay to go on holiday, so why not pay for a 2 week holiday from some tasks you have to do for yourself, your job, or your family even. ( e.g. cleaning, driving, errand running, shopping, admin., accounting, writing, etc etc.)  Give yourself a break !


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Ironically, our daughter left this book behind. I’ll save this for my birthday ( soooon ), and start it then. I always like to go to the beach for my birthday, come hail, rain or snow.. so I’ll take this for a change. I’ve gotten out of the habit of reading easy books like you would on holiday – so I’ll take myself up on one of those tips ! That’ll be a treat.

Holiday for a day… let someone else make all the decisions


Update…I’ve just had my birthday ! I have to share with you a truth that I really stopped celebrating my birthday a long time ago. I only did it for others close to me and in fact I dreaded my birthday. I always had mixed feelings about it and not many people would remember it anyway. I wouldn’t name it on social media deliberately. The song “It’s my birthday and I’ll cry if I want to” was always in my head !  Careful what you wish for they say, because the more I dreaded it the less attention it got. I was happy for it to go away altogether.

But this year Paul was determined to claim it back for me. I didn’t need anything, I certainly didn’t need a holiday, but he surprised me with cake and a candle and presents, and a night away at a seaside resort. I was so touched I put it all out on my story on social media. I had the most beautiful, touching messages from some friends, family, and followers I feel great friends with too… but maybe have never even met ! Thank-you all

It was special, and the following day I felt so chilled as if I was on holiday… really – now I know what it truly feels like ! It was a break for a day, doing something totally out of the ordinary for us nowadays. It’s been a long time since we did hotels with room service dinner, had a bath to soak in, and British TV & a favourite fizz to enjoy in bed !) The sea view and lapping waves were so therapeutic. Even the mosquitoes didn’t ruin the day ! I didn’t have to think of anyone else, Paul was doing all the thinking… for me.  A holiday can be just that – having someone else look out for you and arrange everything, even just for a day. I’m a lucky gal.

Back to the Question


This is our life !

We aren’t on holiday, well not really.

It actually doesn’t make sense to be continually on holiday – when a holiday means having a break from your normal life. We don’t ever feel like we are on holiday, but at the same time, we don’t ever feel like we need a break from our life !

What we have done is changed our lives so that ‘new experiences’ and ‘taking a wee break’ (even if it’s a moment) becomes a natural part of our lives. So instead of taking 3 or 4 holidays a year ( which most people do nowadays ), we finding joy in really little things, often, and that makes us feel like we’re on holiday. The overnight stay I just had for my birthday felt like a big holiday !

When we decided to jump into this current adventure, we told ourselves that every single day we had to be in a position to be able to choose to go to the beach, or not.

We try to make the most of everything we have, whilst we have it. Change is also something we actually relish… in the right measure.

We usually love our work too much, because we both love to learn, and achieve… so the whole point of this adventure is to get the balance right between living,  and working, and the jobs that we can do to pay for it all.


What the locals think…

We live in places where a lot of tourists go, so bar and restaurant owners assume we’re on holiday like everyone else. We get asked a lot by the locals, ‘are you here on holiday ?’ As we leave a shop or restaurant they might say, ‘have a nice holiday’… because obviously we’re not local ! It’s strange.

After a while some understand, but given our age, they probably think we’ve retired. In some ways, I wish !!!

So where do we fit in then ?  We like to live a bit like a local, but aren’t really recognised as one. Oh well, that’s one of the disadvantages. We’re a kind of temporary resident, and the advantage is that we have the freedom to leave whenever we want.

Time, Money, Stresses and Responsibilities

When you’re on holiday, you’re kind of floating outside the system, the local administration, and any issues in that country. You’re just experiencing the best they have to offer – in exchange for your money. The more entrenched you are in a country the more you know, and have to be involved, and the more stresses can get to you.

When you’re on holiday, you’ve usually taken a break from your job and from responsibilities you have at home. Again we fall between the cracks here. We are inside the system as residents and deal with the admin. involved there, but we don’t own anything so we don’t have that responsibility. We pay more in the short term to rent, and have someone else take care of things. Right now, we prefer it that way as it gives us free time, and mind space.

So, are there any responsibilities you can delegate to someone else, even temporarily, so that you can take a break from them… a wee holiday !

 Are we working?

Yes, but that’s not the answer to the question !

Usually we work every day for about 7 hours on average. Today for example, we worked for a few hours, went out for a drive to visit a new market town, had a picnic lunch, and are back mid afternoon to get on with work. We only went out because we hired a car for a few weeks – so this isn’t the norm.

Some days we don’t work at all, some days we work too much. And we always feel we could work even harder… but that’s because there is so much to do, and we enjoy it too much. We love to work, we love to learn, and we love to help other people.

But we always have to come back to our priority of being happy… which means we want to be there for family and friends… and living more. So sometimes that means we have to choose not working, but that doesn’t mean we’re on holiday.

Apart from loving it, we have to make some of our work a ‘job’ that pays for our living too. We have to.

We’ve got some savings but it’s not enough to last by a long shot. 

So every day we’re learning, exploring, testing, trying new things to create a life that gives us enough money… no more. Just enough. Enough money without it taking up all our time. Above that our reward will be the time and energy and spirit to live more.

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So the answer is… we’re here to live.


In this current adventure, we don’t want the job to take over our lives. If we waited to find the right job to allow us to live more, we might never get there. So we’ve decided to do it the other way round. We needed to break the pattern, and allow space in. We’re finding the job part, bit by bit. We have to trust a lot in ourselves… and the universe !

So, no matter where we are living, and what our job is… we’re don’t see our existence defined by a holiday or job.  It’s not a binary choice, it’s more continuous than that. We’ve slowed down our living so that we can do both, and lots more too I hope.

Not everyone understands what we are doing because it’s not the norm I guess. I’ll try to explain. If you’ve read a little about our beliefs you’ll know we like to follow the rules, but break the norms.


How we’re doing it.

We’re feeling our way on this adventure – that’s the point – to listen to life and let our job unfold in a way that suits how we want to live too. Life is too short not to try this out. We often heard people say … ah if you could live with the freedom of a 20 yr old, but with the skills and sageness of a 50 yr old – wouldn’t life be perfect ! Actually, in our 20s I don’t think we even felt that free. We didn’t take the gap year ! We were on the educational – professional – career – marriage path that everyone we knew followed. Typical achievers 😉

Even though we probably didn’t have the complete financial freedom that even some of you reading this might have, the timing was right, and it had to be done. Since we started working for ourselves as a millennium decision, we’ve re-invented ourselves every 10 years so this is the third adventure.

We’ve been through enough ups and downs now in life to know that you need to seize the up moments, and no matter how bad the downs can be… if they don’t kill you , they will make learn and grow and become stronger and wiser. With hindsight, (and a few knocks and bruises along the way), it’s got to be a win win decision.


In the meantime… wish us luck !

We’re trying to live a lifestyle that comes naturally to us – always learning and growing and trying to help. Of course it revolves around food & cooking, small businesses that care, hospitality, islands, specialists, people, family, friends, travelling and the creative arts…   mostly 😉

We’re finding Mallorca so inspirational, and right now I’m feeling the call to create some portraits again too – in a different way of course.  So whatever we end up doing mostly for work… and whatever jobs end up paying for our living… it too should fit in with us and the life we love to live, naturally.


That’s our dream.

What’s yours ?.. and what are you doing about it ? Have you started? I’d love to know if you’d like to share in the comments field below.

I’ve always loved the following quote by Goethe, and we believe in really committing once you’ve made a decision. That’s the big jump… then you see things differently. Then start again… little by little with the doing part. Once you start taking action, life has a way of opening up for you.

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Where will you be in 10 years ?


This was my opening quote / my first slide,  on the Work Smarter UK tour that Kodak took me on – showing how someone from outside the industry could rise to the top, in a short time, by doing things their own way, and by just following this advice. I remember one of the company directors saying to me ” I wonder what you’ll be doing in 10 years – I’m sure it’ll be interesting”. At that time we weren’t quite thinking of many adventures  ( I was working too hard and not thinking of the life balance ). He was right though. 10 years later we had built from scratch a beautiful boutique hotel in Marrakech and had the no. 1 hotel, restaurant and spa on tripadvisor. I wish I could remember his name so I could tell him ! 

If I could do it, anyone could ! Now, on this adventure, I know if we can do it, so can many of you.

We believe in Kaizen, little by little, step by step. Making bold little decisions, often, gives us joy and helps us progress our life every day. When it looks like we’ve made a huge jump to other people, we’re already happy with our decision so it’s not a jump into the unknown.

I’m sure Nike just summarised this to “Just do it” . Start making some little decisions with a bit of boldness in them !

Join us.

Come on the living and learning journey with us, see what are we doing, how it’s working out…  and receive the benefits of us sharing everything we care about as we go along.

here we are... from cook to chef

Aoibheann and Paul xx


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