Professor Adriana Estrada lives in Monterrey in Mexico, near the border with Texas. She holds a chair at the University of Monterrey and specialises in tourism. We bumped into her at the World Leisure Conference, where academics from around the world met to share their research and results in the fields of Leisure Time, Recreation and Tourism.
Professor Adriana Estrada studied the effects of holidaying on a group of elderly people. Her conclusion? Holidays change your life. Taking a holiday broadens our sense of self and makes us stronger. And a holiday absolutely doesn’t have to be expensive to be of benefit. “Holidays are possible, and necessary, even for those of us who are careful about how we spend our hard-won income,” she tells us.
“I carried out my study in the field of social tourism,” says Professor Estrada. “I wanted to study tourism and its effect on Mexican senior citizens, i.e. older people living at home with their families or in a retirement or care home. We wanted to see how travel, and the experience of travel, could contribute to their quality of life.”
Rediscovering your own abilities
The study revealed that the effects of a holiday go a great deal further than simply feeling happy and having a wonderful time. While on holiday, the elderly people in professor Estrada’s study discovered skills they thought they had lost or never had: for example, that they could still walk for quite a long time, ride a horse, or engage in pleasant conversations with other people. They took these experiences home with them and felt stronger after their holiday. Therefore, going on holiday can be seen as a milestone.
Using holiday anecdotes to continue enjoying other people’s attention
What’s more, the effects of these experiences last far beyond the initial holiday period. Experiences turn into memories of new environments, adventures and events. Memories turn into stories. The holiday becomes a rich source of stories, which people tell when they get back home. And when they tell their stories, they find that others enjoy listening. The attention they receive from other people makes them feel like they matter again.
Holidays don’t have to be expensive or unattainable
What works for the elderly in Mexico is equally applicable to people who live in poverty. Time and again, we see this confirmed in the results of studies. Unfortunately, there is an assumption in our society and among the poor that holidays are for people with money to spend, but Professor Estrada stresses that this dominant opinion is not correct. Around the world, there are all kinds of social tourism initiatives which enable people on low incomes to have a holiday.
Going on holiday is a fundamental right
Adriana believes that we should keep trying to create a world in which everyone has free time and the chance to go on holiday. In many ways, holidays help us to lead healthier lives, with less stress and more strength to deal with life’s problems. “Going on holiday is a fundamental human right. It is very clearly defined in Article 24 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Everyone has the right to get away from the daily grind and renew their energy.”
A Mexican wish
Adriana: “I hope that people in poverty will soon discover their ability to go on holiday, and that they get to know about the organisations that will bring their holiday within reach.” Don’t just accept the idea that you will never get to go on holiday, says the passionate Mexican academic. Turn that restrictive idea on its head. “Make a very deliberate effort to get away every now and again. Find out who can help you achieve this. Leave your house and shut the door behind you. Get out and have a wonderful time. It will do you so much good. Holidays change your life.”