Dr Francis Lobo grew up in Uganda, where he began his academic career in 1958. In 1973, he moved to Australia. He is professor emeritus at the Edith Cowan University, School of Marketing, Tourism and Recreation. Dr Lobo has also conducted research on leisure time and quality of life among the elderly and on the connection between leisure time and lifestyle themes.
Counting down the days to your holiday? What exactly are we looking for? Taking time out is a necessity, but travelling huge distances is not. Read a book. Visit family. Explore nature. “Look at the trees, listen to the birds and be amazed at the beauty of it all.” That’s what Dr Francis Lobo of Edith Cowan University in Perth, Australia recommends. “Take a look around you. Help those who are not as well off as you, and learn from anyone who is better off. Herein lies the secret to a happy life.”
What images pop into your head when we say holidays, Dr Lobo?
Having a holiday is having sudden access to space and time. You immediately land in a different time; a time where you can allow yourself the feeling of freedom and stay detached from life’s daily duties: a time when you can simply enjoy being alive, when you are temporarily released from the daily grind. Being on holiday means discovering things, learning, and doing things you have never done before. This experience of holiday time and leisure time is good for us. When you have been on holiday you look better and you feel refreshed. Life gets easier again.
So, are you saying that we don’t have to travel far, or spend a lot of money for that holiday feeling? It’s about a state of being, a new relationship with time? Have I got it right?
That’s right. It’s all about the quality of the experience; the open-ended time, being free of your usual routines for a while. And I don’t think a holiday has to be all that long: it can be short if you like. The longer you are away, the more likely you are to fall into a routine, and that’s when you lose the holiday feeling.
This approach brings the concept of a holiday closer, within more people’s reach. You say that being on holiday is a feeling, a state of mind. Can we evoke this feeling without actually going anywhere?
Of course. There are all kinds of things you can do on your own. As long as you can free yourself from worries about keeping the roof over your head or putting food on the table, you can choose to go looking for the enjoyment that comes with leisure time. You are not reliant on money and friends for all of your happiness. You can enjoy reading a book, listening to music or walking in the park. Look around you, pay attention to your environment. There is so much to be appreciated. Paying close attention opens your mind to the beautiful things within reach. There is plenty of opportunity for valuable experiences without having to spend money for the privilege.
So we can find beauty, astonishment, rest and happiness close to home, even if our lives aren’t exactly a bed of roses. Is that what you mean?
People are creative and resilient creatures. Even when things get tough, we can draw from those these creative capacities. If we are really desperate to go on holiday we can always conjure up a holiday feeling. This is something I experienced myself when I was a lot less mobile after an operation. I started thinking, “I can always dream about a holiday, about all the things I could do on my holidays, about memories of good times.” My physical limitations made me more creative at that time. I started writing poetry. Later I went swimming and met some new people there. We really can learn to draw on our mental strengths to improve our lives, even when we feel restricted.
Can people on the poverty line practise expanding their minds and being more creative, to give themselves that feeling of freedom you get when you are on holiday?
Yes, that’s something we can do as people. The trick is to be aware of what is going on outside your own life. Look beyond yourself. How do other people live? What do they do? What can I learn from them? You will always find people whose lives seem easier than yours. Look and learn from them. And there are always people who have it much harder than you. See what they need, and do what you can to help. Ask yourself how your life could be meaningful to other people. No matter how hard your life is, or how excluded you feel, you can always broaden your mind and see how people like you have managed to change their lives.
Helping others enriches your life. What an amazing, hopeful idea.
Helping other people is what gives you the greatest satisfaction in life. That’s been my own experience. I try to help the elderly in my environment. I offer my knowledge about meaningful and healing leisure activities when areas are struck by disaster. If you can help other people find meaning, you will find that it makes you a happier person.