The last time I had a 'rest and relaxation' beach holiday was... well, never. Making up for my embarrassingly lazy and unfulfilling lifestyle during childhood, my twenties have been all about hurtling myself down a series of accomplished, active breaks. And while I have embarked on many family holidays in the scorching sun as a child, we would always be that Muslim family who would stick out like a sore thump on the beach.
Stereotypes would naturally fall into place - my brothers and dad would strip shirtless and plunge into the waters for a dip. My mum and I? We made our way into the distance to sit under the shade. I wasn't allowed to run around in swimwear (especially with my dad around) - and I wasn't to get too dark from the blistering sun, said my mum and her bottles of Fair and Lovely - the thought of which nauseates and haunts me to this very day.
Who knew a three day break, packed in between my work schedule could crack a lot of nearly solidified views I had about your typical beach holiday. After a questionable few months on my professional and personal front, my friend Niv suggested a getaway to Ischia. A quick bank holiday affair, courtesy of Secret Escapes, to pluck me out of this vortex of doom and gloom, she winningly toyed at the idea. Flights were then booked. Spirits lifted. Plans made. Summery clothes purchased. Picking me up after a night shift from work, we made the slightly longer than expected journey to our chosen paradise. A heavily delayed flight, a bus ride, ferry and another bus ride later, we finally made it to Seramis Hotel De Charme. With it's magically lush green terrain, picture-perfect pool and beach positioned in front of the mountainous backdrop - my extreme fatigue was awash with renewed excitement and adrenaline.
I suddenly found myself craving the sunshine in a way I wasn't used to. Immediately we hit the pool for a swim. Destructively struggling with body confidence my whole life, slipping my body into swimwear this time around didn't make me want to run away and hide. I soaked myself in the chlorine waters. Not having swam for a while, it took me a few minutes to get my feet kicking. It had been so long since I had been in a swimming pool, that it felt nostalgic. My mind wandered to the two, (usually forgotten) years I lived in Dubai in my teens, where I took full use of the swimming pool in our apartment block. I would swim laps and laps and laps. Only to give it up when we arrived back to cold, rainy UK.
The next day, I couldn't resist injecting some of my own flavour into the trip. Hiking. It had to be done. I was desperate to see the terrain, the colours, the landscape. Not the most rigorous of them all, Ischia's most popular hike is the Monte Epomeo trail.While I have embarked on more strenuous treks, twenty minutes in we were sweating buckets. Encouragement, photo sessions and jaw-dropping views powered us to the top. It was beautiful. Hiking still remains one of my favourite things to do. It clears my mind and for a brief moment washes away any doubts I have about what my body can achieve. On our way down, we were in for an epic reward - the most delicious Bruschetta I've ever had at a tiny, family-ran restaurant.
On our final full day, we hit the beach. It was glorious. While my behaviour was child-like (frothing at the mouth in excitement, wide-eyed with adrenaline) those childhood memories I detailed earlier were pushed aside. Swimming in the ocean... it was like therapy. Cold at first, the water warmed up and soon I was that person making my way the furthest out to sea. Everyone became ants back on shore. I was in heaven. The wet and wild theme continued. We sauntered to Giardini Poseidon Terme - a luxury resort boasting 22 pools - at around lunchtime. Despite the enforced rule of wearing swimming caps, a VERY creepy man following us around, and countless stares by bewildered people due to their confusion over our backgrounds (I was asked if I was from Japan), the day really was the icing on the cake when it came to the holiday.