Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 20 April 2014

How switching off can make it all ship-shape

It's summertime, and Northern Ireland is basking in the rare experience of extremely warm weather. Thoughts are inevitably turning to holidays, and how to get away from it all.

What do we really need from a holiday, especially if our routines are taken up with all the demands of running a business?

For most of us, switching off completely is impossible and something we may not even want to do, such is the desire to feel useful and indispensable.

But the head of a Greek shipping company has revealed he has the sang-froid (and the moolah) to take a full three months off every few years.

George Logothetis of the Libra Group revealed his vacationing habits to the BBC yesterday as he described what he calls "the George sabbatical theory".

"When I started working at 18 I said to myself that I would work like crazy for five years, but every five years I would take some time off to reflect about the next five years," he said.

Importantly, when on sabbatical there are no work emails or phone calls.

"Ideas need space to be born. In today's world of a thousand emails and constant information being pumped into you, there's something very inspiring about being cut off for a certain amount of time," he said.

At least this summer, unlike the last six or seven, we can head off with our buckets and spades in the knowledge that things may also be hotting up –in a good way – for the Northern Ireland economy.

According to the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors, house prices are stabilising and a handful of estate agents are even reporting price increases – though a worrying east/west divide persists.

A three bedroomed house in Castledawson, Co Londonderry, can be bought for £34,950 but an equivalent home in Bangor, Co Down costs £142,000.

After six years of consecutive monthly falls, the Ulster Bank purchasing managers' reported a pick-up in orders for manufacturing and construction firms.

The flood of commercial property news has suddenly become slightly more positive.

The Hill family from Ballymena have bought the Scottish Mutual Building in Belfast's city centre for conversion into a hotel.

And The Marine Hotel in Ballycastle, as forlorn an emblem for the property crash as there could ever be, has now reopened under new owners and thankfully, a much-needed coat of paint.

The new proprietors will be hoping for a flood of holiday makers to reinforce their investment decision.

And to do the delights of Ballycastle – and indeed, any other holiday destination – full justice, let's leave those smartphones at home and let someone else take care of things.

If it works for a wealthy shipping magnate, it should work for us too.