These are all things I associate with a truly relaxing holiday. You know, the kind where you reach a sort of 'one-ness' with the world from your prone position on the sun lounge. The kind where the most critical decisions may include shall I read or doze, am I hungry enough to be bothered moving to accommodate some sort of snacking, and is it cocktail o'clock yet. Where it takes effort to pull yourself back 'together' again in order to manage a) the trip home and b) contributing something beyond water cooler stories during the first week back at work.
Most of us save hard and schedule annual leave with military zeal to achieve this and, when it's all done, find ourselves gazing wistfully at our fading tan lines and poring over travel websites to plan that next escape firmly in the foreseeable future.
Well this week, I managed to achieve this in the space of a couple of hours in South West London. On Thursday night I ventured just off Chiswick High Road, crossed the threshold into the world of Floatation Therapy and experienced the most profound relaxation ever.
People, welcome to Floatopia.
There are lots of benefits associated with floatation therapy including stress relief, detoxing, increased energy, improved concentration, relief from injuries, regulating sleeping patterns (one float apparently simulates 4 hours of sleep) and releasing Endorphins - the body's natural pain killer and happy pill.
So I filled in my form, donned my Floatopia-issued slippers and was shown to my Private Float Suite. After a quick run through of the Float Room itself and the do's and don'ts I was left to my own devices and not wanting to waste a moment, I was showered and 'in'.
Floatation simulates a zero gravity environment for the body by heating a solution of Epsom Salts to skin temperature. The 'water' for want of a better word, is quite shallow (waist deep when you are seated) so I got myself in the right spot, pulled the door closed, turned off the light and lay back to find myself floating effortlessly in the darkness.
My brain chattered furiously and I in turns let myself listen to my garbled thoughts and then gently pulled my mind back to the sensation of the stillness. The soft background music stopped - this happens after about 15 minutes I was told - and after a while (and I really couldn't tell you how long) the chatter slowed and my limbs seemed to become 'at one', blurring the edges of my physical self, with the warm salt solution around me. I let my mind float too, observing it flit about as if the thoughts were not really mine and listening to my heart beating comfortingly in the background. At one stage, I tried to count my heart rate but my thoughts drifted away again.
The background music started softly again to signal the end of my float. Feeling a bit disconcerted I fumbled for the light switch and stretched to establish the connection between limbs and brain again. My Floatopia 'host' had mentioned I might 'feel like Jenny' at the end of the float - whoever she is, I'd like to be Jenny a lot more often.
15 minutes later I was showered, dressed and in the chill out area feeling like I had spent a blissful two weeks on a beautiful beach somewhere.
All in about 2 hours and for the bargain Groupon voucher price of £17.
And to top it off, I slept the best sleep for years on Thursday night and continued into Friday, calm and unruffled, in the face of the end of the week commuting challenges.
Now that's has to be the best value holiday I've ever had.