Ahh… vacation. A few years ago, my husband and I spent a week in Eastern Canada enjoying the best vacation we’ve had in years.
We hiked, played tennis, or took long walks every single day. We monitored our food intake by splitting most of our meals and eating dessert only twice during the entire trip. We also browsed through bookstores, drank tea on outdoor patios, and had many long, meaningful conversations.
But the best part of the vacation wasn’t from the exercise and healthy meals. It came from a separate decision to avoid all work-related contact. That meant no cell phone, no voice mail, no web searching and no texting or email for the entire trip.
What surprised us was how freeing that was. In fact, not communicating in these ways became the most nurturing part of the trip. It reminded us how great it feels to be free of our electronic demands and deadlines.
At the end of the vacation, we made another decision. Once we got home, we would do whatever it took to prolong this great feeling of being relaxed and mentally present in our daily lives. We would work shorter days, plan in more fun and maintain the peaceful, feelings that resulted from getting away so completely. In other words, we would hold on to the benefits from the vacation and make them part of our daily lives.
But…something went wrong. This noble intention lasted only a few days, and soon we were back to struggling with schedules and work pressures again. Even our goals around regular exercise and healthy eating slipped quietly away. By the end of the first week, we both felt exhausted and discouraged. The only solution was another trip, but since that wasn’t realistic, we had to come up with something else.
We decided to analyze our vacation and figure out what helped us relax and enjoy life so much. Here’s what we came up with:
• We looked for ways to be active
At home, that means we need to routinely put more activity into our lives. Walk everywhere possible. Exercise in the evenings before eating dinner. Schedule activities such as tennis and hiking into our weekly calendar.
• We took time to talk, but not about work
To keep this up, we decided to set specific times for talking, but not allow any conversations related to work. I’ve known parents who’ve used a similar goal of briefly not allowing any discussion related to the kids. Not that these things aren’t important, but sometimes we need to focus on other areas of life. We can always discuss work or kids (or money) at another time.
• We built our days around experiences, not around food
We didn’t have to eat a lot of food in order to have a good time. Instead, we enjoyed the experiences of sitting on outdoor patios, having a quiet afternoon tea, and visiting local museums and places where we learned about history, crafts and artwork. When we placed the emphasis on having experiences and enjoyment, food became a side dish rather than the main event.
As to re-capturing that wonderful emotional state we had on vacation, we may have to wait until next year to feel that again. But in the meantime, we’re determined to hold on to our new insights, and to appreciate each day for the joy and beauty it brings into our lives.