Vacations are meant to provide respite for our physical, mental and spiritual bodies after what can be endless hours, days, weeks and months of brutal work and life routine. For most of us, the minute we finish packing the suitcase we begin to float away on the waves of decompression, pushing away thoughts of responsibility, intense demand on our time and technological connection. Taking our first deep fully cleansing breaths, in what might seem like a small lifetime, we start entertaining life as it could be (and as we most likely wish it was); free, fun and joyful.
Be a Child Again
Vacation takes us back to a time in our lives when we were our most authentic selves; when we played all day without a care in the world, when no one told us who or what to be, when joy and happiness was simply who we were, what we did and how we rolled. Most of our adult lives we long to return to this genuine place of being and vacation gives us permission to release back into this space and time. Reminiscent of when we climbed trees all day, ran with our neighborhood posse and stayed just on this side of mischievous to feel rebellious without guilt, experiencing ‘the call of our soul’ like only children can, we embrace vacation with equal voracity.
As children, we were in complete charge of creating our day and there was nothing better than rosy cheeks from fresh air, physical exhaustion from hard focused play and using our wildest imaginations. On vacation we acquire those same rosy glows from basking in the sun’s love (and maybe too much ‘it’s five o’clock somewhere mentality’), push our bodies to exquisite exhaustion from testing our physical limits overdoing something: shopping, swimming, hiking, and our imaginations run wild in self-rediscovery. Nothing offers greater new life insight or candid perspective than stepping out of our ordinary life to experience someone else’s for a while.
Using this time for exploration and rejuvenation we venture into new landscapes, try new things, reconnect with those we love most in laughter, adventure and memories, and manage to allow time to simply rest and recuperate. Whether we escape to the mountains to soak in their majestic beauty and experience inspiring awe, stick our toes in the sand and our face in a book for hours on end, or we decide to embark on a trek through an amazing rain forest, our personal world is temporarily reframed.
We are free to ‘be’ without expectations…free to roam without deadlines…unraveling moment by moment until we reach that place of core strengthening internal peace and tranquility. Total expansion of mind, body and spirit; YES! While all this is happening the world back home goes on without our presence…drifting away like it never really existed in the first place.
Re-entry from Vacation
Before vacation…that period of time taken up by structure, demand, living from clock hour to clock hour till we sleep, (if we sleep) only to do it all over again…is filled primarily with things we have to do…not necessarily the things we want to do. The exception is if we have been lucky enough in this lifetime to discover ‘the calling of our soul’ and spend our days doing something we love and were meant to do. However, even then, our hearts our heavily involved and we can become very imbalanced by the amount of giving involved. Taking time away is still necessary for regaining perspective and rebalance but for those of us content in life, ‘going back’ tends to be easier because we are returning to a life we’ve consciously chosen and desire so vacation is a bonus! Sometimes, because we enjoy our work and life so much, leaving for vacation can be harder than coming back.
However, for others, most we might dare say, the reentry process is more difficult. Feelings can go from one extreme to another very quickly and the relaxation mode of vacation can seem like an illusion. It’s normal to stay in a post vacation euphoria for some time after returning to our ‘dull by comparison’ everyday life, however, when stress (anxiety and nausea that isn’t coming from your fear of flying) begins to set in before vacation is even over…as we are toasting to our ‘last night on the island’, we are seriously contemplating throwing it all away for a life of selling turtle shells for a living, we might want to notice that we aren’t really into the life we left back at home. That usually happens when vacation is so drastically different from our ‘real lives’ that coming back to our ‘everyday’ is painstaking. The message is loud and clear: we’ve become imbalanced, unhappy and disconnected in our own lives. If we pay close enough attention, post (or even end of) vacation blues can reveal much more about our lives than we think. Very useful information if we allow it to be.
When vacation is a true escape from our real lives and we dread going back we need to take a closer look at what’s going on. What aren’t we making time for? What soulful yearnings are we ignoring? Are we attaching our happiness to people, things and conditions? Where are our greatest stressors?
Time to Gain Perspective
We can all agree, besides helping us heal physically and mentally, time away can help us gain tremendous perspective on our lives. Using the following tips we can gain much more than that:
- It’s helpful if we can remember the insight we gain while away and pack it in our suitcase for the return home. Whether you gained them while basking in the sun or while draining your last margarita…perspective gained is very useful; when our minds are empty we receive useful and clear life guidance. Random thoughts and our own inner wisdom can provide more life direction than all the self-helps books at Barnes & Noble and Amazon combined. Listening to our inner guidance is worth all its weight in gold and the ideas, insights and perspective gained on vacation are worth capturing in a journal or by taking action. Using our newly gained inspiration to make beneficial changes when we return home can extend our vacation experience. We won’t regret it.
- When we return home, unless we also live on an island, we can experience a version of seasonal affective disorder which I like to call ‘the white sand blues’. But try to recognize that nature is nature…warmth and sunshine, fresh air, blue sky and moonlit walks are not exclusive to remote locations and can rejuvenate the spirit anytime, anywhere. While the view from your Oceanside resort may have been breathtaking, mother nature provides breathtaking scenery outside your window every day…all we have to do is take the time to notice. The sunsets may not be as awe inspiring because you can’t see them dropping behind the ocean, but they are still quite beautiful and we can make a point of taking them in during our drive home each day…even in a rear view mirror if need be. It’s all in the effort. We can take a walk during lunch…pay attention to the breeze on our skin…get five minutes of outdoors every day no matter the time of year…absorb the spectacular show of flowers, trees and foliage in its many natural landscapes…listen to the birds…hike our local mountains, walk nearby trails and waterfalls, beach it for a day: possibilities are endless. Allow the same heart opening connection to mother earth to happen at home as we allowed on vacation. The only difference then was we were taking the time to put it into our day and maybe we had a drink in our hands while wearing flip flops but still…even for a moment each day; do it again.
- Don’t stop connecting – we made time to connect with our loved ones while we were away. It brought back laughter and honesty. Don’t stop…make time; shut off the TV and talk, play games, take a walk together, sit around a bonfire, call your friends (don’t text)…talk, talk, talk. Our everyday lives make it so easy to take eachother for granted and we miss important moments being consumed with unimportant tasks…they can wait…laundry gets done, bills get paid, trash will get picked up but people disconnect…make time to sit together, eat together, laugh together, love together.
- Assemble memories and relive happy moments. Create a photo album…a real live, touch it in our hands, turn the pages, leave it on the coffee table photo album. Develop all the pictures from everyone’s cameras the old fashioned way…put all the pictures together and create a story of the time away and look at it often. It will bring back smiles, conversation and lots of feel good moments. And by the way…pick favorites and frame them for the walls! Walking past what’s possible every day is a great reminder of that authentic self we find so easy to lose.
- If we started reading books on vacation…finish reading them…set aside some time each day…even ten minutes and keep reading. When that’s done…start another book. Reading takes us on mini vacations…whether we are reading a self-help publication, a smutty novel or the latest political biography we lose ourselves immersed in someone else’s version of ‘how to’, ‘how it was done’, or ‘holy how wow’. Our brains, bodies and spirits relax when we are spirited away in attention and books do just that. Read before bed, read at lunch, read on a break…just read. Besides, even a smutty novel has at least one new thing we can learn and learning expands our thinking…expansion of any kind brings us closer to that feeling of newness and fun like vacation.
- Once a week, take a play break…we can grab someone we love and go for a massage, get a spa treatment, go for drinks, sit outside and listen to live music, accept an invitation with friends. The point is to break our routine and find somewhere to get in touch with our playful selves…lose the tie, let our hair down, release our personal rules, be silly, drop pretense, make mistakes…tell the truth, be creative, dance, open our hearts. Play dates are mini vacations…we need them to recharge…it’s good for every part of us!
- Keep learning and exploring. Vacation broadens our horizons…no reason to stop now. Take a class, go to a workshop, hire a personal spiritual guru…let’s do something to keep stretching our thinking and imagining. Keep growing….
Ultimately, life is too short to spend most of it doing something that crushes your soul week after week or becoming so imbalanced doing it that the rest of your life is incredibly unhappy. If we are limited to just a few weeks of vacation every year or less…you do the math; that’s a lot of unhappy we are trying to dump out in an intense time only to return to unhappy. So finally, we can focus on these last few tips to insure we are making the most of our post vacation life:
- We can notice what we regularly give, say or do to please others in our lives in order to validate our worthiness. These things usually make others very happy but do little to fulfill us. But if we consistently find ourselves compromising our own truths (things that make us feel most authentic in thought, behavior and nature) to keep the peace, please others, or secure our worthiness, we will eventually suffer from soul crushing imbalance in our own lives. Here’s how you notice: everybody’s happy BUT us. We aren’t truly fulfilled because we’ve never gotten in touch with what really makes US happy. Isn’t it time to figure that out…what felt good on vacation? What did you daydream about or indulge in while away that made you feel great? What have you convinced yourself you could never do but really want to? It may be time to use your vacation dream time to start making some life changes.
- Our family time often seems to improve when we are on vacation together and we seem to have so much more fun; really laughing and playing and paying attention to each other. We can ask ourselves what might be missing in our ‘everyday’; what aren’t we making time for? Are our relationships suffering? Is it family time, friends, time for play, time for hobbies, physical release? What are we not allowing ourselves to see, explore, take part in or be? Are we taking on a different, more serious persona in our everyday lives, full of responsibility and stress and devoid of fun? It’s so important to be our authentic selves…can we allow ourselves to be real every day?
- And finally…in terms of happiness…are we making happiness a decision each day or are we attaching our happiness to what is happening in our lives? When we realize that happiness does not come to us but comes from us, it makes all the difference in our lives. When we know that we are the creator of our own happiness we don’t have to wait for vacation to enjoy our lives. Each moment becomes happy, no matter where we are, what we are doing or who we are doing it with. We begin to see beauty everywhere and understand there is meaning in even the most mundane activities. Every moment becomes precious. We notice how happy we feel on vacation…how wonderful to know that happiness is not a temporary, few weeks a year, commodity, rather a state of mind available to you year-round!
Lisa Crofton, Owner of Lotus Moon Studios in Southington, Ct is a Spiritual Intuitive and Life Mastery Coach. She specializes in helping others identify and create the necessary change needed for soul growth and permanent transformation through private sessions and workshops. She is co-founder of the Bloom School of Life Mastery Coach Certification.