There is something magical that happens when we are on vacation. It happens when we gradually let go of the daily to-dos at home or work. It happens as the garage door closes and we stop trying to remember if we stopped the mail and turned off the lights. It happens even without conscious thought.
Somehow, when we are on vacation, all of our senses go into high gear. We have a heightened sense of awareness and see things with our eyes wide open. We even read - out loud - all of the signs on stores and billboards! You’ve done that too, right?! I always find that so interesting and it seems like such a universal phenomenon among people with whom I’ve traveled.
At the same time we are letting go of daily responsibilities, we dive deep into processing our new surroundings. We notice the little things like the pattern of the ocean waves, the shapes of the stars that light up the evening sky. We set aside time to get up early to watch the sunrise and plan our evening around a colorful sunset. We seem to have a keener sense of smell or at least pay more attention to the humid and briny scent of the ocean air, the aroma of sweet cinnamon bark and pine in the forest and the way the sunlight cascades through the trees.
If the vacation is long enough, we may even adapt habits and routines from the locals. We notice different lifestyles and ponder the future in, “what if’s.” Such as, “What if I was retired, would I want to live here? Or, “What would I do if I won the lottery?” We become more philosophical and contemplate some of life’s larger questions.
Vacations often open up our minds to explore adventurous new activities or ways to pass the time. We often do things we would never dream of doing! But we are on vacation and the child in us naturally comes out to play. We have more opportunities to be our true selves.
My family took long summer vacations every year.
My dad’s company would always get the week of 4th of July off and since I’m from a family of eight kids, my parents could only take half of us at a time. The rest were farmed off to our aunt’s and uncle’s houses – which was always a fun vacation in itself! Even though I was very young, I can still remember in great detail, the sights, scents and activities we did. Such as, picking up my first sand dollar, wanting to stop for a bismark doughnut in Bismarck, ND and shivering while I held a snowball at the top of Mt. Rainier in the middle of July.
Vacations are a wonderful time to unwind, relax and reflect. We can let go of stress and give our minds more space to think about possibilities. Or, just think about nothing at all.
Summer offers a wide spectrum of new opportunities and eye-opening experiences. We are drawn to explore new places and think about new ideas. Let’s think about another, “what if.” What if we allow ourselves to have this same vacation state of mind at home? Although it doesn’t require much effort, we don’t always give ourselves the physical and mental breaks we need. We can lose that childlike sense of wonder, yet we do it so effortlessly on vacation.
See if you can find a few hours or even a day in the next week to give yourself a vacation at home. Put it on the calendar and just as you would on vacation, leave thoughts of your work, your to-do list and other responsibilities behind. Open up your senses right where you are and notice the little things you often breeze by. Look at your daily schedule and habits in a different way. What could you change to make things simpler or better? Breathe deep and perhaps you’ll be setting time aside to watch the sunset in your own back yard.