Think Vacations Are Luxuries? Think Again

...Saudades do Mar...

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One day last month Linda and I dropped everything, turned off the computer, called the cat-sitter, packed our bags and boarded a flight to Mexico. Actually it wasn’t quite that spontaneous. We had made the plans several weeks before but since we worked right up until the day of the flight, it seemed kind of last minute. It felt to me like the vacation actually began after we boarded the plane, put our carry-on bags in the overhead compartment, put on our seatbelts, held hands and said “Yes” to each other. That was the moment that I felt my breath get slower, my mind start to quiet down, and my body sink into the seat.

Linda and I spend a lot of time on airplanes, but there’s something that feels different about boarding a flight for a vacation. Maybe it’s because we bring a different purpose with us when we go on vacations than when we travel to teach. When we take vacations, our intention is to fully honor the true meaning of the word. You may be surprised to know that “vacation” comes from the Latin word “vacatio” which means “freedom, and release from occupation” and the word “vacare”, which means “empty”. For us a vacation is about emptying our minds of the concerns, plans and considerations that usually occupy our consciousness during most of the rest of our lives. Our intent is to vacate our mind of its occupants and to temporarily evict the tenants who live in our mental space most of the time. In emptying our minds in this way, we are able to get the full benefit of the experience.

Going away whether to Mexico or to the beach a few blocks from our home, provides a change of both the outer and the inner scenery. And emptying out the contents our mind for a while provides us with an extraordinary opportunity to not only see things from a different perspective, but to get restored, replenished and rejuvenated physically, mentally, emotionally and even spiritually. It may seem like it’s claiming a lot of ground to describe a vacation as a spiritual experience, but that is how I would have to characterize anything that provides me with a deeper connection to my own heart and soul as well as the hearts of all of my relations, human and otherwise.

As you might have guessed by now, our idea of a vacation isn’t quite in sync with the idea that most people have of them. Typically, vacations are seen as times in which people don’t empty out, but rather fill up. They fill their days up with activities and entertainment and their bodies with food and drink, mostly in an effort to fill their time up with pleasurable experiences. These kinds of vacations can be fun and we’ve had a few of them ourselves, particularly when our kids have accompanied us. But when just the two of us go, we opt for a different kind of experience with a different agenda, and a different purpose. On high activity, high stimulation trips, we would sometimes come back tired and run-down, often feeling like we needed another vacation to recover the energy that we just exhausted.

In our book, 101 Things I Wish I Knew When I Got Married: Simple Lessons to Make Love Last, lesson 38 is “Vacations aren’t luxuries, they are necessities.” We learned that particular teaching from our own experience. Like most of the lessons in that book, it was the hard way. Although Linda had gone on a lot of family vacations as a kid, I had never gone on any. Since you can’t miss what you never had, I never knew what I was missing.  Consequently, in the early days when Linda would suggest vacations, I never could get behind the idea. Mostly it just seemed like a waste of money that we couldn’t afford to “squander.” Because I hadn’t yet learned lesson 48 which is that “Your partner is your teacher AND your student,” I spent a lot of time resisting Linda’s influence about vacations. I got the “your student” part real well but it took me a while to get the “your teacher ” piece. Fortunately (due more to persistence on her part than openness on my part) Linda’s will prevailed and I came to finally see what the big deal was about vacations. It wasn’t long before I was not only a convert, but a pillar of the church!

In those days, our lives were so jammed with family and work-related commitments (sound familiar?) that when we took vacation time for just the two of us we mostly just slept or took things very, very slowly. Over time, however, we learned more about the art of vacationing. That is, we came to understand that vacations could be a time for something other than round the clock indulgence or crashing from an exhausting life. They could be a time of creativity. Not simply “recreation”, but actually RE-CREATING your life from a new perspective, a fresh one that can only come from being removed from one’s ordinary living environment and disengaging from the concerns that preoccupy our consciousness most of the time.

In this space we get to see things that we are normally too busy to notice, or moving too fast to give our full attention to. It was in fact on a vacation that we became clear of the power and potential of bringing a conscious intention to our experience. We saw how when we were willing and able to glimpse our lives from the broad overview of the eagle’s eye rather than from the perspective of the mouse who lives close to the ground and can’t see the big picture, we could recognize the places in our lives where changes needed to be made. Questions came up that related to our deeper needs and longings that didn’t even show up to us when we were living in the daily spin of things. Such as…. 
Am I really living my own life or someone else’s version of what it’s supposed to be?
 What are my true values and do my priorities and choices reflect them?
 Am I really using my time well?
 Am I nurturing my friendships?
 Am I honoring my physical needs and taking good care of my body?
 Am I spending enough time doing the things and being with the people that really matter to me?
 Do I have my work in its proper place?
 Do I do and say enough to make sure that the people in my life that I love and appreciate know that I love and appreciate them? 
Is there enough play and fun in my life? 
Is the world going to be a better place because I have lived and does that matter to me?

Asking these kinds of questions isn’t necessarily comfortable, particularly if we have neglected certain aspects of our lives. It’s easy to write them off as being unrealistic or too abstract, but when we have slowed down our pace a bit and quieted our mind by letting it rest, and disengage from the relentless demands of daily living, we don’t have to dig the questions up, they are just there. They simply arise to the surface of our awareness when we allow them to emerge. They invite our compassionate attention and our creative responses to unmet needs and unfulfilled longings that we hadn’t even acknowledged we had. And out of this growing awareness, effortlessly, naturally, change begins to occur. Not because we set our mind to it, not because we make a conscious commitment, not because we resolve to do things differently, but because we have seen the truth and in so doing, we can’t help but begin to honor it.

Whether your vacation is for a day or a year. Whether it’s on a cruise ship or in a campground. Whether it’s on the other side of the world or at a local park, it can be a transformative experience. It can be a work of art. It can be life changing. Take one soon. You can’t afford not to.


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Shared by: Linda Bloom, LCSW, & Charlie Bloom, MSW, Contributing Bloggers