Monday, September 20, 2010

Vacation frame of mind

Years ago my first wife and I started paying attention to the things we enjoyed most about travel. One thing we identified was something we called a “vacation frame of mind.” This was the sense of peace and well-being we generally took home from our trips, and which we tried to preserve as long as possible in the face of the more demanding lifestyle we led at home.

We began to cultivate this frame of mind when we started traveling to Caribbean islands where schedules are only rough guidelines and nothing happens in any particular hurry. We had to learn to get onto “island time,” and learn to enjoy our moments and stop fretting over things we couldn’t control anyway. Then we would come home and try to gauge how long we maintained that frame of mind until it became necessary to take another trip and start over.

Of course we also identified lots of other things we liked about vacations, like eating out and seeing new things, but our favorite take-away from each vacation was that ethereal vacation state of mind, which I’ve been cultivating with greater or lesser success ever since.

I found myself thinking more about what this frame of mind means during a recent six-week sojourn in California. We noticed that we were slow this time to get into that relaxed zone. The lengthy trip left us feeling a bit unmotivated at the beginning. I believe this reveals another component of a proper vacation, fundamental to the desired state of mind. Seize the moment! The typical vacation is short enough that we want to capture opportunities quickly, and I believe the sense of abundant opportunity truly underpins a vacation state of mind.

This insight leads to another generalization. On vacation we look for new or interesting things to do, and the newness or fulfillment of our interest make the time special. Can’t we do the same thing at home? Can’t we learn to look at each situation with a beginner’s mind, seeing each thing freshly, wondering about it a little and maybe even finding something to learn? I think we can.

So, in summary, I think that the “vacation frame of mind” rests on at least three things:
1)    Learning not to fret over what we can’t control and finding pleasant things to do regardless of any failures in our plans or expectations.
2)    A sense of urgency or commitment to do things that interest us.
3)    Maintaining a beginner’s mind even in familiar circumstances.

What else do you think might support a vacation frame of mind in our daily lives? Please leave a comment below.

1 comment:

  1. Maintaining a “vacation frame of mind” is a really hard thing to do. My wife worries about her daughter’s future, even though there’s not really anything either of us is responsible to oversee at this point. I wish she’d stop worrying because her worry isn’t going to change anything (unless perhaps it freaks out her daughter so badly that she takes steps to escape her mom’s protectiveness.) So then I worry about whether my wife’s worry will somehow mess things up, and I’ve abandoned a vacation frame of mind too.