Rethinking vacations

August 2, 2018


Vacate- verb- to exit the premises

Not sure if that’s really the definition, but who is Webster anyway? Why should he have the monopoly on meaning of english characters arranged in the form of “V-A-C-A-T-E”. He shouldn’t. Webster’s long gone. I’m taking the dictionary back.

So, how did “exiting the premises” become synonymous with relaxation and rejuvenation? For that matter, when’s the last vacation you went on where you didn’t need a vacation from the vacation? Lets revisit the basic premise of the “vacation”.

First of all, if you are actually able to take a week off without thinking about work, you probably aren’t very passionate about your job. Also, if your job can afford to have you take a week off, you’re likely under-utilized. Vacations can be a political tool, where you teach your job how lucky they are to have you when things fall apart in your absence- thus, for those over-achievers that consistently cash-in unused leave, congrats- you’re likely the first one on the chopping block if there are layoffs. (Mostly kidding about some of that)

Should vacations be all relaxation? It depends on the purpose of your vacation. There are life-enhancers, and their are steam-blower-offers.

Life enhancement vacations, like male-enhancement pills- are varied and practitioners experience mixed results. That yoga retreat you’ve been meaning to take, but didn’t have time to stretch out for before you went. Do you really thinking stretching your tight muscles with a bunch of non-deodorant wearing incense-burners is going to enlighten you, unless you take the same hallucinogenics they’re taking?* Yoga is only relaxing if you practice it with an out-of-shape looking practitioner. I remember I went to visit my parents in Washington, and ended up at the local athletic club for yoga with what should have been called, “The Silver Fox Club.” I have never wanted a smock more in my life, as these AARP vixens oogled me in poses, the names of which I won’t repeat here.

Life enhancement, does come in all sorts of forms, however, and just because you may not think it would be relaxing doesn’t mean it isn’t exactly what you need. Life enhancement is about enrichment- and show me the person that has been enriched without challenge and I’ll show you a trust-fund baby. Growth and enrichment happens through challenging our comfort zones and our assumptions.

I remember a few years back, I was doing child protective services work as an investigator for the State of Alaska. I was irreparably burnt out, but I accepted an opportunity to go to Uganda to accompany a group of medical personnel, where I ended up doing social work there too. And in all the ways working between the State and the Tribes was difficult, working with Ugandans was liberating. I saw little kids building their own school without being asked to help. I saw lines of 40 people waiting to see the doctor I accompanied, and I saw her treat real illnesses, not the preventable illnesses much of America’s health-care system is bogged down with. It was incredible to jump in to some real and raw issues, and make a difference. It was exhausting, heart-wrenching, powerful, and perfect. And though it cost me some sleep, it paid dues in my heart.

If you are going to take a life-enhancing vacation, do yourself a favor and prepare for it. Don’t visit Jersusalem without knowing some of the history. Don’t go to England just to get a “Mind-the-Gap” shirt. Don’t do any volun-touristing unless you know you’re bringing a valued skill to the table. Mexico doesn’t need any Americans to build brick buildings- they got brick-and-mortar covered. (Chichen Itza) Life enhancement takes some preparation, and you’ll be glad you did.

Unplugs, decompressions, and relaxation vacations serve a purpose as well, but only if you concentrate on the two main contributors to burn-out: poor diet and poor sleep habits. If you are consistently eating poorly and running a sleep deficit- and you continue to run that regimen on your vacation, a stress-relieving vacation will not help you. If you have projects around the house that will stack up as a result of your vacation, a stress-relief vacation will not help you.

A stress-relief vacation, like a life-enhancing vacation, requires some planning. But this is to clear your mind. Get the big stuff done at work, and prepare your people for your absence. This type of vacation is a great time to try an “Unplug”, which is a technological scrub of your life. Turn your device off, and experience your people and the world without filters or thoughts of capturing any moments. Can you do it? How long can you last without checking something, or reading something, or wondering what’s going on in the greater world? How long can your family last? Does your device aid, or hinder your stress-relief? Try an “Unplug” for a day. I’d love to hear how it went.

Now, the point of stress-relief isn’t necessarily just to be relieved from stress. Stress has a mental and a physical component. The physical component can be dealt with in easily identifiable ways: good food, good rest, good exercise. The mental is harder to quantify, but on a stress-relief vacation its just as important to clear your mind as your body. Clearing your mind, believe it or not- requires work. How do you work things out in your mind?

I write. A very real source of stress for

 me is when I don’t write down my ideas. They begin to pile-up in my head, then I try to remember them, then they get backed up. I have to write them down. I can usually just write summaries of the essays I plan to produce, lines for poetry/songs, or ideas for stories or scripts, and that’s good enough to not lose them and get my mind clear. Sometimes these idea sessions take an hour. Sometimes I get the Muse on board, and I have to go for it- I have to write, and it has to happen now, and my schedule is naturally “Unplugged”. That happens on buses, on vacation, in trains, napkins, computers, texts, notebooks- I even have my girlfriend text me summaries of a thought I want to explore while I’m driving. She tolerates the weird-dom. Welcome into my head, babe. :)

What if you can’t turn your brain off? To fully enjoy a relaxing vacation, choose activities that will allow you (force you) to fully engage. Parasailing is a great way to completely forget about what’s going on at the office. Swimming with Sea Turtles is great also. Go latin dancing in Africa. These are great ways to get out of your head and into your life.

Whether you choose a life-enhancing vacation, or a relaxation vacation, we return to our definition to understand the number one rule of vacations.

Vacate-verb- exit the premises.

(*Drug free since ’96)

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