What Vacation Taught Me about Real Life

Sunset seen from Austin's Mt. Bonnell
We’d seen beautiful ones on vacation, so why not watch a beautiful sunset from atop Austin’s own Mt. Bonnell?

We watched the sun sink down through the pink- and orange-tinged clouds, our hands clasped, until it finally dipped below the horizon. Whether I said it out loud or not, my mind automatically supplied Holly Hunter’s line from Raising Arizona: “That was beautiful, H.I.” My entire being felt at peace, still, relaxed, refreshed…the kind of perfect sunset, post-event sated stupor that only a beautiful vacation moment can supply.

Except I wasn’t on vacation.

This summer, I’ve been blessed with a number of fabulous get-aways, able to dip my toes into beautiful waters all over the world: West Texas’ iconic Balmorhea pool, a cool pond in Illinois, the Gulf of Mexico, blue-green Caribbean surrounding St. John, and Tel Aviv’s vibrant Mediterranean. (Please do not hate me — this amount of travel was totally unusual and not likely to be repeated.)

Back at home, I was dismayed by slumping back into evening TV marathons and daytime computer work. I missed vacation: fun activities, dressing up (or not dressing), fabulous meals, watching the sunset, hanging out with friends. When I whined, my life coach pointedly said, “So why aren’t you living like you’re on vacation?”

That’s a good question.

Shifting Work Week Perspective 

Laptop in front of pool and the islands of St. John USVIHaving a life coach is much like working with a running coach. I have a good, solid grasp of training necessities for success as a runner (shoot; I have RRCA coaching certification myself). Why would I pay money for someone to tell me to do what I already know how to do? Because that professional is able to look at me dispassionately, see the bigger picture, and point out errors in my thinking. A running coach is able to push where encouragement is needed and rein in a hot-headed competitor. That coach saves me from myself.

My life coach had posted a blog on this very topic (“What If Vacation Never Ended?”), and she referenced it as we talked about what was holding me back from doing all the wonderful things I’d enjoyed elsewhere. After all, I have no kids to care for, disposable income, a willing spouse, and flexible work schedule.

Since that talk, I’ve focused on sustaining vacation mode. Yes, I have to structure changes around a “real world” schedule, but I realized I’d actually already put this into practice — my husband and I each worked while vacationing. Implementing that pattern here has simply been a matter of identifying where and how my perspective needs to shift. A few changes have paid off in big ways.

5 Areas to Add Some Vacation

Wardrobe

woman in ocean next to two jet skis

One of my favorite things to do is plan a vacation wardrobe. I love figuring how to look good and function appropriately with the right combination of clothes. Why not apply this thoughtfulness at home? There’s no reason to languish in workout clothes just because I haven’t any appointments. And packing revealed  fewer options make for easier choices, so I’m streamlining my wardrobe.

Dining

A dish of hummus in Tel Aviv, with cocktails.My idea of heaven includes a fabulous meal, and discovering a yummy local restaurant is always a treat. I’m incorporating a taste of that culinary exploration into cooking by trying more exotic recipes. I’m also working hard to eliminate “thoughtless” eating out from our weekly routine. No more grabbing a bite at that same old place because it’s convenient. It’s important to make dining a worthwhile, savored experience. Plus, that purposeful choice is going to help with making better nutritional selections.

Activities

Hikers at the Chihuahuan Desert Research Institute.

Visiting a new place is an exciting opportunity to learn. I love to walk and run in new cities, visit museums, tour historical sites, read plaques, go to cultural events. But at home, I seldom make that exploratory effort. Now, I’m trying to see Austin like a visitor, searching for new ways to learn about and experience my hometown. I’m not passing my evenings in front of the TV — there’s too much to do!

Companionship

My friend Holly, left, and I know how to thoroughly enjoy a beautiful beach.

Have you ever been on vacation only to think, “Why am I sitting here, enjoying the sunset with my sweetie? There are so many other important things I could be doing!”? (Please, please, tell me you responded, “Why, no, I’ve never thought that.”) A primary point of vacation is spending quality time with someone special — yourself, the family, a lover, good friends. Those interludes, connections, interactions, and reflections are all part of the schedule. As a result, I’m honoring those social interactions and personal times as necessary activities and not frivolous distractions.

Self Care

Bed at resort with red flowers

It’s rare that I beat myself up over workouts on vacation. I seldom get too little sleep. I won’t suffer a Negative Nelly. No one can make me spend time doing an activity I don’t enjoy. On vacation, I’m much better at respecting my body, scheduling with purpose, and honoring my needs. So why is this such a problem at home?

The bottom line — The time I have at home is no less precious than those prized vacation days, so it’s important I place a premium on living them fully.

Published by Leah Nyfeler

I'm a writer, editor, runner, and adventurer who is always looking for the next new story, exciting adventure, and good meal/book/movie. My focus is on helping people find their best, healthiest self through sharing what I know and how I've come to learn it. In addition to my blog "Enjoying the Journey: Observations on the Fit Life" at www.leahruns100.com, my articles have appeared in a variety of print and online magazines. You can hear me as part of the 2015 Austin cast of Listen To Your Mother.

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