“It is better to travel than to arrive.” – Buddha
Hello SOTGC community,
Every time I go on vacation, I enjoy being unplugged, not just from my laptop and smartphone, but from my life. I don’t worry about returning emails, or paying bills, or planning meals. Someone else makes the bed.
This past spring, my then-fiancé and I sojourned to Portland, Maine. Nestled in a cozy bed and breakfast in Portland’s hip, historic West End, we immersed ourselves into Maine vacation life. We slept in, ate countless lobster rolls and whoopie pies, day-tripped to the Maine Maritime Museum in Bath, and walked anywhere from four to seven miles every day.
Freeing my mind from quotidian distractions was always so refreshing, but as soon as I walked through door of our downtown Chicago condominium, it was as if I had never left and my body and brain never recharged. I immediately begin putzing around with the laundry and the checkbook, as if neglecting these tasks for even one more single second would somehow initiate the apocalypse.
It’s not that I am lazy or reckless or irresponsible. Mature adults run their own lives and tend to the essentials in a timely fashion. But is sweeping the porch or organizing my linen closet (again) really more important than an undistracted phone date with my mother or settling in with jewelry making supplies? (To my shame, on the night that my husband surprised me with a marriage proposal, I actually had to unload the dishwasher before agreeing to join him for the spur-of-the-moment walk he casually suggested in our favorite local park, the location of our engagement.)
But when I am on vacation, I become a different person. The chores can wait; they cannot and will not interfere with the opportunity to take a long walk, indulge in a sampler of local craft beer, or start a new book. I feel more relaxed and balanced on vacation, not first overwrought from self-imposed hustling and bustling and then grumpy when I’m too fatigued to drag out the sketch pad or even crack open that new book.
So why not cultivate a vacation state of mind for my everyday life? Long since returned from Maine, I’ve spent the summer considering the following ways to maintain balance instead of slipping mindlessly back into the routine:
1. Stop trying to control everything.
I love the show Parks and Recreation and its endearing heroine, Leslie Knope, played by the inimitable Amy Poehler. Leslie is a genuine, hardworking, talented leader at the Pawnee Parks Department . . . and she’s a total control freak. Learn to temper your inner Leslie Knope.
2. Schedule your tasks and stick to your plan.
Set aside a specific time each day, week, or month to tend to responsibilities and activities that suck up your valuable time (hello, social media). For example, check Facebook first thing in the morning and stay away for the rest of the day (or forever). Answer emails right before the close of the business day. Do laundry on Tuesday nights ONLY. Depending on payday, pay bills and file important papers on one day at the beginning or end of every month. You get the idea.
3. Schedule time for relaxation and stick to your plan.
As crazy as it sounds, you might have to start scheduling time for fun if it’s not already an integral part of your day. Forcing yourself to sit down and read with a cup of tea for thirty minutes each morning or to take a short walk after lunch instead of returning immediately to work are essential for your sanity. Consider it a gift that you’re giving yourself: increased balance, fulfillment, and relaxation.
Is it really possible to still feel like you’re “on vacation” even when you’re at home or work? Share your thoughts in the comment section below.