What is a Vacation Anyways?
I recently returned to the office after my annual Summer vacation. I usually take 2 to 3 weeks to “rest my brain” as I put it, always hoping for some sort of ‘je ne sais quoi’ factor, as I often go into it feeling pretty indecisive about what would make for a satisfying vacation.
It goes without saying, but I’ll say it anyway, that when it comes to getting away, people have suffered drastically during Covid And this year, for the first time in such a long time, people have been making plans! Of course, some folks have had to face epically long lines at the passport office, passports which have not arrived on time and other serious adventure-spoilers, however there has been a shift in the general social consciousness around doing things again. And like many people, I started to wonder what might be possible.
But if you were hoping for an article about me going on an exotic and life-changing vacation and reporting back, this article is not that. Instead, I found myself getting philosophical this year and I asked myself what is a vacation, anyways?
I’ll cut to the chase and say that my time off this Summer was one of the best vacations I’ve ever had and it was one of the most inconsequential vacations ever. Nothing much happened. Literally.
The initial road to this Summer’s vacation wasn’t easy, though. In the months leading up to my time off, I was wrestling with several things:
Where Should I Go?
Nothing was coming to me. And I felt this strange pressure to do something fun, after almost three years of no-fun. Friends were going places, clients too. What should I do? The time kept passing by and I wasn’t booking anything. I was feeling like a dud.
Family Life Cycle
I have to face facts: my children are growing up! With my eldest having a Summer job that lasted from the last day of school until Labour Day, time for the whole family was unavailable. Oh, and, do teenagers have the same interest in family holidays that they once did?
The Dreaded Covid
In early Summer we were in yet another wave (sigh) and I wondered, would we book something and then get stuck quarantining in a remote location?
I identify as neurodivergent, and one of the way this manifests in a holiday situation is that the parts of me that don’t like change, get a little irritated. Should I roll with this or push up against it?
Sometimes I just feel old and tired. There are a lot of reasons for this but the bottom line is that I seem to require regular rest periods throughout the year. I can’t push through exhaustion like I used to when I was younger. In fact, I’m trying to see when I still have the tendency to do that, and listen to my body instead.
As much as I continue to work on improving my body’s functioning, there is a limit. Vacations have to match what I am physically capable of.
What Did I Do?
Just before I left for my time off, people started asking me what my plans were, to which I replied “not much.” People then generously suggested that I was taking a staycation. The way my mind works, I then started putting pressure on myself to fun activities, a stone’s throw out of town, using Vancouver as a home base. Well, that didn’t happen either. I loved the idea of getting away and freeing my mind of my familiar surroundings but that just didn’t pan out. The farthest I got was to North Vancouver!
On paper this sounds like a pretty depressing vacation, but as I mentioned above, I can honestly say that it’s one of the best I’ve had.
For those interested in minutiae, here are some of the ways I spent my vacation and why these things were satisfying:
I reorganized my kitchen cupboards. I have a system in place but it wasn’t as efficient as I needed it to be. It was hard to reach some frequently used appliances and other items had to go. Why I liked this: My brain feels calm when organizing and enjoys a good “puzzle” to get there. Using the kitchen is even more pleasant now because I can use it more efficiently.
I cleared out my laundry room which was horrendously cluttered: laundry strewn everywhere, a haphazard organizing system, detritus on the floor. It was a total eyesore that filled me with stress whenever I used it.
Why I liked this: I got more physical activity than I was used to and it made me feel physically capable. I got many accolades from family members, which made me feel appreciated. I am inspired to keep up on my laundry because the pleasure of being in an organized space is very high. I am more appreciative of my time: I couldn’t have done this project when my kids were little.
I slept until I woke up naturally, most days.
Why I liked this: I learned more about my body’s natural rhythms and felt tired earlier. My sleep cycle balanced out. It was nice to take my time in the mornings after waking up; I noticed that my stress went down considerably.
I got caught up on appointments. Optometry, physician appointments, audiology…appointments I had been putting off and are hard to fit around my work schedule.
Why I liked this: I felt proud of my self-care and happy to have these appointments when I wasn’t so busy.
Plans for each day were loose or non-existent.
Why I liked this: For three-quarters of my life, I spent my time being a person who liked making and adhering to plans. In the most recent quarter of my life, I’ve really been enjoying rolling with my day, whenever possible, to see what wants to happen next. Vacations can be a great way of doing this, without the regular routines embedded in daily life.
I knit more.
Why I liked this: I’ve been working on a knitting project now for over a year and I’ve been very stalled on it in the past few months, despite being almost finished. I was able to make some significant progress during my vacation, which felt great.
I watched more TV.
Why I liked this: This one is a bit of a mixed blessing. I found a TV show that I really like however I do find that I have my limits: too much TV and I start to feel agitated and like I’m missing out on life. But in reasonable doses, so relaxing! (Pairs well with knitting, too).
I had more conversations with my family members.
Why I liked this: Family members are busy and when I am too, it can be a challenge to connect. Having more time and connecting when I’m not overtired is much more satisfying!
I saw my friends a little more.
Why I liked this: I have hermit tendencies but having the time off compelled me to reach out a little more as I had more mental space to do so. It’s helpful for me to leave the house more and have more time for deeper conversations.
I got used to a new computer (still working on it).
Why I liked this: OK, I didn’t love this one but it felt relieving to get some of the bugs worked out before starting work. I am still dealing with a few annoying glitches, but it’s ok! Knowing myself, I get more stressed out when I have to manage too much change or transition at once (especially when your computer was from 2014!). Being proactive really helps with that!
I cooked simply.
Why I liked this: While there was a part of me that was tempted to make the complicated dishes that I usually don’t have time for, a larger part of me wanted to take it easy, and I’m glad I did! I liked the freedom of doing so, and this experience served as encouragement to continue simplifying as I move into the Fall and things get busier. Hopefully in the next week or so, I’ll try making some sourdough pasta, though, which should be interesting!
I baked and breadmaked less than usual.
Why I liked this: Similar to what I said about cooking. The mojo wasn’t there so why fight it? I made sourdough waffles, twice. Does that count??
I bought and assembled new lamps.
Why I liked this: Finally, a construction project I could do! I’m not putting myself down when I say that I have very poor spatial skills. It’s just the truth. But…these lamps I could do. And, my living area is so much better lit! It’s a great improvement. And a bonus: purchased at Ikea where I could also enjoy a $4 meal. Perhaps it’s the Scot in me, but I love me a good deal.
There was great value to me this year in charting my own course and taking time to b-r-e-a-t-h-e. I found myself not getting bored and having the time and mental space to do (and honour) what I wanted to do.
In the spirit of humility, though, I’ll admit that I’m still influenced by outside expectations as well as what others are doing and I’m quick to feelings of inadequacy when I don’t fit this mould. This isn’t necessarily a problem though! I can notice my own self-judgement and inadequacy, express my joy for others’ experiences (yes, negative and positive can authentically co-exist) and re-focus on the present moment. And then keep hitting repeat, if need be.
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