December 12, 2014
There are many articles about how American workers receive and take much less time off from work than our European counterparts. Why this is so, and what to do about it, is for another article. There seems to be a lot of confusion about the difference between a trip and a vacation, however.
A trip would be going to the Vatican and wanting to see as much of Rome as you can in the 3-10 days you have there. Very scheduled. All about how much you can do and experience. It is busy and outwardly focused.
A vacation is going somewhere and stopping everything. No schedule, no agenda aside from doing what you want, when you want to, at that moment. A vacation is leisurely and slow. It is about remembering and reconnecting to oneself.
Many, if not most people use the terms interchangeably. I see them as quite different. I understand the desire to make the best use of your time away from work. Taking in new experiences. Americans especially get precious little time off, and they certainly don’t use all the time they are entitled to. Wanting to change one’s environment and be distracted is certainly important at times. And trips can be fun. What they generally are not is relaxing and renewing. I have seen many people come back from a trip exhausted. They ran around taking it all in, but never rested. In trying so hard to get the most out of the time away, they come back even more depleted.
It takes time for the body to stop, to unwind and begin the process of renewal. In my experience, real renewal only begins with about 10 days off. At that point, the mind has cleared, the body is no longer sleep- deprived and there is a connection to self restored that has been long lost in the rush of daily life. Meditation is one of the ways that people stay connected to self, but vacation is still necessary to remove the distractions, to catch up on rest and to remove the ever-present fatigue that most people live with as normalcy.
When we are at rest, our creativity can come online. We get clarity about our wants and needs when we are removed from the needs and wants of others. It is like coming home and remembering who we are.
I often suggest to my clients who are parents that at least once a quarter, they take a weekend (or more) to themselves. They should have someone take care of the kids, go away, check into a hotel or go camping by themselves to just stop, and especially stop caring for everyone else. They should pay attention to their needs and be selfish for a few days. It is renewing and allows for staying the course without the need for the body to force a halt through illness or injury. Even while they are not able to take a real vacation, those who parent face a multi-year and usually a couple of decade’s process of giving up their needs for others.
I know plenty of people that shudder at the idea of stopping. They are convinced that it would drive them crazy. There is a difference between being distracted and being active. A person who is used to an active lifestyle may very much need to exercise, hike, swim, etc. This is fine if it is done as the body tells you its needs and the activity is not used to distract from the self or your feelings.
Too many people stay busy, exhausted, high or drunk or still connected to work even on vacation, so as to not have to feel what is going on inside of themselves. While a true vacation will not solve their underlying problems, it is a beginning for perhaps finding a different relationship with the self. Getting to clarity about what you feel can change your life for the better.
Going to see family is a trip, not a vacation. There are too many agendas and complicated relationships with families for most people to find that kind of visit truly relaxing. I am sure there is the rare family for whom gathering together feels like, and is, a vacation. But for most, it is not.
Again, trips can be wonderful. It is important to experience other cultures, history, play and see the world. Just don't mistake those for a vacation.
Time being alone, time with no agenda, time to stop is the key to remembering yourself. It makes life a lot more livable and can even bring more joy and happiness.