I have seen many articles about how United States workers take less vacation time or time off from work then our European counterparts. Why this is so and what to do about it is for another article. But there seems to be a lot of confusion about the difference between a trip and a vacation.
A trip is when you are going to the Vatican and want 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 when you go somewhere and stop 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 seem to get precious little time off, and they certainly don’t use all the time they are entitled to. Wanting to change the 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. Running around taking it all in, but never resting. Trying so hard to get the most out of the time away and coming back even more depleted.
It takes time for the body to stop, to unwind and begin the process of renewal. In my experience, the real renewal begins at 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 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 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 stop through illness or injury. Even while they are not able to take a real vacation, those who parent face a many-year 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 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. 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 a rare family out there where being back together feels like and is a vacation. But for most, it is not.
gain, trips can be wonderful. It is important to experience other cultures, history, play and see the world. Just don't mistake it 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 joy and happiness.