Society has gotten to the place where we all seem to follow a school calendar somewhat, regardless of whether we even have kids in school! We all tend to think about vacations, but let me ask you… When was your last real vacation?
The purpose of a vacation is to have the time to rest. But many of us, even when we go on vacation, don't know how to rest. We may even come back more tired than before we left.Nhat Hanh
I know there are many different definitions , of what a vacation looks like, but for the next few minutes, let me define it as taking more than just a long weekend, going to someplace you may have never been before, (with only those you want to go with) and not for reasons of duty or imposed guilt. (Those who have family members in different parts of the country or world know what I mean by that last piece!)
Our brains need rest and our bodies need rest. Sometimes rest means shutting down, relaxing and not doing a thing; just turn off the brain (not necessarily an easy task for everyone, by the way) and “veg” on the beach or something like that. Other times though, it matters more to be active – both mentally and physically - but being active in ways that are entirely different from your typical routine. Think about it, if you want to get your mind off of things that are causing you stress, is it better sit still and think (but not about your stresses!) or to get your mind on something totally off base from your typical comfort zone?
This is all top of mind after just coming back from a few days away with my wife. And it’s one of those times where I guess I should state publically that, she was right and I was, well… not as right. We had been planning for a while to go away on a “real” vacation. I wanted to go to the beach… Just hang out, read a book or two, and just enjoy nature and “do nothing”. She wanted a more “active” vacation. Somewhere that we could learn some history… get a lot of exercise, and be outdoors. (We did agree on that last part!)
We agreed that we would take her approach… And I couldn’t have been happier that we did. I enjoyed it far more than I thought I would. When I think about why that’s the case, a number of things come to mind; all of them important if our objective is to recharge our mind and body. Here are just a few…
1. I used my brain, yes, but on things that I hardly ever use my brain for. Math, research, consulting skills… none of those things really mattered as I was learning more about our nation’s history. It was refreshing to think about something different. (Did you know that Robert E. Lee’s wife’s great-grandmother was Martha Washington? I didn’t!)
2. Getting out of my comfort zone. Going somewhere I’ve never been required that I would be staying at, eating at and visiting places that were all new to me. There were all kinds of new stimuli entering my brain that it had to process.
3. Getting exercise in different ways. Sure, I could’ve gone to the gym in the hotel or gone for a run in the morning like I would typically do, but where’s the “vacation” in that? Instead, walking around old battlefields, along river fronts and around town to “explore” is something I can’t do every day.
Sometimes you just need to hit the proverbial “reset button” and do something different. Getting out of our ordinary routine forces our brains to deal with things it hasn’t had to before. It’s almost like it mixes things around in there so that when we return to our normal situations, we have different thoughts about what we’ve been facing. New ideas… New approaches… New ways to deal with the stresses that we may have been trying to escape. All and all, I think we come back much healthier, mentally and physically. And with a bunch of new memories as a bonus!
~ Bud Sanders