We travel not to escape life but for life not to escape us.
In my humble opinion, going on vacation looks a lot like a bell curve. There is all the preparation, anticipation, and even stress that goes into getting ready for the big trip. Wrapping up work projects, cleaning the house so you don’t come home to a giant mess, making sure you have all your travel reservations taken care of, double-checking a packing list and somehow still worrying about inevitably forgetting something.
There’s all this build up to the peak of that curve. And then you are at the peak, the crescendo, the great bliss of vacation. Of no responsibilities, of no alarm clocks, of no meetings, of no adult responsibilities that sound like: “I have to go grocery shopping,” “I have to go to the gym,” “I have to pay my Comcast bill.” You are in almost every way vacating your current life for an adventure that you are writing in real time.
It is a well-known fact that the United States doesn’t have the greatest vacation policy for most employees. My mother, a fiercely proud French woman, was aghast when she first learned of the policy here.
“What do you mean I have two weeks for the first two years?!”
After all, she hailed from a country that started you out at 6 weeks minimum. Not to mention a country that as of most recently, legalized a law that just made it illegal for your boss to contact you after-hours. The French (and I know many other cultures) never lived to work, they worked to live. So, vacation was precious to me once I learned how hard it was to accrue and how quickly it can go away.
I just returned from vacation and I was riding the bell-curve-bliss pretty hard. I had driven through some of the most scenic states on the East Coast; seen majestic and mysterious animals that we still to this day know so little about; and made it to a country where French was spoken but I didn’t get on a plane. In every way, this vacation was magical–like so many others
As I drove back closer and closer to home, I realized that something was happening to not only me, but my S.O. as well. The closer we inched back home, the more tense we physically became, the more on edge we talked to each other, the more frustrated we got with tiny things. The closer we got to home, the less mindful we became of our actions. The closer we got to home, we started to come down that bell curve at an alarming speed. Careening back down to reality and to all the responsibilities of LIFE.
We came crashing down hard. Our conversations changed from awe and “look, how beautiful!” to “I really don’t want to go to work tomorrow,” and “I’m so worried about what to do about x, y, and z.” Because as quickly as we vacated our lives, we had to go back.
I felt my shoulders and jaw muscles tense. My brow furrow. My breathing become shallow and quick. All the cars, the noise, overwhelming and overstimulating. And, I looked at him and said: “We have completely lost being in the moment, our vacation isn’t even finished yet, and we’re already dreading tomorrow and the next day–hell, even the next week!”
How does one capture and bottle that feeling of bell-curve-bliss in everyday life?
What is so awe-inspiring is not the scenery or the amazing adventure of a vacation, but it is truly living from moment to moment. That, above anything, is the foundation of mindful living.
So I challenge us to try and remember that feeling of living moment to moment. Opening our eyes and taking in the beauty that is around us, even if it is driving to work every day, or picking fruit at the grocery store, or the simple satisfaction of taking a deep breath once a day.
Until the next vacation!