Vacation … All I Ever Wanted

In just four months’ time, I’ve had the pleasure of enjoying two different getaways. This winter, I went out of the country with a friend for 5 days. Recently, another friend and I headed 3 hours north for a couple days. While both were very different in terms of culture and environment, they each had a profoundly positive effect that will last long into the future.

Experts agree that vacations are not only fun, but are a powerful way to help us “gain insights, appreciate the present moment and return to ‘real life’ with a renewed sense of excitement.”

However, despite intrinsically knowing the benefits of time off, Americans are notorious for foregoing vacation time. According to a national survey of 1,000 adults by Los Angeles-based Kelton Research, 48 percent of adults passed up on using at least half of their vacation time in 2011, despite being given an average of 18 vacation days a year. Participants cited heavy workloads as the main reason for not vacationing. (Isn’t that precisely when you need a vacation the most?)

In January, a girlfriend and I went to The Bahamas. Our sole purpose was to relax and unwind on the beach and drink as many rum-laden cocktails as we wanted, without any kids or husbands to harsh our mellow. With no one to answer to but ourselves, we successfully accomplished that goal. In between rounds and nothing more strenuous than flipping over on our lounge chairs, we ventured out among the locals and tourists, taking in the culture and enjoying the scenery on a daily stroll down the beach.

One thing that was glaringly apparent on this trip was that as women from the most homogeneous area of U.S., we lead very sheltered lives. Being in the minority in a foreign country was both intimidating and exhilarating. We agreed as parents that it behooves us to expose our children to different cultures and ways of life as much as possible, starting at an early age. As residents of a small Midwestern town, they’re rarely exposed to all the good (and not so good) things that exist outside of such a sheltered universe.

Getting out of your comfort zone and into a different environment helps you gain a new perspective on your everyday life. This trip definitely reinforced that for me. The things that I had been mulling over for the past few months around career and marriage were brought into sharper focus. When I returned home, I felt more purposeful about the steps I needed to take to realize the changes I wanted to happen. Creatively, I was also given a wealth of new topics that I wanted to research and eventually write about.

My most recent mini vacation affected me in different ways. The Northwoods of Wisconsin area is breathtakingly beautiful and we were blessed with great weather, which made it even easier to appreciate. Unplugged from the daily grind and commitments, it was the respite that I hadn’t realized I so desperately needed after a few stressful weeks. My shoulders unclenched, my breathing deeper, I luxuriated in the feeling of just being present, mindful of my surroundings and the good fortune I had to experience it. While I didn’t want it to end, I returned home content, happy and looking forward to the next adventure.

So what are your thoughts about getting away? Do you have a pile of unused vacation days? What prevents you from taking them? Have a favorite destination that really helps you get away from it all? Let me know what you think.

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