Essays & Confessions

The Unexpected Thing I Learned From Taking My First-Ever Vacation

By | Tuesday, July 31, 2018

I recently went on my first-ever vacation and had an interesting experience that left me contemplating what a slow life looks like and how we can incorporate a vacation mentality (or, what I like to call the power of nothing), into our everyday lives.

Not having been on a vacation before, I honestly did not know what to expect. What was I going to do with seven days on the beach? Would I run out of things to keep myself busy? Would I have enough time to do all the wonderful adventures I was imagining in my mind?

The picture I had in my head for my vacation turned out to be very, very different from reality. With the exception of one full-day excursion, we spent our time camped out on the beach. And, I loved it.

For the first two days, I didn’t do anything. I didn’t read, I didn’t blog, I didn’t catch up on sleep. I just sat on my beach chair and listened to the waves, watched the birds, and let the Caribbean environment wash over me. I know that I write about living a slow, simple, deliberate life. But, it’s not something that actually comes that naturally to me. I normally have an underlying voice of compulsion wanting me to do “something.” Not so on the beach. You couldn’t have paid me to do anything because I genuinely didn’t want to. I just wanted to lean into the nothingness and take advantage of it while I could.

I’ll be honest: It felt weird to not want to do anything. Here I was, in one of the most beautiful places on the planet with lots of outdoor adventure opportunities, and I didn’t want to do any of it. There was a tiny bit of guilt associated with the do nothing decision. I mean, I probably could have just had a staycation at home and done nothing.

And, I’m not going to pretend that unplugging (mostly) and doing nothing fundamentally transformed my life. It didn’t. I still slept a little restlessly, I still woke up tired most days, and I still had the furrow in my brow that’s been there for 2+ years. None of that changed because I hung out on a beach for seven days.

What did change, was that I was okay with doing nothing. I went to bed an hour earlier than I normally would and woke up earlier. I did yoga every morning. I ate balanced meals. I didn’t eat a single meal in front of a television. In total, I probably watched less than an hour of TV a day (which is super low for me).

It didn’t even bother me that I did nothing. It didn’t get under my skin and into my brain the way that it would have a year ago. It wasn’t that I was bored. I wasn’t bored with doing nothing. Boredom implies you want to fill your time with something other than what you’re doing in the present moment. No, I wasn’t bored. I was perfectly content. I was content with the water, and the waves and the birds. When I was out on the beach, I genuinely didn’t need anything else.

The only trouble is, vacation doesn’t last forever. Eventually, we have to go back to our daily lives. So, the question, for me at least, becomes: How do we find a vacation mentality (aka a slow mentality) in our daily lives? How can we embrace the power of nothing?

I refuse to believe that the answer is we can’t. We cannot just get our dose of slowness on a yearly basis all concentrated at once, succumbing to the fast pace of life for the rest of the year (if we even have the option, ability, and luxury of taking a vacation at all).

Part of my view is one of practicality. A daily dose of slowness is likely more accessible than a week-long (or longer) vacation. Don’t get me wrong — there’s nothing wrong with being able to afford vacations. But, we should acknowledge that it is a privilege not afforded to everybody.

On the morning of our departure from St. Lucia, my favorite friend Anxiety reared up its ugly head for the first time all week. The chest-pounding, trouble swallowing and breathing, and racing brain had finally caught up with me. The fact that it came back on the same day I was going back to my real life was not lost on me. There is no way that it was a coincidence.

So, I had a very good reason to find moments of vacation/moments of nothing/moments of slowness in my real life. My post-vacation anxiety is an unwelcome guest taking up residence in my body and brain. And, it needs to go.

Since I’ve been back, I’ve been doing a couple of things to keep my vacation zen (somewhat) intact:

  1. Reducing my consumption of YouTube. I’m limiting myself to one or two shows a day and trying not to watch them in the morning anymore.
  2. Increasing my consumption of blog posts by awesome creators, and commenting on said posts.
  3. Decreasing my consumption of Netflix. I’m also limiting myself to one or two episodes a night. No more binge-watching.
  4. No watching TV while eating dinner with Mr. Tiny Ambitions.
  5. Going to bed 15 minutes to one hour earlier.

The Power of Nothing 

Little by little, I think these changes are making a difference. I’ve been sleeping more soundly through the night, and I feel less tired and frazzled during the day. I don’t know how long I’ll be able to keep up with all of these habit changes. And, I don’t want to pretend like I’m magically a changed person. I don’t think that’s how change works.

What my unplugged time away has shown me is how much I need that time. And, how much I need to prioritize and make space for it in my daily life when it’s not all gorgeous sunsets and time spent on the beach.

My vacation showed me how much I need and like slow-paced life — which might have been the most interesting realization of the whole trip.

Tiny Ambitions is the online space where blogger Britt shares her tiny, but wonderful, life. Britt is a minimalist, a simple living advocate, and a tiny house enthusiast.

Image via Unsplash

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