By Robyn Beckman
I am only a few days away from taking a vacation during COVID. My last vacation was Thanksgiving weekend and I started a new job the day after I returned from it. I was laid off from that job on March 12th. I feel fortunate and grateful that I even get to take vacations, let alone go somewhere! I started a new part-time job this week; four days before leaving for vacation – so that adds to the excitement!
My husband and I decided in April to see if we could get a reservation at the Crater Lake lodge for my birthday in August. We certainly didn’t think COVID would be going on this long and at that point, so many people were calling and cancelling their reservation that we were able to get a room in the lodge! So, we planned out a trip to Oregon to spend a couple of nights at Crater Lake (we’ve never been and try to visit a national park every year) and then head to the Oregon coast and work our way up to home in the Puget Sound.
Even though we both have some tripidations (yes, I misspelled that on purpose), we researched the best way to travel and stay safe and feel more comfortable and excited about the trip than we did even a few days ago.
Have you ever returned from a vacation and felt like you needed a vacation to recover from the vacation? Or, that the benefits that you reaped from taking time off seem to have worn off within just a few hours of returning home or to work? Me too! So, here are a few tips of bringing mindfulness to your vacation that might help get the most out of that hard-earned vacation you so much deserve!!!!
- Create space in every day for “unstructured” time.
Of COURSE, there are so many things to do and see! But, if you can build in time or practice taking time throughout your day to just let go of the “To Do” list and take a few deep, relaxing breaths and bring your awareness to your surroundings, notice what your senses are experiencing (sight, sound, smells, taste, touch) this will enhance not only the present moment that you are in – but also make it more memorable when you return home. Make sure you don’t plan your schedule so tight that you don’t have flexibility and time to just sit back and relax, observe your surroundings and give your body and mind a rest.
- Consider changing your digital habits while on vacation.
I’ve found that just turning my phone OFF (or at least putting it in Airplane Mode) as much as possible, opens my eyes and awareness to the sights, sounds, smells and textures of BEING on vacation and it helps me transition into “being” and “experiencing” mode from always “doing” mode. Really make a point to disconnect from those tethers and “arrive” and “remain” on vacation as much as possible. Leave your phone or tablet in another room. Read a book or a magazine instead. Notice when the temptation to engage with your device arises and invite yourself to just notice the urge and allow it to pass. It will 😊
- Bring your meditation and/or yoga practice with you on vacation.
It can definitely be a shortened version of your normal practice. I know this is not easy. Especially if you are staying in a hotel room with others. I struggle to find a way to meditate on vacation but I also know that if I don’t find a way – after a few days, my patience is thinner, I am more easily triggered, I am not as aware and present of what is actually going on and my enjoyment may be dampened. My husband begins to notice it too and he usually will ask “how long has it been since you last meditated?” (sort of like a priest asking you how long it’s been since your last confession, I suppose 😉 Often, I will find a park bench or somewhere safe outdoors and close my eyes and just pay attention to sounds and my breath for 10 minutes and it helps tremendously! It feels like I’ve hit the “Reset” button and I feel so refreshed. I also always bring noise cancelling headphones with me and sometimes will close my eyes and listen to a guided meditation on my phone (using an APP like Headspace, Insight Timer or Calm) while my husband is driving or taking a shower.
- Handle Challenges and Difficulties with a Light Touch
Vacations are short-term. And there will be challenging situations that arise during them. I offer you the invitation to check in with yourself when you notice that you are experiencing difficult emotions and see if you can hold these emotions lightly or a little more loosely. In other words, practice being patient and extending compassion to yourself and others during the difficult moments.
NOTE: I wrote most of this article before leaving on vacation but needed to come back and proofread it and finish it on the trip to get it in by deadline. I am now on the first evening of vacation and we are in Seaside, Oregon. The first thing I noticed upon arrival – It is crowded here! I have never seen the beaches down here crowded like this. Plus, it’s noisy – not quite the picture I had in mind when I was envisioning taking strolls on the beach. I had a few moments of anxiety and disappointment as I reacted to this reality of crowds. Agitation was escalating and my body was reacting with Fight/Flee/Freeze symptoms, which cranked up the narrative about “I knew we should have/haven’t”, etc. So, I paused, sensed into my feet (to help in grounding myself in the present moment) and realized that we have options. If I hadn’t brought mindfulness into that moment of anxiety – I would probably have fallen into my old habits of being consumed with negative thinking and let it ruin my day (and possibly even the entire trip). After a short walk on a less crowded street to stretch out our legs, we got back in the car and drove south and had a bite to eat (outside) and returned to the beach at sunset and it was beautiful and we had a lot of space on the beach to linger and savor (see next paragraph).
- Savor the Good Moments
You can also practice noticing when you are having pleasurable experiences, feeling good and enjoying yourself. Bringing mindfulness to these moments enhances them – because you NOTICE and are present to the fact that you are enjoying them! You can even savor and linger in the wonderful moments for a bit longer than you might have if you hadn’t paid attention. “How do I do that?”, you might ask. By smelling your food before eating it, being fully present when chewing your food and noticing what it tastes like. Smelling the air as you take a walk, feeling the cold beverage in your hand and mouth, feeling the warmth of the sun on your skin or the cool breeze, noticing how good your feet feel when you walk on the sand or take your shoes off after walking all day. Noticing the colors and shapes of things throughout your day. Noticing what is different than how things are when you are at home, doing your daily rituals, feeling the water on your body from the shower, noticing how the shampoo and conditioner smell and how they feel in your hair. Noticing how YOU feel in your body, in this different space you are occupying. These are just some examples but remembering to tune in and be mindful of what’s happening AS IT IS HAPPENING does help in enriching your moment-to-moment experiences throughout the day. We experience life through our senses – not through our conceptual thoughts about the experiences (e.g. feeling the sand under your bare feet is not the same as thinking about it!