Last week, Jacob and I went on our honeymoon. It was an amazing trip, truly a dream come true. A few months before we got married, we started thinking about where we’d like to go, and I had this vision of a cottage in the Austrian Alps. I pictured a cozy, wooden house with flowers on the balcony, cuddled up in a valley between two mountains. Green grass in the valley, white snow on the mountains, and blue sky above.
And this was exactly what we got. Everything was wonderful, and we managed to enjoy it thoroughly. But how did we do that?
Sometimes when we go on vacation, we have trouble letting go and relaxing. We keep thinking about work, about unfinished business in the office or at home, or about something that is stressing us out. This time, we could have also slipped into that trap. I could have thought, “Will I have enough time to finish editing my paper? When will I start my new experiment? I have so much work to do!” Jacob could have worried about how his practice is doing or about the content he needs to write for his website. There are always plenty of things to worry about.
This is what we did to get our peace of mind.
I didn’t check my work email or Slack. Not even once. Woohoo! I knew that if I checked them, I’d be sucked in, and I’d feel as though I urgently had to respond to a request or a question. Fortunately, my job has very few urgent things in general, so even when I did check my email the following Monday, there was absolutely nothing urgent. How nice!
Now, Jacob’s situation is different. He works with patients, and he needs to be somewhat accessible in case someone needs a timely response, so he couldn’t not open email. What he did was that he only checked his phone (email, messages, etc.) twice a day: once in the morning and once in the evening. If somebody required an immediate response, he answered briefly, giving them the information they needed but also letting them know that he would provide a thorough response as soon as he got back.
We even took a break off of social media. That was quite nice because being more disconnected from the world in general made us more connected to the present experience, to the wilderness, and to each other. We even told each other stories from our lives that had never come up before! Who knew there were any stories left untold! (Let’s check again in 20 years…)
Find other engaging things to do
I know for myself that if I’m doing nothing all day, my mind wanders to some unpleasant things, and then I start worrying. If my mind is left to its own devices, it would probably drift back to what it’s used to thinking about: work and questions about the future. To avoid that, I need to give my mind something engaging to think about.
Since we were in the mountains, we went hiking every day. There were many routes we could take and many places we could visit. So, each evening we checked the weather for the following day, the available routes, the open lodges/huts, the difficulty and length of the routes, etc. We also took into account how tired we were from the day’s hike and decided on which route to do. It was a lot of fun, and we did many cool routes.
In the morning, we’d get up, have a delicious breakfast (my absolutely favorite meal of the day!!!), and head out for the day’s hike. It was exciting to do a new route each day and reach a different hut.
Also, once we arrived and wanted to have lunch, we had to figure out what the Austrian names for the different dishes actually meant. On the first few days, we had some surprising food experiences (such as ham-and-cheese salad which is not a salad at all!), but that also kept things interesting. In the end, we found some truly delicious soups, such as frittata soup and bacon-noodle soup. And, naturally, we had lots and lots of sauerkraut.
I also did quite a bit of reading. In the afternoons after we came back from hiking, we went to the spa area to relax properly. My favorite part was the relax zone, a quiet area with big, tall windows, letting the sunlight in and allowing a gorgeous view of the snowy mountains. There were these wooden swing lounging chairs (that’s my best attempt at an explanation) where you could lie, enjoy the sun and the view, and read. Also, I was reading a very exciting novel, so I didn’t want to leave at all. That was my favorite part of the day.
I think this is the key to why I managed to relax and let go on this holiday: I took steps to (1) disconnect from my everyday world and (2) actively engage with the world around me at that moment. And it worked! So much so that we didn’t want to leave… One more honeymoon, maybe? Hmm.
How do you relax when you’re on vacation? Or do you find it difficult to stop thinking about your regular life? Let me know by commenting below or on Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn.