Why You Need to Schedule a Vacation Before You Know You Need a Vacation

As you may have guessed, I am currently on vacation and have had an epiphany about vacations. I am a very goal-oriented, motivated person who rarely takes “down time.” I like to go to bed at night thinking about how productive I was that day. I would not say I live a highly stressful life, but I am always thinking, always working on something, always trying to meet some goal I’ve set for myself. I am also very much a planner and I love to travel. I booked this beach vacation 7 months ago. It gives the whole family something to look forward to all winter and spring. But between booking the vacation and being on vacation were 7 months worth of to do lists. Seven months of paying bills, volunteer events, school functions, work responsibilities, soccer practices, homework, graduate studies, swim lessons, workouts, meal planning, and much, much more. And I really enjoy all of it, well most of it. I enjoy knowing I get things done; I meet goals.

So a very unsettling thing happened the first night of this vacation. I didn’t go to bed thinking about what I’d accomplished that day. Instead I went to bed thinking about the unhealthy carbs and sugar I’d eaten that day and worrying that I was undoing all of the healthy eating and working out I’d done the past few months. I was almost anxious thinking about our favorite pizza place here on the island and the certainty that we would go there the next day.

Day 2 of our vacation, another unsettling thing happened. After taking a long walk on the beach with the family and then buying groceries for the week, I decided to take a book and get some sun. After about 30 minutes, I had this anxious thought of being horribly unproductive. Hmmmm…what’s going on here?

Rather than continue to push down these anxiety-producing thoughts, I decided to face them. I asked myself what I was really worrying about and what the worst case scenario was if I ate whatever I wanted for a week or was not at all productive for a week. Turns out the worst case scenario for either was not that bad. That’s when it occurred to me that the time in between vacations is absolutely necessary to building the life you want; you do have to plan, take care of business, meet goals, and be productive. But it’s also the time you lose perspective.

I think vacations are like hydration. I’ve learned from running that by the time you feel thirsty, you’re already dehydrated. If you haven’t planned ahead and brought water with you, you are going to have a rough road back. This is why I say schedule the vacation before you think you need the vacation. To continue my comparison, I was dehydrated and didn’t know it. Worrying about eating carbs and relaxing with a book were signs that I needed this vacation, needed to rehydrate. I needed to get perspective on the really important things that make life so awesome.

So after reading for awhile, I went and did a wine tasting, and then I hung out with my husband watching the US Open and World Cup soccer. I joined the family in devouring a large pizza and then I sat by the pool reading some more and listening to the kids play. And guess what? I went to bed blissfully happy with my “unproductive” day.

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