How to make the most of your vacation

You know that moment when you’re “officially” on vacation?

You’ve crossed off the last task on your “get done before vacation” to-do list. Set your email auto-responder. Told everyone, see you in two weeks!

And yet, you can’t seem to get out of work mode.

You think of an email you need to send. Information the client asked for. Maybe you judge yourself for not being able to relax.

The thing is, if you’ve been immersed in work and the stress it generates, you’re likely addicted to the chemical hormones of adrenaline and cortisol. Don’t be surprised if it takes a few days to go through “withdrawal” and get into vacation mode.

Even then, it can be a struggle to stay in the present moment when, most of the time, we’re inadvertently training ourselves not to.

Inhaling our food as we rush down the street. Speed-listening to podcasts. Scrolling through Instagram while binge-watching Netflix.

We keep looking for the new experience and yet, we haven’t developed our capacity to fully appreciate the one we’re currently in. What makes us think it will be different with the next one?

In his book, Savoring, A New Model of Positive Experience, Fred B. Bryant tells about the time he climbed 14,000+ feet to the summit of Snowmass Mountain in Colorado. In addition to taking in the aesthetic grandeur, he embraced his friends and told them how happy he was to share this moment with them. He recalled the back injury that almost ended his climbing career and used the memory to pump up his appreciation of the moment. “The realization that it is here now intensifies my joy,” he thought.

He made a deliberate effort to capture the details of the forest around him, the river below. He noticed how his lungs felt, what he was smelling. And he thought of his late grandfather, who also loved outdoor adventures. All from his stance in the present moment.

Savoring.

  • It’s luxuriating in the feeling of washing off the dirt and sweat after 50 miles of biking.
  • It’s going into a rampage of appreciation over the salad at lunch: “Taste the onion. Have you ever tasted sweeter onions? Mmm, mmm, mmm. Oh, try this tomato…wait a minute, did you see the red cabbage under there? Put onion and tomato and red cabbage in your mouth all at once, mmm, mmm, mmm.”
  • It’s reliving that moment when the waiter — does he look like Al Pacino or Robert Deniro? — said, “Coca Cola, the American champagne…”
  • It’s the warm feeling in your heart when you observe the elderly couple holding hands.

So don’t just go on vacation. Savor it.

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