If you’re anything like me, you dread the post-vacation slump which often shows up bright and early the Monday morning following vacations. It’s no secret vacations can be stressful and often times we set the bar extremely high. We try to cram in a plethora of experiences in a very short space of time. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that we are often left feeling mentally and physically drained in the end. At that point, all the espresso shots and jelly doughnuts in the world aren’t enough to bring us any semblance of mental clarity.
So, what’s the solution to this conundrum? Integrating a sense of mindfulness into your vacation planning can help. This looks like taking time to experience the present moment and expressing gratitude for what and who we have in our lives. Personally, I find it is easier to cultivate this mindset in natural settings, avoiding all the busy noise and rigid planning. In this space, I am much more present in the here-and-now and able to connect to the ones I care most about.
The first step to Mindful Vacationing is to set realistic expectations. We can let go of the notion of having to satisfy everyone else’s whims and desires, including our own. This is what I like to call cultivating a creative flow. By choosing which experiences are most meaningful for us, we release ourselves from the burden of having to check every activity and experience off our list. We can achieve this by bringing our awareness to the experience of the present moment, rather than focusing on what we should be doing, we thereby give ourselves the permission to tap into the unknown possibilities. The creative flow allows us to embrace a sense of flexibility and a non-judgmental outlook concerning how we approach our vacation planning.
Another way to incorporate mindfulness into your vacationing is by bringing awareness to your mornings. This practice involves gently focusing your attention on your body first thing in the morning. As you lay in bed and begin to take your first deep breaths, become aware of sensations in your body and where you feel them. A good reminder to start each morning off with awareness is to place a sticky note on your alarm clock. This helps to set your intention for the day, by bringing your attention back to your body and your somatic experience.
The next exercise is a grounding technique which I think works best in naturalistic settings, as it allows you to connect to the four elements in nature. This summer I plan to practice this Mindfulness technique at one of my favorite vacation destinations, the beautiful Moraine Lake located in Banff National Park in Alberta Canada. What makes this serene glacial lake especially captivating is the distinct shade of turquoise blue it reflects when it reaches peak season in mid to late June. This body of water is situated centrally in what is known as the Valley of Ten Peaks in Banff Park. The view of the lake from the adjacent mountain peaks is appropriately named “Twenty Dollar View.”
- Hiking along the trails with this breath-taking view, I can begin to connect to the element of earth. Removing my shoes and feeling the earth between my toes, can be especially grounding.
- Next, I transition my awareness to the wind, I feel the surrounding air for any perceivable currents, as I begin my own deep breathing. I connect my breath mentally to the breeze I feel around my body, becoming one with the clearing properties of wind.
- Then, I focus my attention on the azure blue lake water in front of me, sensing its calm serene surface, I liken it to stillness and clarity of the mind, as I become a non-judgmental observer of the current thoughts in my head.
- And lastly, I can connect to the element of fire or heat within my body. This is achieved by becoming aware of the sensation of heat from the surrounding environment. This is the element that spurs me to action and initiates drive. Bringing immaterial thought to the material world. I can sit with this feeling and listen to how it is trying to move me.
There are many ways to capture a sense of mindfulness when vacationing. No matter where you find yourself in the world, by remembering to embrace the present moment, keeping your expectations realistic, and taking in the experiences with your senses, you can foster a spirit of gratitude and acceptance. You are then freer to fully connect to yourself and others in ways that create deep and lasting meaning, emerging back into the world refreshed and rejuvenated.