Lisa Miller: It Turns out that Vacation is not Just a State in Mexico

I’ve been lulled to sleep for two nights by the constant thrum of the sea meeting shoreline outside my cabana. This morning when my daughter Abby awoke after 11 hours of sleep, she said, “How is it only 6:30am?”

Welcome to vacation where time expands!

I think that “vacation” is misunderstood.  There is typically no more obvious time in life when we are more present, aware, and happy.  It’s here, away from the rigors of usual demands  (and ironically the reliable comforts of home) that we come home to ourselves–act in accordance with the natural rhythm of our internal needs and desires.

Vacation implies that everything is left behind:  work, school, bills, responsibilities, relationships, routine.  But, is all that stuff really the everything of our lives, or is it just the stuff we’re in the habit of thinking of as everything?

Lisa and AbbyAbby is nearly 17, a junior in high school and feeling the pressure of looming AP finals, end of year exams, and ACT testing (dinosaurs, the ACT is the new SAT).  So stressed and controlled by these things, she believed she didn’t have “enough time” for spring break this year.

So one of us kept a clear head and here we are.  We’re just over two days into our beachside vacation and she has easily retained more study knowledge than she usually manages (painfully) in three days.  And, she’s most definitely taking breaks to sun herself, swim, shop, swing in the hammock, walk along the beach,  eat, read fiction, and nap.

This excursion to Mexico with said previously stressed teenager was actually a little experiment in faith, for me.  I knew in my heart that if she could study at home, she could do so here while drinking from a coconut and looking at the water each time she lifts her head.  I wanted her to experience this combination of daily integrated, rest/play/work, because this stress-less integration is what I want for her for the rest of her life.

Glad I kept the faith, so far so good.

It turns out that the brain functions best under circumstances of relaxation. And here’s the real truth: we don’t need a Mexico retreat to get there–we’re already there.  As humans we’re designed to live harmoniously with nature and to thrive when nourished by it.  Wherever we are in the world, we’re surrounded by nature, we just might tend to take for granted its soothing qualities and forget to rely on them.

One step further, humans are designed with the ability to relax and integrate all the aspects of rest/play/work no matter what the environment.  I used to complain to a mentor that I couldn’t meditate at home because of too many distractions and too few gurus.  Baloney, at home we have more control and input in designing the environment that most nourishes our individual needs.  And by the way, Gurus are accessible by YouTube these days.

Many of us live to abide by external expectations that deride internal wisdom about what and how to live our lives.  Who’s in control?  With only external expectations as a guide, we will never live the lives we want for ourselves.

What I’m noticing about my kid’s experience here is that she is more present than ever, and not at all vacant.   On vacation, integration happens and time expands because we let it; we can certainly do this at home too.

What if we all come home to ourselves in the routines of daily life?

We’d all be much happier with ourselves, and much better company at the office, that’s for sure.



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