I just got back from a two week vacation in North Carolina.
And it was the first vacation since we’ve had kids where I had the opportunity to actually vacate real life.
Not for long. A vacation with kids isn’t exactly a vacation.
It’s more of a relocation.
But there were no major catastrophes. Nobody got injured or paralyzed.
I didn’t make one single trip to the hospital.
For the first time while traveling anywhere with the kids, I was able to find some moments here and there to just be.
And in those moments, I tried to really pay attention to what it was that made this vacation a good one.
And here are the lessons I brought back home with me:
1) Less is more.
Stuff weighs us down. Literally and figuratively. I already knew this. But traveling somewhere with the bare necessities really shows you how much crap you have that you truly don’t need. It helps to show you what’s really important. It shows you how stuff does the opposite of what you think it does. It doesn’t really make you happy. It makes you stressed out and pissed off that you have to maintain it.
2) You only need a few cute outfits.
Same philosophy as Number 1. But all I really need (and like) to wear can fit into one duffel bag.
3) Slow down.
It takes me a good five days to adjust to the pace of life down south. It’s much more relaxed.
And if I allowed myself to slow down when I wasn’t on vacation, I probably wouldn’t feel the need to go on vacation 24/7/365.
4) Eat as a family.
Everybody already knows there are countless benefits to this. But it can be so hard to veer off track when the craziness of the school year and sports and the holidays and everything else kicks in. Even if you can only swing it once a week, sit down and eat together.
5) Spend more time outside.
Whether it’s hiking or skiing or going to the beach or wherever, most of the places I want to go on vacation are places where I spend lots of time outside.
That’s because you feel better when you are outside.
Whether you are in the mountains or at a lake or at the beach, fresh air feels good.
6) Walk more.
It’s good for all parts of your body.
Obviously most of us can’t take walks on the beach all the time.
But you can park your car at the back of the parking lot. You can take the stairs instead of the elevator.
You can take your kids on a walk around the block.
It’s important to get off your butt every day.
Restoring balance to your body often means moving more.
7) Take care of your stuff like it belongs to someone else.
We rented a condo when we were away and when you are using things that belongs to other people, you take way better care of them.
At least I do.
And when you do that, you stay on top of stuff.
And when you stay on top of stuff, everything is manageable and nothing gets out of control.
And when nothing gets out of control, I don’t become half as bitchy as I normally do.
I really, really, REALLY need to remember this one.
8) Surround yourself with pretty things.
Wherever it is you go on vacation, it’s usually to someplace more beautiful than where you live.
Because it feels good to be surrounded by stuff that’s pretty.
Most of us can’t afford a house on the beach.
But we can fill a wall with pictures of one.
We can’t stay in a five star hotel every night. Or even a one star hotel.
But we can give ourselves some flowers and keep them on the bedside table.
We can use the nice plates (if we have them).
We can gradually make a couple of little changes to a room and transform it into a place that goes from chaotic to calming.
We don’t have to be in a beach house to do that.
9) Live frugally (so you can do the next thing).
We were able to go on vacation this year because we are making more money than we have in the past. But we we’ve also “made” money by continuing to keep our costs down, even when more money started coming in.
We only have one car. We still don’t have cable. We switched to a much cheaper cell phone carrier. I cut the kids’ hair myself. Most of the kids’ clothes are hand me downs. I meal plan and use coupons when I can. And I barter with other people when possible. Instead of paying someone to watch the cat when we were away, I asked a friend if she’d take care of her in exchange for using the pool whenever
10) Spend money on the things that really bring you joy.
When you tighten the screws on the stuff that really doesn’t improve the quality of your life (for me those are things like cable and a super expensive phone plan), you have more money available to you to do the stuff that really makes you happy. Going on vacation really REALLY makes me happy.
And I fully intend to go on another one next summer.
Until then, I’m going to do my best to remember all these lessons.
Because every day can’t be a vacation.
But every day can have a little bit of vacation in it.