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I’m recently back from an extended summer vacation, and an unusual one in some regards.
I wanted to talk about it with you briefly, with the goal of encouraging you both to take extended vacations and to make your vacations into true adventures. By this, I mean creating breaks in our routines that are more than holidays, and that become integral, inspiring, and informing aspects of our life.
My summer vacation this year lasted about six weeks, though as I will discuss, its ending point has been somewhat diffuse and I have been feeling “still away” for a few weeks now.
This summer, I backpacked about 900 kilometers, first through California’s Central Sierra mountains and then along the state’s lesser-known Lost Coast, a stretch of coastline simultaneously too rugged and fragile for the coastal highway and thus left unimproved and pristine. You can see photos of the two legs of my trip here and here via Facebook.
Perhaps surprisingly, my long distance trekking was not the unusual part of my vacation, since I typically take long summer wilderness walks. But more expectedly, this trip was indeed an adventure, providing rich experiences and new perspectives, which I think should be the standard for all vacations, whatever the season or locale.
Reflecting on my time away, five simple but I think often overlooked lessons recur, and I would like to share them with you – so you perhaps will have more successful, evocative, and adventurous vacations in the future, whether you choose to spend them walking through mountain ranges or not:
> Rest & Action – we often think of and plan for vacations as times of rest and relaxation. But the reality is that, after a day or two of resting, we often soon naturally crave action during our vacations, or during our time of living away from our regular lives. This action can of course be in the form of diversions or simple tourism. Or it can be much richer and bolder – involving new experiences, volunteering, learning and self-cultivation, reflection and planning, or exploring new fitness and well-being. As suggested, I often think of achieving this richness as transforming vacations into adventures, or into journeys.And I see it as a practice we can bring back to, and use to enrich and even transform, our non-vacationing lives as well.
> Depth & Duration – if our vacations are to achieve the richness and depth of an adventure or journey, they usually must involve a certain duration or amount of time away. Conversely, vacations of an adequate duration will often naturally lead to depth and adventure, especially if we seek or have planned rich actions or experiences. How long vacations must last to achieve depth will vary by person, and with our planned or actual richness of activities. But my experience is that at least two weeks is often essential – one week to fully step out of our regular lives and another to immerse ourselves in learning and adventures.
> Insights & Perspective – for me, the coin or reward of rich vacations, and of new experiences more generally, is an accumulation of meaningful or instructive insights and perspectives, especially ones we might not have, or might struggle to have, otherwise. Over time, our general memories of our vacations and adventures will mellow and blur. But what will remain vivid are our most poignant experiences, including moments of insight and new perspective. This is especially true if we write down our learnings and insights as they occur, and then act on them when we return to regular life and work. On my long summer walk, through a series of insights, I steadily outlined not only my next book, but my next three books. And I gradually came to see how they formed a natural trilogy, if not of scope then at least of effort.
> Life’s True Scale– in addition to specific insights and new perspectives we gain on adventures and rich vacations, another benefit is an expanded sense of the general scale and fullness of life, and of the many different lives and outlooks that others have, and that we might have too. When journeying, we frequently encounter people who live and value very differently than us, and in ways that we may admire or abhor. But this is of course an immersion in reality and our enormous world as it is, and not a reinforcement of the often more narrow and uniform experience that is our regular life – where we are often surrounded by similar people, activities, and expectations, or are otherwise kept from adventure and a journeying sense of life.
> Strange Returning – when we have rich, adventurous, and insightful vacations, one common consequence is that returning to our regular lives and occupations, to the extent we do, is that this process is itself insightful, adventurous, and rich. We succeed at heeding the advice of the psychologist William James, who challenged us to “make the ordinary seem strange” or unfamiliar, and thus more fertile with opportunities for new outlooks, learning, questioning, and change. In my case, I ended this summer’s vacation by relocating to a new part of California, which is the most unusual part of this year’s trip for me. And my returning indeed has been strange and full of new perspectives and learning – so much so that my summer adventure feels only now coming to an end, weeks after my return.
I hope these ideas about vacations and our need for informing adventures and journeys will be helpful to you. And though my return has been unusually long, and my new setting has seemed genuinely strange at times, I have found my way back to a desk and chair, and have begun working again.
After a bit of leftover work from the spring, finishing an extended update to my natural health website, I will be starting my second book later this fall – now the first of a trilogy, thanks to my own rich summer journey and adventure.
Health & best wishes,
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