Like I said in my post last week, Thom and I are spending the month at the beach. Our primary excuse is to escape the heat of our desert home. But frankly, what we really needed is an experience away from the habits and routines of daily life. And because this works so well for us, I feel fairly confident that it just might be what we all need now and then to really appreciate the life we have created. Don’t believe me? How about I give you a few reasons why we find it so beneficial and you can then decide for yourself?
- Even if there is work to do, it can still feel like a vacation. Nearly 25 years ago my husband Thom and I first started getting out of town for a month each summer. Truth be told, we did it because we really couldn’t afford to go on a month-long vacation. Instead, we found it was fairly inexpensive to rent a home in the nearby mountains for 30 days. Surprisingly, we discovered that just being in a different home, even though we were still working, felt like a well-needed vacation. Besides, who says there is only one way to define a vacation? As long as the experience provides a much-needed break to a busy or routine life, chances are good it will renew and refresh in exactly the right way.
- It’s healthy to notice new things that spark our curiosity. A couple of weeks ago I shared the work of Prof. Ellen Langer who insists that the best way to stay healthy and alert is to “notice new things.” Because we don’t live here at the beach, just about everything is a new experience. The temperature is dramatically different. The neighbors are new and interesting. Even going to the grocery store is an adventure. Everywhere we look our brains are tweaked by something new and interesting to observe.
- Individual days feel unique and special. Whenever any of us travel it requires us to stay more conscious and aware because we can’t rely on habit to carry us through the day. This is good. When you go somewhere for a month it offers that same uniqueness, which provides the potential to make things special—and special is what gives our lives luster and vibrancy.
- It spices up our exercise routines. Thom and I both like to stay healthy, but after walking day-after-day in my neighborhood with our dog Kloe, it can become routine. Instead, here at the beach we walk barefooted along the water and let the surf lap at our feet. We also ride our bikes to the weekly farmer’s market and explore new neighborhoods at will. Activity like this doesn’t feel like exercise—it just feels like fun. And isn’t that the best way to exercise?
- It gets us away from our “stuff” and reminds us we don’t need as much as we think we do. Because we know we will be gone for a month, we do pack a few essentials. I’m partial to my desktop computer and we also take our laptops. When given a choice, I include my pillow, a couple of bathroom items, and our two bicycles. But besides our dog Kloe and her crate, we mostly make due with what we can find in our rental. The big takeaway is always a clear perspective on how little we really need to make us happy.
- We make the time to enjoy and experience local events as much as possible. Every Saturday a free concert is hosted by the city next to the marina. Sitting on lawn chairs with the cool coastal breeze, sharing a bottle of wine and snacks, watching the boats float by, and listening to good rock and roll feels like the most gratifying thing possible. Instead of taking local events for granted, the novelty of community events feels special and easy to attend.
- The amount of money you spend matters less than the novelty and enjoyment you experience. Like I said earlier, when Thom and I first started renting homes during the summer we did it because it was an inexpensive alternative. At the time, Thom needed to be in the office most days of the week. Yet even the hour-long commute to get to cooler mountain air felt worthwhile. We still worked, but because it was in a temporary location, it felt like a vacation and it cost far less than most shorter vacations.
- It’s good for your relationship. I’m fortunate to have a really good relationship. This fall Thom and I will celebrate our 40th wedding anniversary. But although we navigated a few road-bumps along the way, one thing I know for sure is that it keeps getting better and better because we never let ourselves grow complacent with each other. A key to a constantly growing relationship is doing new and different things together, while learning about life and yourself as you go.
- It shows you that you have more choices about your life than you normally realize. This summer is the seventh year spending a month at the beach. But this is only the 2nd year at this particular home. Our first two summer-months at the beach we stayed in townhouse in Carlsbad, CA on a lagoon. The next two we lived in an oceanfront condo just south of Rosarito, Mexico. After that, we decided we wanted a place we could enjoy our bicycles—and we’ve found it here on Silverstrand Beach. But who knows where we might go next? Being open and flexible to finding new places reminds us that we all get to choose where we live, where we vacation, and what is most important to us. Sure, tradeoffs are required, but the vast majority of the time we are only stuck by failure of our imagination.
- It helps you to appreciate your life and what you have waiting back home. Because we travel fairly light when we stay in other homes for a month, there is something special about returning to the life you have back home when the time comes. As you might have guessed, Thom and I do not live extravagantly, yet because we rightsized we have included a number of things that add a richness to our lives. These are particularly appreciated when we leave them for 30+ days a year. In the end, I’m convinced we don’t need more “stuff” to make us happy, we just need the ability to appreciate what we have.
I know some people argue for extenuating circumstances that keep them close to home and can’t imagine taking 30 days off. But as I said above, much of the time we are captured more by our limited imagination than circumstances themselves. Plus, while I believe it is important to fulfill my responsibilities, I also believe like Voltaire that, “God gave us the gift of life; it is up to us to give ourselves the gift of living well.” I believe that breaks and time away are important for a happy life. Besides that, it is always SMART to remember that no person ever said on her deathbed, “I wish I hadn’t taken so many vacations!”