Vacation Mind

2015-09-03-19.32.111-300x169“We’re on vacation!” my father would shout, whenever he made a choice to spend money on a normally extravagant purchase. Whether or not we were actually on vacation, his pronouncement would signify that financial caution was being thrown to the wind in service of whimsy and pure fun. Doors opened wide and anything seemed possible in those moments.

I inherited my father’s sense of vacation-induced freedom. On a recent trip to Portland, I watched myself not only making unusual purchases, but also engaging in activities that I might not otherwise entertain. I got up early my first day to go hiking by myself in the rain. I bought food from food carts. I drove 2 hours to spend one night at Breitenbush Hot Springs. I bought a chocolate blackberry tart at a famous bakery. I chased sunsets. Although I also kept up with my work schedule, my mindset was definitely one of being on vacation.

Beginner’s Mind

When I returned home to Madison, I kept my sense of adventure with me. While I certainly won’t do this every day, I bought a treat from a well-known bakery a few blocks from my house that I had never before patronized. I tried out a restaurant I’ve been wanting to go to for many months, and that I have passed by literally hundreds of times in the last 7 years. It’s like I came back home with a “beginner’s mind,” ready to discover the new in the familiar of my life.

Wherever You Go

One of the items welcoming me home was a children’s book by Pat Zietlow Miller, Wherever You Go. The story, wondrously illustrated by Eliza Wheeler, is replete with metaphor as it examines the comings and goings of roads. Literal roads, like the roads we follow in life, can take us pretty much anywhere, allowing us to explore and connect in adventurous ways. They allow us to take a vacation from the routines we fall into in our daily lives. And then, for those of us lucky to have one, roads take us home.

I find myself wondering: Why should coming back to “where the heart is,” mean we no longer take opportunities to zig and zag? To cross bridges, climb mountains, and chase clouds? Yet this is often how we experience home.

Adventures at Home

As I was showing pictures of my Portland trip to some of my yoga friends, while quietly drinking tea at my favorite studio in Madison, they marveled at the beautiful sunsets I had captured on my smartphone. They were oohing and aahing over the last sunset image when I pointed out the caption: “Sunset over Lake Mendota.”

That picture was from before my trip. Lake Mendota is right here where I started, in Madison, Wisconsin.

To be sure, I don’t have to go far to create life adventures. And the next time I see the colors of the sunset brimming, I will gleefully shout “I’m on vacation!” and go chase after them.


  1. Very inspiring but its easier said than done. Actually, for those of us who work from home, we have a different problem. We sometimes need to remind ourselves that we are not on vacation. Vacation for those who work from a home office is occasionally going to a work-related meeting.

    But that issue aside, there’s the obvious other dimension of our modern culture that continually fights our desire to have a “vacation mind” as you suggest. No matter what we’re doing, including actually being on vacation, technology keeps many of us unable to disconnect from our non-vacation mindset. Smartphones are wonderful devices, but even if you didn’t turn yours on when you were in Portland, more than likely others nearby had one eye on theirs, which tended to kill the vacation mindset for everyone in the vicinity. At least that often kills mine.

    But you’ve inspired me to try a bit harder. It’s sunny and 82 degrees out, and lunch time. As soon as I post this comment, I’ll going to take your advice, put my computer to sleep, and take a walk. Thanks!!

    • Indeed, disconnecting from cell phones is one way to be “on vacation” and it’s not practical when home and working. I only did that for 1 day on my vacation! But trying a new restaurant or a new yoga class, walking into a store I haven’t checked out before, or even scanning the postings on the community bulletin board for fun stuff to do in town are all ways that I can get out of my routine!

      And taking a walk in the sun is a good way to celebrate life for sure!

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