I recently returned from a two-week vacation—the longest I've ever been away from a job since I entered full-time employment—the primary goal of which was to take time and space to decompress, rest, and revitalize my over-stimulated self. Since I've returned to New York and my familiar routines (a re-entry that started off, and continues to be, a little rough), I've been preoccupied with finding a way to hold on to the unplugged and uninhibited 'vacation version' of me. And then it hit me: the real reasons I felt so great were totally achievable outside of an extensive two-week break. In fact, I'm going to go so far and say that you can get that vacation high in one day. Am I crazy? Maybe. But here's how I think you can do it:
Not all of us have the time, flexibility, or resources to take an extended vacation, but you can reap the benefits of time away (rest, relaxation, entertainment, new experiences) by following a super-powered one-day vacation plan. Think of it like taking a multi-vitamin: it may not be as as good as the original (getting your vitamins by actually eating real fruits and vegetables), but it's still a nutritional powerhouse that's also convenient and affordable.
How To Condense a Two-Week Vacation Into a Single Day
1. Set Aside One Day That Is Totally Open.
No work, no plans, no schedule. Maybe you decide to take next Wednesday off, or you pick a free Saturday next month. Just pick a day where you have nothing planned: no doctor's appointments, no chores, no dinner parties. Just a gloriously empty day full of potential. (Does that freak you out? Some people hate having empty days on their calendar. I think that's the greatest gift of all.)
2. Take a Media Fast.
Since I work online all day, one of the main things I tried to do on my vacation (with some success) was unplug and go offline. Now, I don't think there's anything inherently wrong with media—goodness knows I love the tech in my life! And likewise, you're probably thinking, "Woh.. Slow down, Nellie. That's how I relax! I watch movies, I read blogs, I shop online. Why do I need to give it up?" As Maxwell wrote in The Eight-Step Home Cure, media is ubiquitious, and if you give yourself a chance to live without it, you will "inevitably find yourself with time that is unfilled and now yours to spend in new ways." And since the point of a vacation of any length of time is to get away from daily life, that means getting away from our regular, daily routines. You have all the time in the world to watch movies on Netflix or check Facebook. You only have one day to do something special, something different, that'll make you feel like you've had a real break.
Hey, Maxwell wrote the book, and it's even hard for him, as seen in this video he took for the Fall 2010 20/20 Home Cure:
3. Decide What Kind of Vacation Person You Are.
There are two types of vacation people: those who prefer doing something (sightseeing, hiking, snorkeling, shopping) and those who prefer doing nothing (lying on a beach, reading, vegging). For your one-day vacation, decide which of these two areas sounds more appealing, and tailor your day around that.
For active people: Make a list of all the things in your area you've wanted to visit, see, or do but haven't gotten around to, and pick one. (I've lived in New York for six years, and I'll only be here for another two. I'm now realizing that time is running out, and there are still a ton of New York-ey things I've yet to experience—certain museums, restaurants, concerts, theater, interesting historical or cultural sites— so I'm making a list and plan to knock them out one by one so that I don't regret anything when I finally leave.) Explore your city on two wheels or go on a foraging expedition. Take a class to cultivate your DIY skills. Go hiking. Get outside.
For relaxers: Are you someone who is looking to escape an active life? Then plan a restful day. Have a leisurely breakfast, curl up in a corner with a good book. Get a massage. Bake some cookies. Write in a journal. Sit outside in the sun with a cool glass of iced tea. Listen to music.
4. Treat Yourself Throughout the Day.
One of the fun things about vacation is the sense that you are free to indulge a little. You can do that on a micro level as well. Buy fresh flowers for your dining room table. Drink some wine. Take a bath. Savor some ice cream. Eat out at a nice restaurant. Have a date night with your significant other. NO GUILT ALLOWED.
But whatever you do make sure of one thing...
5. Only Do The Things You Really Want To Do.
Read: Don't Do Anything Merely Out Of Obligation.
This was the key to my vacation, I discovered. I went away with a list of things I thought I needed to accomplish, because I'd have this expanse of time and I needed to "use it wisely." I realized, though, that this list was stressing me out. It was staring me in the face, and the more I thought about the things I "needed to be doing" the more my vacation was feeling like my regular ol' life! It was only when I let go of those expectations and focused on the things I truly wanted to do that I began to relax and enjoy myself.
This is not the time to catch up on your chores, to answer all your emails, to weed the garden. Ask yourself this question: do I feel happiest doing this thing right now, or am I doing it out of a sense of obligation? Is there something else I would rather be doing? You may find that this is a particularly hard thing to do: it feels selfish to focus purely on what you want to be doing. But for one day, it's the key to feeling reinvigorated, rather than rundown.
What do you think? How do you revitalize when you can't take a traditional vacation?
(Images: 1.Toast; 2. Cambria Bold; 3. Apartment Therapy video, 4. New York Magazine via Re-Nest; 5. Eames Office; 6. Faith Durand)