An experiment in being on vacation

If you’ve spent any time with me, you know I walk quickly—I’m a woman on a mission with places to be! When I travel somewhere, the same is true. Before I go on a trip I research places I want to go and things I want to do and figure out how I can fit in the maximum possible number of things on said trip. Any of my travel posts demonstrate this very clearly, especially my trip to the Azores last year, where I was in charge of planning what we’d do.

In my current stage of life, I travel a lot, which ostensibly means I’m on vacation. But it’s hardly ever a relaxing vacation: these days if I’m traveling, I’m going somewhere new (in which case I have a list of places to visit) or I’m visiting friends (in which case I want to do things with them in their town). Sometimes both of those things overlap (see also Portland and LA and New Orleans), so bring on the packed itinerary!

The one exception to that trend is the beach, where my mom’s family has been going every summer for 30-something years and where I’ve now spent 27 weeks of my life, one for every summer I’ve been alive omg I’m so old.

This is how vacation is done, right?

Our beach is one of my favorite places in the world: I get to spend a week there every year relaxing and spending time with family (which I know isn’t a selling point for some people. I’m lucky in that spending time with my mom’s family is good thing). But I’ve noticed in the last few years that the “relaxing” bit of that gives me some trouble.

It’s stupid, but I am definitely someone who suffers from a feeling of needing to Do Something all the time, even on vacation.

If I’m too lazy one morning to go through the effort of slathering sunscreen all over myself (I’m tall so there’s a lot of skin to slather when I’m wearing a bikini. That’s so much effort!) and opt to stay at the house and read instead of going to the beach, I feel like I’m wasting time. After all, I can read anywhere at any time (although not on a porch overlooking the marsh!), but I can’t go to the beach anytime I feel like it. What a waste of a morning! And then it feels like I MUST go to the beach that afternoon or I’m somehow a horrible person who’s failing at properly being at the beach.

The view from the porch on a morning I “failed” by reading instead of going to the beach

And now that I’m a blogger, heaven forbid I take a week off from writing or even reading other people’s posts!

But why? It’s not like I’m going to come back from vacation and get graded on how I did: “did she go to the beach twice a day every day? Nope, points off for that. How many books did she read? Tsk tsk, that was a failure of a vacation.”

So this year I actively tried to be actually on vacation.

I certainly didn’t write posts while on vacation

Because the next paragraph contains links: I am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites. I will never recommend anything that I wouldn’t personally use myself since I’m not here to encourage people to spend money needlessly. Also friendly reminder that your local public library is an amazing resource instead!

What did I do? I ate way too much food (one does not simply come back from the beach without weighing a few extra pounds). I read—I finished two books and started a third (on an extremely related note, both Moxie and Animal, Vegetable, Miracle are excellent books). I went to the beach. I took lots of walks down to the blessedly unpopulated end of the island, sometimes alone and sometimes with family. I took many of those walks in the evening. I slept, although not as much as I would’ve liked. I spent a ton of time sitting on a rocking chair on the porch, watching the birds in the marsh. I went up to the upper deck of one of our houses to watch the sunset on days it wasn’t raining.

I didn’t spend a lot of time on Twitter. I didn’t check my email. I didn’t worry about the fact that yet again my inability to write posts more than an evening in advance means I had nothing queued up to publish last week. This time last year I wasn’t posting on a regular schedule; I was a three month old blogger and no one was waiting with baited breath for me to get back from vacation and start posting again. Not that any of you are doing that now! But I have at least a few readers so not posting was different this year 😂

I could’ve stressed about the fact that yet again I was missing publishing posts on my usual days. I could’ve sat down Monday and Wednesday nights and tried to force myself to write something since I did bring my laptop. But I didn’t. Because I was on vacation and I wasn’t going to take time away from reading or talking to family or walking on the beach.

Maybe I need another vacation to practice more…

Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t spend a week in perfect vacation mode. Frustratingly, there was only one morning where I managed to sleep in past the time I usually get up on weekdays. I still was annoyed at the multiple days of rain we had (because a day without going to the beach is a waste of a day!). And I wasn’t offline completely—I certainly posted a bunch of Instagram stories last week!

But this year was a marked improvement over previous years because when I felt like I was wasting time or somehow otherwise not vacationing properly, I’d talk myself down from that.

Note to self: it’s okay not to be here every single morning

This was a limited experiment because the truth is that I don’t have a lot of opportunity right now for true vacations. I’ve got another trip coming up in a few weeks, then FinCon in September, but neither of those will be relaxing vacations. My next best bet to practice actually being on vacation is spending a few days in Disney after FinCon. I guess hikes in a way are an opportunity to get out of my day-to-day life, but it depends on the hike. It’s hard to relax when you’re climbing up a mountain while dripping sweat!

Hiking also tends not to come with sunset views unless you’re planning on spending the night there!

So I won’t be on vacation again for a while, possibly until Thanksgiving. I’m glad I actively tried to slow down and let go of arbitrary to-do lists/self-imposed compulsory busyness this past week, and I look forward to practicing that again in the future.

22 Replies to “An experiment in being on vacation”

  1. It sounds like you and I have similar approaches to vacations! I always have mixed feelings about how I spend my time when I’m away. I’m getting better at actually relaxing and doing nothing, but it always takes an active commitment for me to actually do that.

    P.S. your vacation looked amazing from what I saw on IG!

    1. Hah yeah, your post about your deliberate attempts to do NOTHING while you were at the beach a few months ago definitely was something I was thinking about while I was writing this! Clearly we just need more opportunities to flex our active commitment to doing nothing on vacation muscles 😉

  2. Haha- I definitely know how you feel with the blogging/should be doing something feeling while on vacation. I am also working to make the blogging a manageable task (I took a month off… something I would NEVER have done a year ago) but it is a work in progress 😉 Enjoy your time off and do what you enjoy! 🙂

  3. I’m impressed that you did that well at a relaxing vacation, because I sure don’t 😉 Granted, it is a bit harder as a mom because down time doesn’t actually happen all that often anyway haha. And you finished the book and didn’t tell me what you thought of it!

    1. Haha yeah I imagine it’s way different with the kiddo!

      Um it was amazing and makes me want to do something like that of my own! It definitely makes me think I should be spending much more on groceries and buying from the farmers’ market instead of the grocery store (and I deliberately passed up on buying asparagus last week because omg so not in season!), although that’ll require a MASSIVE shift in spending and priorities. I also ate a box of mac and cheese right after coming home from the beach, which I immediately felt guilty about 🙈

  4. Sounds so amazing! Beach weeks are the best. I can totally relate to this feeling of “failing at vacation”, the idea of being graded on how often you went to the beach daily made me giggle. And all those photos are sooooo gorgeous. (“Animal, Vegetable, Miracle” is indeed an amazing book. )

    1. “Failing at vacation” is the weirdest thing to be worried about but for some reason it’s a concern 😂 Luckily it’s easy to relax when you’re in such a wonderful place!

  5. is that o.i.b. or sunset? we used to have a family place on o.i.b. until 2 years ago when the in-laws got old and sold it. it’s hard for some people to relax, but being just the 2 of us we figured it out over the years. even when people joined us i would just sleep in and find out where to find them at the ocean. glad you’re sorting it out.

    1. It’s Sunset, good eye! I’m extremely biased, but that area of NC is hands-down the best place to go to the beach.

  6. Looked like a nice vacation! I too feel like I have to be active and doing things on my own vacations, but when it comes time for family vacations, those are much more of the relaxing variety usually. There just something about family that makes it nice and perfectly fine to do absolutely nothing!

    1. It was absolutely wonderful. And yep, as much as love going new places and maximizing the hell out of my time there, sometimes a relaxing family vacation is really what you need!

  7. Sounds like you had a lovely, true vacation. We went upstate this past weekend to a friend’s house and I was definitely the same way, asking my husband: But what are we going to do there? He kept saying that we’d be hanging out, and that wasn’t appealing to me, one bit. Wait–I’m travelling for two hour just to hang out??? I like to know exactly what I’m signing up for.

    Anyway, we decided to go last minute, and we had the best time! Hanging out by the pool, eating dinner outside, driving to a nearby town to stroll downtown, watching a movie. We were only there for two days, but it felt like much longer. It made me realize that sometimes doing nothing is just what you need.

    Although, unlike you, there was no way I felt like I could get away with not blogging, but I did it during the downtimes. One day I’ll get my act together!

    1. Hahaha yeah, if I’m going somewhere I want to know exactly what I’m doing. None of this “we’ll figure it out when we get there” nonsense! Even though sometimes figuring it out when you get there leads to an absolutely amazing time. I’m glad you had an awesome weekend getaway!

  8. Beautiful pics!

    I too am a person who always has to be doing something. When I get into the groove of just relaxing and enjoying myself, I consider it a treasure and don’t want to interrupt it.

    I think it does take practice.

    Nicely done, girl!

    1. Yep, it’s so rare that I try to enjoy it even more when it happens. It definitely takes practice and I’m glad to hear I’m not the only one who struggles with this!

  9. I used to be much more of the “run around and see everything” type, but now I’ve reverted to the “laze around and do nothing” type. I think it has to do with how busy/stressful other parts of my life are. When I was a student and life was more straightforward, I really wanted to run around and do everything on vacation (or maybe I was just younger and had more energy, lol!). Now that I’m working and things are more stressful. my ideal vacation is just…chilling.

    1. That totally makes sense to me! Things have been so busy for me all year that I’d love to say my next trips will be relaxing, too, but that’s just not going to happen for a while haha.

  10. I can relate! I used to struggle with relaxing on vacation. It’s gotten easier as I’ve gotten older… Now I can reach Peak Sloth in a matter of hours if need be. LOL.

    So glad you got a chance to relax and recharge! I know coming home and going back to the job can be hard. I hope it’s been a smooth transition.

    1. Hahaha reaching Peak Sloth in a matter of hours is definitely #vacationgoals

      It was way better of a transition than it otherwise would’ve been because my new boss started while I was away, so I came back and jumped back into a whole bunch of scheduling for him. Which is not at all fun, but it at least made the time go by faster than it normally does!

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