Saturday, July 27, 2013

Zen Habits: On Holiday

The American idea of being on holiday (or vacation) brings to mind images of empty beaches, sipping margaritas, or just lazing about for days on end. We think of a time when we don't have to worry so much and we get to "enjoy life". But how often do your holidays turn out like that? I just returned from a week long holiday in California and while it was fun, it was also very stressful.

First off, it wasn't just me and my sweetheart. We were staying with family. MY family. Aside from the plans we had made for ourselves, my family had made plans for us. This made for some truly awkward and uncomfortable conversations, and it added a lot of stress. We dealt with it the only way we know how - by staying true to ourselves. This led to some disappointment in my family, but such is life. It came down to being honest: This is OUR holiday and we will spend our time doing things we want to do. We still spent time with family, but it was on terms we found agreeable.

Our holiday turned out pretty fun and enjoyable because we didn't over plan. We knew we wanted to go to Disneyland, (my sweetheart had never been!) we wanted to go to the beach (beaches in Texas don't count) and we wanted to relax with friends. We did all of that, and more! We left room for spontaneity and rest, and we returned home feeling like we had a good time.

Here are some things I learned on holiday that can help with good habits and goal setting in everyday life.

* DON'T OVER PLAN - If you are one of those people who has their day/week/year mapped out on a calendar, I challenge you live without it. Maybe for a week? JUST TRY LEAVING PLANS TO A MINIMUM for a week or so and see what gifts the universe gives to you. I had no idea a good friend of mine would be in town at the same time as I was, and it turned out he had a free ticket to Disneyland! He had us over for an impromptu get together and it was one of the highlights of our trip. Try leaving wide open blocks of time with as few scheduled appointments as possible. And please, clear you child's schedule as well. Children might thrive on a schedule, but no one likes every second of every day planned out for them. Trust me.

* TRAVEL LIGHT - As a practicing Minimalist, I travel light. Living in Prague for seven years helped with that. I brought with me only what was essential: clothes & shoes, toiletries, a book, and my purse. Whether it's a trip to California for a week or a trip to the store - travel light. Look at your car, or your purse or bag. Do you NEED everything in there? How about your make-up? Do you really need 12 different lip glosses and 3 face cleansers? Just wondering

* BE IN THE MOMENT - If you have freed up your time by not over planning then you are left with time. What will the day bring? If your day is mostly wide open you can choose your priorities in the moment. At this moment what will make you feel good? What are you most excited about? By choosing activities with fluidity your goals and priorities become something organic. This takes practice, but let yourself do it. Part of my holiday was spent just reading because that made me happy and I had the time to do it. Planning ahead makes no sense when the world around you changes so rapidly. You can't control the changing landscape, so just go with the flow!

* LET GO OF EXPECTATIONS - We all have huge expectations for holiday time. We plan, we dream, and we decide how our trip will go before we even get out the door. In my experience, this will only lead to disappointment. This year, while we made a few concrete plans, we left most of our time un-planned. While this bothered a few people who feel the need to control not only their own time, but the time of every one around them, it worked well for us. There are always unforeseen obstacles in your path, and letting go of expectations lets you handle these obstacles a little better. For example - I found out when I got to L.A. that I wouldn't have the use of a car as I had expected. No car in L.A.? Oh shit. So, my sweetheart and I adapted and used the metro, the bus and our own two feet to get around. And it was fun! He got to see parts of the city he wouldn't have seen if we traveled by car, and I can now say I have taken an L.A. bus.

* NO ISN'T A BAD WORD - I can't stress this enough - NO isn't a bad word! So, you're on holiday and you have twenty people wanting you to do twenty different things. What do you do? Do you try to make them all happy, or do you tell eighteen of them "no"? While this rule is great for every day life, it is even more important while on holiday. Think about it; It's your trip. Your money, and your holiday time from work. Use all of it the way YOU want to. It isn't selfish to spend your holiday the way you want - it's selfish for other people to expect your time. People don't always like to hear no, but they will get used to it, and they will get over it.Just remember, people in general tend to be overly optimistic when it comes to things like weddings, vacations, birthdays and Proms. We dream things will be the way they are in the movies, only to find out that it rains in real life. If we try to let go of expectations we are left feeling happy for the reality we are experiencing. And what can be better than your own real life?

'A good traveler has no fixed plans, and is not intent on arriving.' ~LAO TZU
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