How many times have we heard and said ourselves, “I’m so exhausted after my vacation, now I need another vacation to rest.” As funny as it sounds, this reveals the truth about how we misuse our precious free time. When you explore the word “vacation,” it exposes the hidden root “vacant,” where you empty yourself of commitments, everyday chores and responsibilities. You have long expanses of time to read a book, go for a leisurely walk, or swim in the ocean. What you now add to your new, unfilled container is up to you. But if your mind is vacant, you become like a stampeding wild horse, overeating, over-drinking, pursuing shallow entertainment that only exhausts you in the end, leaving you feeling hollow. None of it is fulfilling, but we keep repeating the cycle of feast and famine, dieting, over-exercising and then pursuing manic hedonic activities. If this is your idea of a vacation, there’s something wrong with your everyday lifestyle.
So what is the true meaning of vacation? You have choices in how you fill your leisure time. It’s a time for exploration, for being curious about a new place and its authentic culture, for enriching experiences that can change you in a good way and break you out of your ruts. In everyday life, we’re so focused on our habitual tasks that we no longer perceive what’s around us. If we allow ourselves to be clear and open when we’re traveling, we can return home with fresh eyes, renewed vision and new appreciation or a realization that some things have to change.
We treat the Happy Body like a turtle shell—we carry it wherever we go. Just as we practice rejuvenation at home, we practice it when we’re away and more free, but there’s no need to go to extremes. The same goes with diet: it’s fine to sample gelato in Italy or a croissant in France, but then you stick with the eating plan so that you can maintain your energy and not feel like you’re out of control. You can always find fresh fruit and veggies wherever you go, or eggs or lean meat. Tea, iced or hot, is usually available to drink instead of sugary cocktails or overly sweetened coffee. Freedom is in choosing what you put in your container, not in being out of control.
We need to examine our focus—are we escaping, trying to flee from unbalanced lives of drudgery and stress? Or are we adventurers, following our curiosity to seek out new, immersive and visceral experiences that we can take home with us for inspiration. Just as in The Happy Body, we grow from becoming it, not from just passively consuming the information from a cooking show or travel blog. As usual, it comes down to a choice: what is this gift of travel going to be? Whatever your desire or dream is, whether flying over fields in a balloon, meeting a treasured local author, or challenging yourself with a slightly feared activity like river-rafting—going to places you’ve never been can invigorate and transform you.