Restorative Vacations

A few days ago I returned home from a beautiful seven day vacation in New Zealand’s South Island. I flew into Christ Church, spent two days at my favourite ski lodge – Ohau – and another five days in beautiful Lake Wanaka. I did plenty of skiing – Treble Cone, Cardrona, and Ohau – in addition to some incredible hiking and awesome scenic driving. All in all it was an awesome, and much-needed, seven days. But the trip was more than skiing and the hiking – I had a greater plan in mind. As a producitivity optimisier, I spent time pondering how can I get the most out of this vacation.

It is productive to have a break from our normal routine. Too many days in the daily grind can leave us feeling trapped and without options. We need time away to clear our head and think about where our life has been, where it is, and where it is going. After an incredibly demanding semester and full time work as an economist, I was feeling pretty drained. I decided I would use my seven days to take personal stock, think about my life objectives, and re-energise. In order to do that, the following four steps helped me get the most out of my vay-cay.

Step 1:  Set intensions for your next vacation in advance.

Before you go on your next vacation, think about what you want to get out of it. I don’t mean the activities you will do, places you will see, or events you will participate in. Rather, think about what has been challenging, what is important, and what direction do you want your life to be heading in.

Then, set some intentions on what you want to get out of the vacation.  Do you need clarity on a personal conflict? Are you looking for new hobbies to exlpore? Perhaps you want to read a particular book. One of my intentions for my New Zealand trip was to spend time with God through prayer and meditation. Also, I wanted to reflect on my relational, professional, and educational goals. My plan was to keep these goals and aspirations in the back of my mind as I went about my seven days in New Zealand.

Step 2:  Throughout the vacation, write and think about those intentions.

Throughout your vacation set aside additional focused time, even just a few minutes, to think about your life and the intentions you set out for your vacation. Look for signs or points of inspiration that might be indicative of next life steps. Write it down when possible. If you have a relational conflict, you might write down some positive actions to help heal that relationship. Or perhaps you are thinking about a new hobby you may pursue. Write that down too. For example, one of my interests is New Zealand itself. At the Ohau lodge, I noticed a magazine called “New Zealand Geographic.” When I was spending time in my room thinking about new opportunities, I wrote down ‘Subscribe to NZ Geographic.’ Think of this step as more of an options or opportuntities generating session.

Step 3:  When you return from vacation, create a list of take aways or directions.

Step three is actually basic productivity 101 – capture all your ideas into a single location. You likely had many thoughts, actions, and inspiring directions. Record them all down as soon as possible when you get home (even better, on the plane ride home). You can decide what to do with them later, but the key point of recording new life actions is to realise that you have options. As I stated earlier, one of the reasons we need a vacation is that we easily feel trapped in our daily routine. Vacations give us a break from that routine. However, the routine is still there when we get back. By creating a list of new directions or paths for our lives, we can break up that routine and reduce anxiety. A fundemental aspect of a highly productive life is minimising stress.

Step 4: Enjoy your vacation!!

O.k. you should actually do this step before Step 3. I love productivity, but it is also important to simply enjoy the moment. No better time to enjoy life than when your on vacaction. Make the most of it – try new things, go on adventures, get outside your comfort zone, meet new people. Don’t spend the entire trip over analysing your life. There is a big, world out there that is begging to be explored. Part of a vacation is the realisation that there is more – a lot more – to life then the daily grind. Sometimes the most productive thing we can do is not be productive and simply enjoy this beautiful existence.

Happy Working,


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