On a beach

Three Ways to Avoid the Vacation Illusion

As the old saying goes “wherever you are there you are.” On vacation, we tend to think we can bypass this predicament and a geographical cure will suffice. When speaking about vacations, I am describing two kinds of dilemmas I recognize through my work as a therapist. The first one is a person who arrives at their destination and cannot quiet their mind to enjoy their trip and the second dilemma is when a person thinks that a change of scenery is a magical cure for their problems.

Picture a family who saves up all year to afford a family vacation. After lengthy traveling this family arrives in Hawaii. They continue to experience their typical dynamics of bickering and arguing despite the beautiful beaches and new surroundings. Imagine another scenario, newlyweds who embark on their well- anticipated honeymoon. Bob cannot or will not take his eyes off his beloved cellphone and prioritizes work at the expense his new wife, Susan. He finds himself ruminating, obsessing and ultimately sacrifices their honeymoon for a kind of avoidance. What if I told you that these examples are much more common than you might imagine.

What is it about our minds that prevent us from leaving our troubles behind? We have intentions to spend quality time with our family, friends and partners, but we are inundated with unwanted, racing thoughts which interfere with our truly being on vacation. (our ability to “be on vacation”).

Our need for structure may be the key to understanding the difficulty with settling into a different mindset (aka vacation), thus letting us relax into a much-needed holiday. Another possibility for this difficulty can be an unconscious “desire” to keep things homeostatic. The couple on their honeymoon, carve out time to celebrate their marriage and simultaneously may also be afraid to be alone together, so they unconsciously “find” obstacles to being intimate (AKA Bob’s cell phone). This way they do not risk feeling vulnerable with one another. These pitfalls to enjoying “off time” are all too common. We feel that we must be omni available to our professions and subject to “on demand” contact for anyone and everyone who wishes to reach us. This makes vacationing and resting very difficult. Having necessary boundaries with oneself and with others is crucial to enjoying a vacation.

A few considerations before going on vacation.

1)    Don’t plan to leave your struggles behind.

Remember that you cannot leave your struggles behind. Setting good boundaries is the number one way of managing.

2)     Have reasonable goals.

If your marriage or family life is difficult at home, then a vacation will not bring resolution. It may provide a break from your everyday routine but it will not be marriage or family therapy.

3)    Think before you react.

Imagine that there is space to slow down your typical reactions and that you have time to think before you react. Picture yourself with enough room to watch from a distance. Then you will gain the necessary insight to decide, how you want to Holiday.

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