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Living With a Vacation Mindset

Aaron McHugh

I played bocce ball this weekend on the same court I discovered the game ten years ago @ the Solage in Calistoga, CA. I remember how strange being playful felt back then. Play felt inconvenient, unimportant and wasteful. The story I’d told myself was that life was about battle and survival. Stay strong, hang tough and don’t quit.

A lot was happening in our life that required grit and fortitude to keep going. Play hijacked my tight grip on life. I noticed how much lighter and happier I felt when I gave play space in my life’s framework.

A lot was happening in our life that required grit and fortitude to keep going but play hijacked my tight grip on life. I noticed how much lighter and happier I felt when I gave play space in my life’s framework.

It started with a simple question, what are my habits and beliefs while on vacation?

I taste and smell the food I eat.

I leave my phone behind or turned off and stay present.

Internally, I permit myself to be off. No production-only restoration.

I shower outside.

I take the longer route, not the shortcuts.

I ride a bike or walk, keep the car parked.

I take naps.

I notice and try new things.

I exercise but leave my watch behind.

I laugh and linger.

I pray and meditate.

I play analog games.

I allow curiosity to lead me.

Over ten years, I’ve incorporated this ethos into my everyday life in straightforward ways. One practical story to illustrate, I used to commute to work for about an hour each day. My return trip could get hairy with traffic backups. I would stew about how many minutes and hours of my life were vaporized-lost forever.

Vacation mindset reframes: I think I’ll throw a spare set of running clothes in my car, pull over in heavy traffic and go for a walk or run instead. 15–30 minutes later, behind the wheel again with less traffic, I’d cruise home without that bundle of stress inside and ready to fully engage my people.

On vacation, sitting in traffic wasn’t a frustrating, white-knuckle experience. I’d always find a way to reframe the experience. The same playful, whimsical curiosity from vacation can transform our real life every day. To have the life I want externally, I’ve learned I have to start living that life internally first.