How to Intuitive Vacation: A Step-by-Step Guide for Leaving your Inner Perfectionist at HOME

Normally when I travel, everything is perfectly timed out. I know what activities I’m doing on what days before I even leave town. I don’t waste a single ounce of valuable vacation time planning (I mean stressing) about what I’m going to do, and I maximize my vacation to fit in as much as possible. 

This June, though, I took a vacation to the Smoky Mountains that was a radical departure from my usual travel style: the only thing I planned about this trip was that I wasn’t going to plan anything. No tickets were bought ahead of time. No reservations made.

Instead, I slept when I wanted to, woke up when I wanted to, read when I wanted to, sat outside when I wanted to, and ate when and what I wanted to. Side note--if intuitive eating can be a thing, I think intuitive vacationing should definitely be a thing, too. 

With a plan to make no plans set in stone, there was one last thing I needed to do in order to achieve optimum #vacationmode. I deleted all my social media apps. Gmail, Facebook, Instagram, Outlook, Slack, you name it, I deleted it. I didn’t want to be tempted to get ahead on my emails or spend time editing photos, and I definitely didn’t want to get sucked into an Instagram sales pitch or feel like my vacation wasn’t good enough after seeing somebody else’s epic #wanderlust pic. 

Spoiler alert: I didn’t miss a damn thing.

In line with going completely off the grid, I also told myself I was not going to think about Untrendy. I was not going to write a blog post or batch content for Instagram or take awkward #influencer photos or pump up our vanity numbers. I decided that I wasn’t going to put any pressure on myself to take advantage of fewer distractions and I am proud to say that I did not give in to the hustle mentality.

If you’re like me and have a hard time creating and then maintaining a routine, though, adjusting to life after a trip is tough. I call it...vacation whiplash! One minute you’re relaxing and the next, bam! Late to work, no clean underwear, car’s outta gas, and your pits smell because you haven’t found your deodorant yet. Not the ideal modus operandus. I actually opt to leave an entire day at the end of each trip to readjust now. As Elbert Hubbard so wisely stated, “No man needs a vacation so much as the man who has just had one.” The peace of mind that I get from getting my life in order before I hit the ground running makes ALL the difference.

Partly because of vacation whiplash, I have an unfortunate habit of anticipating the end of a trip with utter dread: what if my vacation goes by and I’ve squandered it? What if I leave something behind when I’m packing up? What could my credit card balance have possibly climbed to while I was on vacation? Has something terrible at work happened that is completely my fault? Will all my plants still be alive? Will we get stuck in traffic and get home really late? Will I sleep badly and have a hard time functioning at work on Monday? The last couple days of a trip, these thoughts can really spiral.

During this last trip, I noticed this thought pattern starting to take shape on the last day. It did not feel good. Some friends had met us for the last leg of our trip and we had had a GREAT time in Asheville, NC the day before, but on my last day of the trip, instead of having a good time with my friends, I became preoccupied by the overwhelming realization that the scaries sneaking in. 

Amazingly, before these thoughts could become rungs on a hamster wheel, I remembered a tool I picked up from my Shine app about “scheduling your worries.” The gist, as I’m sure you can imagine, is to sit down, worry about everything you could possibly be worried about, and then get on with your bad self. 

So that’s what I did. I wrote down every question or worry I had until I was all out of things to be worried about. Then I answered each worry as if I was my own best friend: with compassion and common sense. When I was done going through all the worries and letting my inner self know that I didn’t have to spend any more mental energy thinking about these matters, I was able to close the notebook and actually enjoy my last night of vacation.

My two cents? Take a damn break. A REAL break. Occupy your attention with something pleasing. Feel zero pressure to do anything at all. Whatever you do, do not, I repeat, DO NOT seize the day. Intuitive vacationing is like a factory reset. 

Now, how does one successfully go off the grid? Start by letting everyone know you won’t be available. I told my co-workers during a staff meeting two weeks before my trip that I would be a remote area with unreliable wifi and limited cell phone service. I over-communicated and put in a few extra hours the week before so people felt placated when I was gone. I set my away emails to say that I would not be checking emails and to get in touch with a colleague instead. I forwarded my calls to a co-worker so I wouldn’t have to check my voicemail. And lastly, I actually stayed as active as I wanted to be on my email and social until I got to my destination. Only once I’d unpacked and settled did I wipe my phone of social apps. It took a LOT of work to get to a place where I felt comfortable completely unplugging, but in the end, it was so worth it.

I hope you have the means and an opportunity to take an intuitive vacation. Even if paid vacation isn’t a thing you have access to, set aside some time--even if it’s just an afternoon on the weekend--to go off the grid and enjoy something unproductive and indulgent. We don’t have to spend every spare moment sculpting ourselves and our lives into better versions. Sometimes, we just need a break.