What is a Vacation?
My wife and I took a vacation this week. We went to visit a friend of mine and his wife who have a chalet in Chamonix, France. From my window I can see the MontBlanc.
It occurred to me that the last––and only––vacation I have ever had was more than fifty years ago, in 1957, when I graduated from high school and was sent to a youth camp in France.
Before that, from the age of eleven I worked every summer to help the family financially. Until I was 11, World War II was in progress.
From 1957, as a university and graduate student, I worked every summer. After I became a professor and then a consultant, I did take “vacations”––but I realize now that they were not vacations.
A vacation doesn’t mean that you are not working. For me, my work is almost all thinking, so it is my brain that needs a break. A true vacation is not thinking.
Until now, none of my vacations has rested my brain.
Why? For starters, I have an addiction to looking for “Pips”––“potential improvement points”; I am constantly, in any situation, looking for what is wrong and what can and should be improved.
For instance, I went to Club Med for a vacation. But within two days, I had started consulting to the chief of the village and ending up working right through the vacation. For free.
And I had paid for this “vacation.”
Even when I was not consulting, as when I went to Paris for a week, we went to the theater, to museums, restaurants … my mind never got a break. It was exhausting.
Here in Chamonix, we went hiking. We experienced nature. Here, finally, is where my mind was given a rest.
In nature, everything is as should be. It is perfect as it is. Human intervention cannot improve it.
And in nature, you experience beauty––which is a feeling, not a thought. Your heart takes over, and your brain gets a break.
Natural beauty cannot be explained; it can only be experienced.
Like God. God cannot be explained, either; only experienced.
It is not strange that poets and philosophers urge us to experience nature. In nature, you feel present. You stop thinking about the past or future. Nature overwhelms you, and you find yourself totally present, experiencing the now.
Letting your heart take over, letting it speak, feel, and be, is a real vacation––a vacation for your brain.
Are there alternatives to Nature?
Any experience that makes you feel and not think. Any experience that makes you forget about the past or the future and brings you to the now.
What would that be for you?
Dr. Ichak Kalderon Adizes