What Vacation has Taught Me
I came back from the Caribbean with a call to jury duty the very next day. As one of my friends commented, "What a harsh slap back to reality."
And what a journey back it was. Cars impatiently honking down the streets of LA, while another driver throws up his index finger to prove a point. The restless pulse of the city fueled by caffeine, low blood sugar levels and sleep deprivation can be felt with every stop light.
Nervousness settles in as I wait in line for the parking structure. “Is this the right spot? How much will I be charged? Will I make it in time? Are all these people going to jury duty too?” I tried to resist the anxious energy of the collective consciousness, but parking structures will do that to you. I don’t know if it’s the accumulation of fumes or the fact that we squeeze so many cars, filled with so many people, into a multi-level structure. Whether you’re aware of it or not, I think there’s a bit of claustrophobia occurring on some cellular level.
After checking in, I find a cozy spot in the corner with every intention to write. But as I look around and observe my surroundings, I couldn’t help but notice the worn look on people’s faces. My fellow jurors were struggling to connect to Wi-Fi, sighing and distracted with thoughts. I could only imagine all the things going through their head. Paying their bills, organizing their schedules, hoping they won’t get picked for a jury, wondering how much time off from work they’ll have to miss because of this, etc.
As some people view jury duty as a nuisance, I saw it as an extended opportunity to meditate, contemplate about my vacation and unwind. Just another great perk of serving my country. It was prolonging my normal routine, which I enjoyed.
Not that I hate my job or anything, because I LOVE what I do. But I think whether summoned or not, everyone needs to submit and respond to the call of breaking out of routine. To get away and step back from the usual day-to-day activities.
I just got back from the most amazing vacation and I wanted to preserve that feeling as I long as I could.
Here is what the Caribbean has taught ME:
1. Island time is more about an attitude than a lifestyle. If an excursion was set at 7 am, we were promptly picked up at 7 am. Island time doesn’t necessarily mean showing up late with a complete disregard for punctuality, but it’s more about the attitude behind the schedule. This means that if there happens to be a change or delay in schedule, the response is, “OK, no problem.” It’s about how they react to a situation. This mentality allows for an open-ended amount of time for “talking”. I feel like people in the States (or at least in Southern California) are rushed in exchanging information, thus not being able to effectively process their thoughts or feelings in an articulate manner.
2. Compassion enables communication. At our resort, we made friends from all parts of the world-Brazil, Russia, France, Belgium, Germany, U.K….. As one would suspect, there was a diversity of languages. Yet–we were still able to understand each other, even though it looked like one big game of Charades. Having the ability to be compassionate, with some degree of emotional intelligence, as well as patience and intention allows for understanding. We had this one friend who spoke Portugese, and although we would not semantically understand a word he was saying, his persistance, facial expressions and tone were able to convey his message.
It's like my dad noted, "It's funny how we all speak different languages here and we can all understand each other. In America, we all speak English, but don't always understand each other."
3. Talking to strangers increases happiness. We’ve been told to avoid talking to strangers as children, but new studies show that talking to strangers actually boosts our moods. As social creatures, we need interaction in order to feel good. When you’re on vacation, everyone is so happy, that they feel the need to share it (at least in our experience). It’s fun to meet new people, see where they’re from and compare lifestyles and cultures. It’s not only mentally stimulating, but social interaction bonds the human race. When people can converse with each other and are able to relate despite their differences, it unites us as a whole. We can bring this with us in our normal routines by putting down our smart phones and talking to the person next to us on the bus, in line, or any situation that calls for being close to each other, like on an airplane. During my jury duty service, I actually made a friend that I found out has similiar interests as me. (Interestingly enough, we were the only 2 ladies that seemed to be enjoying the jury process. Everyone around us kept saying “how stressful” it was.) I love how the Caribbean people always have time to strike up a conversation without pretense.
4. Breaking out into song and dance is OK. In the states, my parents embarrass me when they randomly sing or dance when they’re struck with joy. People here look at them like they’re crazy and it’s usually deemed inappropriate for most public situations, but in the Caribbean, song and dance is embraced. I actually have a video of my dad singing with some random worker at a chocolate shoppe. My dad just likes to sing, and in the Caribbean, he wasn’t alone. He was joined by a stranger in singing “Besame Mucho,” not only once, but for a total of like 3 times in full out phantom karaoke. Meanwhile, my mom, who is a dancing social butterfly, will dance with any willing partner. In the Caribbean, everyone was an eligible partner. There’s none of that shyness or fear you find on the dance floor here. You just move and enjoy yourself.
5. You’ll live without Wi-Fi. It’s OK to disconnect. We’ve built our lives around social media (Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Vine, What’s Up) that this is probably the greatest and most challenging lesson for this generation. Since our social media accounts aren’t bound in space like a geographic location with tangible borders, it’s hard to let go of cyber space. Just because it’s readily accessible, it doesn’t mean we have to utilize it. I actually think this is the most important aspect of a vacation–taking a cyber break. We can encompass this into our daily lives by setting limits for ourselves on internet and social media usage. Make time to just sit and enjoy dinner and don’t check e-mail after a certain time. Take a walk or run minus the headphones and appreciate the sunset, the sound of the wind in the trees, the birds and everything around you. Even if it is city noise, like neighbors talking or the sound of traffic, just try to be one with your environment while simultaneously detaching from it all. Just be present in the moment and enjoy life away from a touch screen at least once a week. You will notice an increase in awareness, gratitude and authenticity.
6. Digestion is improved upon an increased parasympathetic response. I swear the islands are a natural source of weight loss just by being there. Personally, I can eat anything and everything without experiencing an allergic reaction and my digestion is improved. As a health care physician, I hypothesize that the relaxing island vibe promotes healthy digestion and detoxification. With the natural humidity, you’re constantly sweating, releasing all the built up city toxins, getting plenty of Vitamin D from the sun, and without stress around, bowel movements and nutritional absorption are improved.
7. It’s OK to skip the gym. This goes with #6. Just because you’re on vacation, it doesn’t allow you to become sedentary. It allows for stillness of mind, but it doesn’t neglect natural movement needed for optimal functioning. Working out doesn’t have to be so forced and timed. You are working out when you’re wading in the beautiful, clear waters of the ocean. You’re getting cardio in when you snorkel. You get a challenge when you hike up and down hills to see waterfalls and hidden crystal caves. In the caribbean (or on vacation), sightseeing is an exercise. The only difference is, Mother Nature is your gym. It’s all perspective.
8. Be grateful for the little things. Gratitude for the small things in life breeds appreciation and makes way for the bigger blessings in your life. If you can’t appreciate your local beach, your car, your job, or the place you live in now, how are you going to appreciate the bigger and better things when you finally acquire and accomplish your goals? “Be faithful with the little and you will be blessed with more.” Every time I went sightseeing, I thought I’d reach the destination, like the most beautiful spot in the world. Then we’d go somewhere else and it just kept getting better and better. I think vacation mentality allows gratitude to flow because you’re in a carefree mindset, allowing yourself to be present. So nothing could be ugly or disappointing. We can apply this to our daily lives by simply counting our blessings and living from love and gratitude.
9. Always give back. Live with an open heart. There’s always someone less fortunate than you.
10. Good vibes is universal. Always smile and give good energy.
11. Just go! Don’t worry about taking time off from your job or career, because in the end, it will make you a better citizen of society. Some people tend to feel initial guilt from stepping away from their lives, but God willing, everything will still be there when you return. Not only will you be more productive, but you will be happier version of you and your boss and/or co-workers will appreciate it. Going on vacation actually confronts you with deep self-reflection, making you question your purpose and re-evaluating your priorities. Sometimes life altering decisions are made when you’re away. But for me, I know my patients always appreciate being greeted to a relaxed, joyful face. They know they will get better treatment from me and healing is accelerated from calm, relaxed waves of energy. Happy doctor, happy patient and vice versa. It’s a win-win situation.