Tiny Bahamas

I used to do this relaxation exercise where I’d imagine I was in an elevator that could look however I wanted it to look. I’d usually decorate it like a drawing room in a European palace – lots of luxe fabrics, gold ropes, purple pillows, and plush ottomans. As the elevator went up, I added items that relaxed me: my cat, a scented candle, a framed, signed photograph of Peter Jennings – you know, spa stuff. The elevator would get to the top floor and I’d get out and step into my ultimate place of bliss and calm. I always imagined this place as the sandy beaches of Saugatuck, Michigan. The most underrated state in the union (in my extremely correct opinion), Michigan has clean, tan sand beaches and warm August waves. I’d float there on my back until all of that pesky reality stuff slipped away for a few minutes.

Two weeks ago, I got to really go to that place, not just in my imaginary elevator. It was my first time back in five years, and this time I got to show my boyfriend around. My parents organized a lovely vacation for me, my brothers, our partners, and their pals. After a cleansing week of ciders and roses in Portland, I got to extend my relaxation time in Michigan, where our tiny private beach had flooded, and the waves were lapping against the 94-step staircase down the bluff. I am back to work now, refreshed and renewed, but because my next vacation is in December, I want to take this magic feeling with me as long as I can. Here are some of my ideas for incorporating vacation into my daily life:

  1. I went to bed early and woke up early on vacation, so early that my fellow vacationers, who slept to normal hours, weren’t up until I had long bottomed out my Twitter feed (mainly populated by New Zealanders who were on my schedule). I started reading to pass the time, and wouldn’t you know, I felt fulfilled and less antsy. I’m not saying I’ll be up reading War and Peace on a Monday morning, but it’s something I am going to incorporate into my Saturday and Sunday mornings.
  2. I didn’t feel pressure to do anything at all unless I really wanted to. This meant smiling and saying no to riding someone else’s bike, ducking out of dune buggy rides when the line was too long, and walking on the beach only when I wanted to. This gave me time to really savor and enjoy what I did end up doing, which included a good deal of reading and napping and swimming. I am bad at this at home. I often say yes to things that don’t satisfy me, as a way to fill up my time. In fact, the empty space in my life, unoccupied by obligations, is what makes me happiest.
  3. I wandered a lot, down beaches and streets, more than I ever would in my ordinary life. In Portland and Michigan, I didn’t drive, and this was a huge change of pace. It reminded me that I can walk in Austin too – I can drive to fun neighborhoods, then walk around and check out the street cats. I can walk along the golf course. Heaven help me during this heat, I will enjoy a stroll in the early morning now and again.
  4. I ate lots of seasonal produce, including my favorite fruit in the world, sweet cherries. As I try my darndest to eat healthfully, I found this great guide for what’s in season, which can also double as meal inspiration.

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I feel very cliche and privileged to say that vacation has been a godsend for my mental health, but here we are. I want to reframe everyday events as vacations – my day trip to see Zelda in San Antonio, my bi-weekly work massage, and my time sipping Topo Chico in the sun can all be experienced as tiny vacations. Fellow non-millionaires, we can put on the Banana Boat, eat some pineapple, and feel maybe a fraction of the refreshment of a vacation to the Bahamas, but hey, it’s something!

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