Take a Meaningful Vacation

Kelly and I were planning our wedding, and eventually, we had a very big decision to make—where would we spend our honeymoon? At the time, we had two basic options. One option was to stay in the continent, save some money, and travel to a place like Canada to enjoy escaping into the woods. The other was to head to the Caribbean where the only decisions we’d need to make were which beach to spend the day at and what to eat for dinner. It was the middle of the summer, and we decided to go to the islands where we were happy being lazy on the beach and exploring a new environment together.

Four years later, and we just returned from a week in the Colorado Rocky Mountains where we did everything opposite of being lazy.

sharks tooth rocky mountain national park

Typically we don’t have the budget for lots of vacations, so when we do have the chance to spend some time away, we want to make sure it counts. Also, all the noises that come with traveling and staying in an unknown place are challenging for Kelly, so we want vacations that de-stress rather than add stress. Here are some thoughts about how you can take vacations that do more than just recharge you from the monotony of everyday and actually give more meaning to your life.

What speaks to you?

One of the things Kelly loves to say when we’re in the woods is that the outdoors speak to her (we even bought a sign echoing this message the last time we were in Colorado). It’s the smells, the sights, the grandeur that make us feel more alive. For us, the outdoors is not a series of small challenges that needs to be solved (where’s the bug spray? what happens if I run out of water? etc.), it’s a place where we can be and act like ourselves.

fern lake rocky mountain national park

When deciding on your next vacation, as yourself questions like, “If I had unlimited funds to spend the rest of my life doing just one thing, what would it be?” Knowing what those things are, and more importantly how those things make you feel, is the first step to planning a vacation that speaks to your soul instead of just some random bucket list.

What do you want to accomplish?

While most people plan vacations so that they can achieve some general feeling of relaxation, a way to cultivate more lasting memories is to attach vacations to real actions. For Kelly, who is exceedingly creative, she wanted to build a list of ideas that could translate into a book. On our way back to Chicago, she had a eureka moment where all the thoughts she’d been having while we hiked through Rocky Mountain National Park came together into a grand narrative she’s writing now.

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For me, the trip was all about capturing the beauty of mountain landscapes accessible only by hiking. I had the chance to survey lakes and peaks I may only have the chance to see a handful of times in my life, and savoring those moments–as well as basking in the accomplishment of the hike itself–was a way for me to cross of some dream accomplishments from my very real bucket list.

Fully embrace your decision

When you plan vacations, you’re probably going to be choosing among several equally awesome spots. We gave ourselves the choice among Seattle, Vancouver Island, or Estes Park. We did a ton of research on each place, and each location seemed spectacular, so it would have been easy to get caught up in feeling like maybe we made the wrong decision. Thinking like this can distract from planning your actual vacation and can lead you away from the things you’d like to accomplish. Keep you focus on what’s in front of you and look forward to going to those other places down the road.

Fuel your soul

Once you’ve made it to your destination, don’t choose activities just because they happen to be on the menu. If the destination speaks to you, be sure to embrace that and do only the things that will bring positive energy to you and your companions. Not only did we have the chance to see one of the most beautiful mountain lakes I may ever see, but we also got down and dirty with a sunset horseback ride through the hills.

Vacation marketers will try hard to get you to spend your money on things that make them business. Do your best to listen to yourself, not all the noise, when you plan your next vacation. The rewards you’ll receive will be long-term and keep you excited for what comes next.

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