Friday, November 20, 2015

What's The Big Deal About Vacations??

Staircase between library and church,
or "A stairway to heaven", Melk Abbey, Austria
Till I was in my late 30s I never understood the intense focus on vacations. I wondered why it was so critical for people to go on vacations?  What were they running away from? What were they speeding towards?

The first ~15 years of my working life, I did not take a vacation.  I took time off for medical reasons, care giving, and for my honeymoon. But not to have a holiday. I did not have any vacation time. I just didn't feel the need.


I also think I was having a great time at work. It was a load of fun.  It was exciting.  I was learning something new all the time. I loved it. I woke up in the morning and wanted to go to work.

Guarding the Grand Palace
Bangkok, Thailand
I also had pretty-much zero vacation days for "frivolous" holidays. People looked at me strangely and asked "Why haven't you gone on holiday?" or "Why don't you go on vacations?" I'd respond with any reason that popped into my head vs tell them that I'd used up vacation days on care-giving.

It was only in the early 2000s that I decided that I wanted, nay needed, vacations. Because I wanted to experience new places, cultures, food, art, music, and oh! so many other things. I was also doing a job I loved in a stressful environment.

But sadly on many vacations, I cleared email everyday. On some I have created PowerPoint presentations and chaired or participated in conference calls. As if my workplace would collapse without me being there. What a load of bull!!

Blue Mosque, Istanbul, Turkey
It took me time to realize that vacations were meant to give me, yes ME, a change of scene and pace. A time to do something different. Move out of my comfort zone, to experience the new. To learn and appreciate the diverse.  To seek to understand.  To learn something about myself. So I created......

My Rules for Vacations

  1. Visit "opposite land".  If life has been hectic then vacation in a place that is quiet and laid back. If life has been dull, seek an adventure vacation.  The more dramatic the difference more I appreciate both the non-vacation and the vacation time.
  2. Visit only 1-3 cities in a week - spend time to immerse myself in a city / town / village and get a real feel for it.
  3. Find a place that does not have a mobile connection.  Or be very disciplined about calls I take.  This is “me” time and I am investing in it – so no distractions.
  4. Travel with no more than 3 other people – more people means a loss of intimacy – and hence a loss in my ability to absorb the new. 
  5. Walk as much as possible.  I can't get a the flavor and essence of a
    Colosseum, Rome, Italy
    place if I am stuck in a cab or a hotel or a museum all the time.  I like walking thru small lanes and avenues and chancing upon parks, statues, children on the way to school, weddings, receptions, open wet markets; oh a hundred different things.
  6. Go off the beaten track.  There is no use seeing what some travel book has already talked about and where I will come across only other tourists.  I want to discover things for myself.
  7. But don't miss the local sights and sounds that I have to see.  I don't want to miss a wonder of the world or a famous landmark in my pursuit of an awesome off-the-beaten-track little bazaar or castle or house or church.
  8. Eat a good breakfast.  I normally book a hotel after checking out whats going to be served for breakfast.  A good breakfast and keep me walking and exploring for hours.
  9. While walking thru a city, carry healthy snacks. Yogurt, seasonal local fruit such as apples / peaches / pears, juices. Eating in a local restaurant with local fare is another way to absorb local culture.  
  10. Travel Light - who cares if photographs show clothes that are
    repeated? I'd rather have space to bring back that beautiful porcelain plate or cut glass or mask or painting.
  11. Stay at a place that is central – it’s worth being able to come back to a hotel / B&B to take a shower and a nap and head out again. 
  12. Go local – food, vocabulary, buses / trams, clothes, places of worship, open / wet bazaars…..what better way to understand how we are all alike and yet unique! 
  13. Don't try to do 20 things in 2 days. Do a few things and do them well (sort of like the 1-3 cities rule). Vacations are not corporate life where we have goals and metrics to meet.
  14. If you are leaving dependents at home.  Find the best caregiver you can, and don't keep calling them to find how things are! They'll call you if they need help.

Vacation Wishes

La Sagrada Familia, Barcelona, Spain
Now I want to go on  more vacations and I can't being a primary caregiver.  The vacations I want?
  1. An all girl vacation
  2. A road trip vacation
  3. A vacation by myself
  4. A vacation where I can skydive / parachute / ride a hot air balloon
  5. Vacations to experience new places - The Forbidden Palace and Great Wall of China, The Great Barrier Reef (Australia), Bali (Indonesia), Alaska, Procida (Italy), Pakistan (Yes, Pakistan), Bangladesh, Vietnam, Morocco, New York City, St. Petersburg, all of Australia, New Zealand, Africa, South America (specially Machu Picchu in Peru, Buenos Aires in Argentina, Guatemala, Mexico,...................) 
  6. Vacations to see and experience again places I love - Prague, London, Venice, Barcelona, Provence, Trinidad & Tobago, Jamaica, Goa, Athens
  7. Vacations to learn dance
  8. Vacations to write
  9. Vacation to recover from a vacation!!!
Interestingly, I have vacationed in 11 of the 25 TripAdvisor Traveler's Destinations for 2015

I still have so much ground to cover, on and off the beaten track!


  1. Ah! Vacations...Sangs - see my take here - AND here

    1. Eswaran - I loved "How to spoil a good weekend outing" ! :-)