I constantly have this urge to go on vacation.
While it’s partly because I find a lot of value in experiencing what’s out there in the world, I also recognize that it’s an effective way to completely disconnect from my life.
When I’m away for a week, I don’t have to think about what doctor’s appointments I need to make this month, if I’m putting enough money into my IRA, or how to grow my business. I’m just living in the moment, problems and worries hundreds or thousands of miles away, feeling fully alive. It’s quite nice when the only problem on the horizon is figuring out what time to shower so that I can be on the beach in time to watch the sunset.
I notice that after vacation I feel refreshed, with a new sense of vitality and readiness to tackle what might come my way. But slowly, the worries and the stagnant routines creep back in, and I’m fantasizing about my next vacation again.
Why do I feel like I keep needing to get away in order to feel better about being right where I am? Especially since I live in New York City! People actually come here for vacation—to escape their problems and experience new things. So what makes their experience different from mine? Just because I pay rent here means that I can’t vacation here too?
I’ve realized that we don’t have to go somewhere else to vacation—we can actually do that wherever we are (with the right intentions). The main aspects of “vacationing while at home” are mindfulness and presence, which means simply making the choice to be fully present for an extended period of time—just like we do while we are on vacation and experiencing new places.
This means saying to ourselves, “I am going to be right here, right now. As I walk to work, I am going to feel the sun shining on my skin and notice all of these faces that walk by me. I’m even going to leave 10 minutes early, so I can sit on a bench in that little park on the way and listen to the birds chirp. I’m not going to think about which grocery store to stop at on the way home tonight.”
Here are four additional ways to practice being fully present:
1. Purposeful sightseeing. When we are on vacation, we make a choice to go see the best of what the new area has to offer. I can say for myself, and I’m sure many other New Yorkers can too, that we just don’t take enough advantage of what’s here for us. We don’t have to wait for others to visit us from out of town to go visit a museum we haven’t seen yet, or get tickets to a show, or check out the rooftop of a tall building—we can just take the time and make that choice for ourselves!
2. Non-purposeful wandering. Part of what I love about a new place is wandering around without the need to arrive somewhere specific. Exploring new streets, popping into stores that look interesting, grabbing a spontaneous tea just to sit amongst locals in a sweet little cafe, or leaving home with the intention to just wander without an agenda (other than to be fully present) can allow for new experiences to arise in familiar neighborhoods.
Living in New York City, the opportunities for this are endless. By doing this practice, I’ve realized that I’ve walked down the same street probably hundreds of times and never noticed the gorgeous buildings on the block. Sure, I’ve seen the eye-level view of them, but I had never looked up to see the rest of them. However, even if you live in a small, quiet area, looking around at trees or wildlife can always offer new mindful moments.
3. Meeting new people. When I travel, I notice that I am always meeting new people—and I really enjoy it! There are tons of people in New York City, so why not meet them too? Putting ourselves in situations where meeting people is more likely and having that intention will allow for that possibility. Leaving the house with our headphones and sunglasses on, while rushing to our next plan, makes it unlikely—but leaving some extra time and setting out with the intention of engaging with other humans (like we might do on vacation) allows for that opportunity.
4. Trying new food. I love cooking and have food sensitivities, so I don’t go out to eat at new restaurants often—but I love eating out when I’m traveling. Making the choice to try a new restaurant or a new type of cuisine allows for the experience of mindful eating. When we are trying something new, we are naturally more tuned in to the experience of what we are tasting, instead of mindlessly shoveling food down.
While I will always love traveling around the world, I am now learning that I can also love “vacationing” right here in Brooklyn, putting my rent to good use.
Author: Monica Nastasi
Image: Author’s own
Editor: Yoli Ramazzina
Copy editor: Nicole Cameron