Reflections from My Vacation in the Middle of Nowhere

July 27th, 2009

Indian LakeSometimes it can be a learning experience and a pleasant surprise to do things that fall outside of your typical preferences. This was exactly the case with my vacation last week.

My wife comes from a large family and we all rented a lake house deep within the Adirondacks and about a half hour from the nearest developed town. This is a world apart from the palm trees, hot weather, and easy access to restaurants and entertainment that I typically associate with vacation. As such, I knew this would be a different experience and was unsure about how it would turn out.

First Impressions Don’t Always Last the Longest

After getting past a few miles of narrow and rough dirt roads that were literally in the middle of the woods, we finally made it to the house. It was built nearly a century ago and nearly everything was wood including the walls and ceilings. It’s a beautiful house, but at first, it struck me as a setting from a horror movie that would drive someone to lose their mind if they spent enough time there alone.

I then realized that I wouldn’t have any internet access. Even while on vacation, I usually spend some time each day keeping up with this blog. I have a wireless internet card for my laptop that allows me to access the internet from any location that has a decent cell phone signal, but there was no such signal to be found anywhere near this house. If I wanted internet access, I’d have to drive about 20 minutes away which included the long dirt road that our car was clearly not built for.

Thoughts were beginning to creep into my mind that this wasn’t going to be the best vacation, but that type of thinking certainly wasn’t going to benefit me much, so I kept an open mind and focused on the fact that I had a week ahead of me to relax and spend time with family.

The Value of Disconnecting

Fortunately, I had most of my blog articles for the week written ahead of time. As such, I only needed to access the internet a few times to complete some unfinished work and prevent my email from growing out of control. For the most part, I had an entire week free from the distractions of the internet, email, and cell phones and was forced to sit back and relax.

Whether good, bad, physical or mental, chronic stress compromises health and is certainly not conducive to enjoying life. Despite the fact that I’m always looking for ways to simplify my life and make it more relaxing, taking on additional stress is sometimes a necessary evil. I’ve been working very hard towards the goal of supporting myself in a way that adds more meaning to my life and because of the time it consumes, it’s added quite a bit of stress to my life. The way I see it is that I have to take a step backward to take two forward, and until I’m able to take those steps forward, I simply have to manage this stress as well as I can. Being disconnected for a week was a welcome break from this.

Instead of thinking about all the tasks that need to get done on a given day, the biggest decisions I had to make each morning were if I’d take the canoe out on the lake, relax in the sun and get some vitamin D, absorb myself in the beauty of nature, reflect on life, or read a book. It didn’t take long to realize that this vacation was a blessing in disguise. It also served as an excellent reminder to not get so caught up in the trivial tasks and distractions of daily life and to make relaxation and leisure more of a priority.

Vacation and Overindulgence Don’t Have to Be Synonymous

I’ve learned the hard way that the instant gratification associated with indulgence is short lived and rarely worth the consequences. As such, I know that I’ll have a better time in the long run, even on vacation, if I limit my indulgence. I ate some food that I ordinarily wouldn’t have and enjoyed a few drinks on more than one occasion, but I did so in moderation. I had just as much fun as everyone else, but without the hangovers, heartburn, and weight gain which were some of the common complaints that I heard throughout the week.

Chemicals and Bugs

One of the common annoyances with this type of vacation is bugs and our trip was certainly no exception. Bug repellent was a popular item throughout the week and most people were literally coating themselves with it. If the chemicals in bug repellent, such as DEET, are toxic enough to kill and ward off insects, then I certainly don’t want them absorbing into my blood stream through my skin.

According to the Environmental Working Group’s toxicity database, DEET is a moderate health hazard, is associated with cancer, developmental issues, organ toxicity, neurotoxicity, endocrine disruption, and skin, eye, and lung irritation. With a risk rating of 6 out of 10, DEET is just one point away from being rated as a high health hazard by the EWG. I had no interest in putting this junk on my skin, and although I did get a few bug bites, the bugs were not nearly as much of an issue for me as they were for those who were coating themselves with a thick and shiny layer of DEET.

Enjoying Nature Barefoot … Almost

I had plenty of opportunities to try my new Vibram Five Finger shoes which understandably earned me the nickname of “monkey feet.” These shoes do an excellent job of allowing you to enjoy the benefits of walking barefoot while protecting your feet from cuts and scratches. I even wore them for a short hiking trip, and based on my interest in functional fitness, I thoroughly enjoyed the freedom of natural foot function while hiking on challenging terrain.

The Making of a Great Vacation

My previous vacation inspired me to come up with 12 tips for planning a great vacation. One of the reasons why I had such a great time during last week’s trip is because we followed many of these tips. Renting a house with a full kitchen allowed us to feel at home, spend more time with family, save money by cooking ourselves, and also allowed me to prepare and store healthy meals. The atmosphere was extremely conducive to relaxing and provided me with plenty of inspiration to bring more of it into my every day life. Thanks to these factors and an open mind, I had a welcome break from daily stress and came home with great memories and a refreshed and improved perspective on life.

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