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This summer I did what in the past was unthinkable. I went a little haywire with my passport and booked not one, but two vacations. I typically take two weeks off in the summer. However I found my ideal traveling dates sandwiched between my daughter’s intense theatre camp and my son’s ballet camp. It was clear plans had to adjusted. The solution was simple; I’ll spend six days in Belize in July and 10 days in Italy in late August! This would be my attempt to normalize my sleeping patterns, take a break from my email and patient care in basket, and writing. I also pledged to re-focus my healthcare goals as I found myself spending less time exercising and more time feeling fatigued and looking for opportunities to nap.

After a year of “staycations” which involved more cleaning and laundry than actual relaxing, and connecting with my children, I decided to listen to my body. I first had to ask the question, “What would you love.” And the planning began. Vacation is one outlet I know for sure allows me to fully check out from the every day responsibilities of life;  think, sleep, and connect with my family.

Here are five ways I used vacation to relax, renew, and realign:

  1. Choose a Destination Without Wi-Fi:

Internet, Smartphones, Personal Hotspots, and endless Wi-Fi connections have been transformative. But lately I struggle with finding time to truly connect with the people in my life that I love. Limiting my childrens' Ipad use and having uninterrupted conversation with family is a challenge. Some friends barely answer their phones anymore. And the new expectation to be available at all times via text messaging and email can take us out of the present moment.  The present is our true gift in living.

I heard of a beautiful Lodge in Belize from my work partner. Surrounded by 400 acres of jungle, how could I go wrong with this adventure? Determined to make hikers and explorers out of my family, I decided to forgo the beaches of Belize and head straight to the San Ignacio region to hike in caves, climb ruins, and relax come dusk. Most of the cottages didn’t have Wi-Fi available inside the actual room.  You’d have to go to a common area to use it. Even though access was convenient and a very short distance, I was highly unmotivated to go out of my way to find the hotspot.

This is a beautiful concept. Instead of fighting the urge to check my inbox constantly or social media accounts, this place demanded one’s presence. I awoke every morning to the sound of howler monkeys and fell asleep every night to crickets serenading my thoughts. No exaggeration! The six days reminded me of  what it was like to be truly present and connected.

  1. Schedule All Necessary Doctor’s Appointments Upon Returning:

Acknowledging I was late for scheduling my Upper Endoscopy and Colonoscopy after my Gastroenterologist reminded me I “need to follow my own Health Vows,” I made an internal pact. I had all necessary doctors' appointments already penciled in my calendar to be completed upon my return home. I scheduled my two endoscopy procedures on a Friday, my mammogram at 7:15 am on a Saturday, and my dermatology appointment the following week. I made it to all of them and have my follow up plans in place. I told myself, “If you are going to vacation, there is no room for procrastination when it comes to your health when you return home.” I will make visiting all my necessary physicians as part of my self-care plan within one to two weeks from returning from vacation.  This is my new practice in self-love.

  1. Ban Television:

In Belize, there were no televisions in our cottage. I welcomed this concept with open arms. Instead of watching all the negativity on the news, or waking up to cartoons, the Disney Channel, or mindless chatter; we fell asleep every night after reading books of our choice. In the mornings I rose to focus on inspirational daily readings, my spiritual work, mediation, or sitting on the patio listening to the sounds of the jungle. In Italy, we had a television in our apartment, but luckily the language barrier prevented my family from wanting to turn it on.

  1. Chose Vacation Time to Foster Close Relationships:

My relationships with my girlfriends and siblings bring me much joy. When I asked myself, “What would you love?” the answer is consistent; more time with close family and friends. I planned my trip to Belize with a close friend and her family.   We had separate lodging so that we still had quiet family time after dinner but met up daily for meals and excursions.

My incentive for visiting the Liguria region of Italy was inspired by my sister having moved there and my plan to spend time with her and my three-year-old nephew. Again, I rented a separate apartment for my family which gave us privacy, time to sleep in and relax, and not be disrupted by my sister’s routine, nor disrupt her day with our routine. The highlight of that trip was a two-hour dinner she planned for just the two of us. We realized it had been years since we had dined alone. This was something we enjoyed and took for granted throughout our twenties when we frequently met up for dinner in Chicago, traveled the islands together, and spent late nights talking about everything close sisters bounce off each other.   We both can’t stop talking about how precious and renewing that night was. We arrived back at her place as rejuvenated spirits and also better wives and mothers.

  1. Don’t Overbook Your Vacation Schedule:

I’ve changed in the past decade. I no longer have a need or desire to “fit it all in” or “get my money’s worth.” We’ve all had that vacation where we need another week off to recover when arriving back home. Clearly you have to have a plan how you will spend your time. But I make sure to leave time for relaxation and rest. In Belize, there were definitely days we were up early to set out to see caves or visit ruins. Those days were special. But we equally enjoyed the days we left open with no plans but to eat, swim, relax, and visit a butterfly garden or go for a walk. In Italy we slept in almost every day. We had a loose plan in mind of the cities in Cinque Terre we planned to see, arrived to Portofino well after 2 pm, and had many late beach days. We decided to approach the trip without judging ourselves for what time we arrived at our destinations and embraced the sleep we obviously needed that comes as a package deal with jetlag.

Honor Health Vow #2

I Vow to Stay Connected to My Body to Hear and Feel Everything it has to Say