Tag Archives: Ocean

Adventure, Relaxation, or Option C: What Do You Want From Vacation?

“Resurrection, rebirth, reincarnation, resprout, revive! All these words can be summarized only in one word: Vacation!” –Mehmet Murat Ildan

Hello friend,

This has been such a fun week to live in my imagination! I am oozing fantasies and positive vibes. My happiness hormones are in overdrive from so many visions of Mother Nature in all her glory, and me basking in it.

This flood of daydreams and smiles comes courtesy of the perfect storm of circumstances. First, I am just a few days away from my long-awaited, much-anticipated Spring Break trip to the white sand beaches and turquoise waters of Florida, so my mind can’t help but go there any chance it gets. And second, this week I also found my way to the Montana Tourism website to begin the storyboarding for what will be my best Summer adventure in nearly two decades: a family roadtrip to my favorite state and the mountains that sing to my soul. I feel like I have been given some wonderful hallucinogenic drugs that fill my mind with an endless stream of delightful images of me and my family frolicking in these dual Paradises. Flashes of majestic peaks and mountain goats feeding along clear streams alternate with vivid jolts of the shimmering ocean at sunset and silhouetted dolphins at play in the eternal surf. It is simultaneously the most soul-stirring and most serene interplay of imagery, and I am absolutely tickled to have a ticket to the show. I am flying high.

As I watch my mind with that third eye that sees from above the scene, I cannot help but be fascinated by the way these two very different vacations are both exciting me and soothing me. After all, one is a very passive, chill-on-the-beach-and-watch-the-water trip, while the other is a more active, hike-in-the-mountains-and-be-explorers adventure. Somehow, as the alternating images flood my mind and light up my soul, I get the same sense that each vacation will have me communing with my brand of God, served in very different ways but feeling the same in the end.

Maybe it is the places themselves and the sense of me being exactly in my element in the ocean and in the mountain forests. I realize that if you asked me, should I die today, where would I like you to toss my ashes, I would probably give you answers that described my two vacations for the year: Avalanche Lake in the mountains of Glacier National Park (Montana) or somewhere in the shimmering blue waters of the ocean. Those places make my soul feel at home.

But does that make them ideal vacation destinations? It certainly makes them nice places for me to visit when I get a chance, but if you forced me to answer which of those two types of vacations I would choose, which would I go for? Or would I, perhaps, go a different route altogether, choosing a trip that fulfills some other need that my regular lifestyle doesn’t provide?

Why do we go on vacation, anyway?

At first blush, I am tempted to lump people into two main categories: Relaxers and Doers. I have had many occasions to talk vacations through the years with people in relationships, and it seems to often be the case that one spouse doesn’t consider it a vacation unless their butt has been in the sand and several books have been read, while their mate goes crazy after a morning sitting around on the beach and would much rather be on a ski trip. Perhaps they compromise by alternating years between the beach and the mountain, or one spouse sits on the beach while the other goes on excursions from the resort every day: snorkeling or deep see fishing or parasailing or jet skiing. The Relaxers and the Doers are different breeds, indeed.

But are they the only breeds? Have I covered it all right there when it comes to vacationers? I think of the different trips I have taken over the years, alone or with others, and I realize that there are all sorts of different things, at least superficially, to get out of a vacation.

When I was in my mid-twenties, I spent a few months wandering around Europe. I wanted to learn about everything: the people, the history, the architecture, the vibe. It was definitely more of a Doer thing, as I was lugging a big backpack and walked hundreds of miles. But it wasn’t like a ski trip–not that kind of doing. Because, while it was physically taxing, it was certainly more of a mental and spiritual journey for me. I was a Learner, or perhaps an Explorer. Trips to the many museums and monuments in Washington, DC, I suppose, fall into that category. It is about growing your mind, expanding your view of the world. I would like more of these vacations at some point, especially to the other continents that I have yet to visit.

Some folks are Event people. They use their vacation days for trips to concerts or sporting events, maybe Broadway shows. Although I can’t see this as a regular thing for me, I have always wanted to go to the U.S. Open tennis tournament in New York and Wimbledon in London. A variation on the Event crowd is the Theme Park set. Many parents I talk to try to make it sound it like it is my parental obligation to my children to take them to Disney World at least once in their young lives. I call Nonsense on that one. Not that I think it wouldn’t be fun–it would–but I also cannot imagine a more draining vacation than this. I would need a few days alone on an empty beach to recover.

One vacation that would be exhausting but rewarding is a Service trip. There are people in need in all parts of the world, and what a way to combine doing some good with expanding your empathy and worldview. That would suit me well.

What else do the Relaxers do besides the beach? Maybe a health spa (perhaps one at the ski resort where their spouse is being a Doer). Some people who camp go to their campground just to chill out and enjoy being outside. In Minnesota, where I live, tons of people “go to the lake,” some to do active things but others just to sit and relax. There is something undeniably soothing about the water. I don’t blame them, and I jump on my opportunities to be a lake Relaxer each Summer.

But as much water, sand, and lounge chair space as there is available in the world, it definitely feels like the Doers get the better deal when it comes to vacation options. The entire planet is here for them to explore and play in! I have a friend who exemplifies this. He meets up with buddies at beautiful destinations for golf vacations, tennis vacations, hunting trips, fishing trips, and photo safaris. Then, with his family, go goes on ski and snowboard vacations, roadtrips across the land to hiking/exploring spots, and active beach vacations. What is left: spelunking and scaling Mt. Everest?

Whatever can be dreamt of, can be done (or, in the case of Relaxers, not done) on a vacation. The variety is amazing!

On the surface, it appears that we must be going on these very different vacations for very different reasons, each of us with some unique itch to scratch. The adrenaline junkie zip-lining through the rain forest cannot possibly be after the same thing as the religious pilgrim. The needs of the museum goer are obviously different than those of the theme park goer. Surely the skier’s itch is altogether different from the beach lounger’s.

Or is it?

When I think about my two very distinct vacations this year–both of which have me giddy with anticipation–the feeling that comes over me is one of absolute connection with my soul, a state of deep peace that comes with restoring my sense of balance and harmony in my life, filling in the places that are too much neglected in my normal routine. In different ways, each vacation will lead me back to my truest self. Each will make me feel whole.

I am beginning to believe, just now as I write these words, that this restoration, this reharmonization (I am making that word up) of the soul, is what all well-chosen vacations are truly about. We go to tickle or massage all of those needs that go unmet in our regular routines. Our particular untended fields look different in the landscape of our souls–the itches are indeed unique and require quite specialized scratching–but in the end, we vacation to give those fields the love and care that they have been missing. Even when we return exhausted and in need of a few “vacation” days to recover from vacation and before resuming our personal versions of ordinary, everyone who has had a great vacation has some deeper peace about them, that feeling of relief and contentment that comes immediately upon scratching an itch. All is well in the world, even if only temporarily. It is why I think vacations are a good eye-opener about the error in our ways, reminders of the elements of our souls that we need to take better care of in our everyday lives.

So I will go to the ocean next week and to the mountains this Summer. I will go to “have fun” and “relax” and “sightsee” and all that other good stuff. But what I will really go to do is take care of my soul, to fill in the voids that I have gradually created by neglecting essential pieces of me. There are messages in the vast magnificence of the blue water, the high mountains, and the big sky–divine messages–that speak to me in a language that my soul knows as its native tongue. These messages aren’t in my day-to-day, and I feel that in ways that are subtle some days and not-so-subtle other days. And so I vacation. And in that vacation, I find my way back home.

How about you? What do you hope to get from your vacation? Open up your journal and write about the way you spend your time away from your “real life.” What type of vacations have you taken most recently? Can you place them into neat categories like Relaxation or City Touristing or Physical Adventure? Were these trips your preference or did you go along on someone else’s desires? What did you get out of them? Was that what you were looking for? Did you get the sense that it was “just what the doctor ordered,” or were you unfulfilled, perhaps anxious, afterward? If it was somehow soothing to your soul, can you name what exactly it was about it that made it that way? The place? The activity (or inactivity)? The company? What in your normal day-to-day are you missing that was filled by the vacation? Is there something that you can add to your usual routine to fill that need more habitually rather than only on vacation? If it was just you choosing your next vacation, where would you go and what would you do? Who would join you, if anyone? What needs and desires would this vacation fulfill? Is it a one-time-only kind of thing you want to do, or is it something you could imagine yourself making into an annual thing? How different is this fantasy than your usual vacations? What category do most of your vacations fall into? Which categories would you like to add to your menu? Which categories are of no interest to you at all? Which vacation that you have already been on has left you feeling most complete, connected, and at peace? How can you find that feeling again? Even though we all do different things on our vacations, am I right in believing that we are all actually searching for the same thing? Is there some feeling that is common to everyone who has had a great vacation? Is it just as simple as “satisfaction,” or is there something deeper to it, something that is difficult to define but worthy of our effort to do so? Do you know what I mean when I describe that soul fulfillment? When have you been there? Is it asking too much of a vacation to take you there? What else do you want? Leave me a reply and let me know: What do you want from your vacation?

Be Peace and Bliss,

William

P.S. If this resonated with you, please share it with your community. Let’s find our happy places together!

P.P.S. If this way of reflecting on your heart, mind, and soul is appealing to you, I encourage you to pick up a copy of my book Journal of YOU: Uncovering The Beauty That Is Your Truth at your favorite online retailers.

What Are You Missing?

“Well, I was born in the sign of water, and it’s there that I feel my best. The albatross and the whales they are my brothers. It’s kind of a special feeling when you’re out on the sea alone, staring at the full moon like a lover.” —Little River Band, Cool Change

Hello friend,

Eight years ago, when my daughter was still a baby, our little family of three took a vacation to San Diego. It was actually a work trip for my wife, but my baby girl and I got to tag along. I had lived in Southern California many years earlier and had fallen deeply in love with the ocean, so I was not about to miss that trip. On the day that my wife was free from meetings and told me I got to choose our adventure, the words could not have come out of me faster: “I want to go surfing!”

It was a grey, chilly afternoon at the beach—no one was on the sand but us—and as my wife and daughter bundled up on the towel, I ran across the street and rented a board and a wetsuit, then sprinted back and jumped into the frigid water. I was home! Every neuron was firing at maximum capacity, and my entire being was flooded with adrenaline. The little taste of saltwater on my lips was like taking a sip from a cup of lightning. I was overwhelmed by the enormity of this mysterious beast I was now a part of.

I had always, in my journals, referred to the ocean as The Power, and in that moment, I could feel exactly why. Even though the waves were small that day—I had been thrashed by dangerously large breakers at the same beach several years before—it was obvious that, by comparison, I was like a single speck of sand in a vast desert. The Power could have its way with me any time.

That vastness, that power, that whirring sense of danger that danced in the background, these are the things that lit my soul on fire as I dove into the cold water that afternoon. A few minutes later, after paddling out a ways in hopes of bigger swells and sitting up on my board to scan the endless horizon, I found the part that settles me into the deepest Peace. It is the suddenly obvious connection with All That Is. I knew that I was in the same water that touched the people swimming in China and India, in Australia and Antarctica and Argentina and Angola and Alaska and Algeria. It was this water, and the elements that composed it, that allowed LIFE to happen on this tiny little planet floating in the vast cosmos. That connection, that Peace–even more than the wild exhilaration–has always made the ocean home for me.

It is why that cold afternoon in the Pacific was so memorable for me. I was home.

That was eight years ago. I haven’t seen the ocean since.

Oh sure, I have been at the water. I go to the lake every Summer for some days with my family. I take my kayak out to the neighborhood lakes a few times per year. I swim laps at the gym. I used my free hour on my birthday this year to hike along a local stream. I love all of those things, and each time I am reminded of the enchanting power that water has always held over me. I am always so grateful to be there.

But a lake is not an ocean.

My kids are 6 and 8 now. After all these years of being too busy, too broke, and thinking what a hassle it would be to travel with two little ones, my wife and I decided it was time to give it a shot. So, several months ago, we finally took my parents up on their yearly offer and booked plane tickets to visit them at their home in Florida during our Spring Break. I then immediately put the trip out of my mind.

That was October. Now, it is March. Spring Break is in March.

As the month began, I officially gave myself permission to think about the trip: to daydream, to fantasize, to get excited. When I have had those free moments, I watch my mind as it travels. It has only one destination: the ocean.

Swimming in it. Listening to the waves lapping the shore. Watching the sun set over it. Swimming in it some more. And more. And more.

Intellectually, when I try to pull myself back from those thoughts, I can recognize that there are so many parts of the trip to look forward to: hanging out with my parents every day, watching the kids play with their grandparents, seeing one of my best friends who has lived down there for a few years, learning a whole new area I have never visited, feeling warm, swimming in a pool, taking adventures with the kids, and simply being on vacation. All of those sound fabulous and well worth some daydreaming smiles.

However, when it is time to let my mind wander and my eyes glaze over, all I can think about is the water. The beautiful, powerful salt water and the endless mirroring sky above it. That is what calls to me.

I can see now that I have turned off part of my soul in all of these years when I have not had either the time or the money to get there. I convinced myself that I didn’t need it, that I was self-contained, that everything that fills me is right here in my presence. I wanted to be that mentally strong, that disciplined, that stoic.

This week’s daytime revelations have shown me that I have been mostly in a state of denial all these years. I have been working hard to resist the ocean’s natural pull on my soul. I have used my visits to nearby lakes and streams to calm the calling. I have convinced myself that they are enough, that my heart doesn’t ache for more. My laser-focused daydreams of late tell me I have been fooling myself.

I have been missing something that, in this moment at least, seems so essential to the vitality of my spirit. It is a tank that needs to be refilled more often than every eighth year, obviously. I have been running on empty for a very long time and simply making do without it. I can feel now that even my visions of the ocean are beginning to refill the tank, beginning to revitalize me. My spirit soars with each fantasy. It is a delight in my mind.

This makes me certain that the real thing—that first taste of salt water on my lips as I plunge below the surface—will infuse my soul with the most profoundly exhilarating Joy and Peace. It will be a magic beyond measure. I am already grateful for it. It is exactly what I have been missing!

How about you? What have you been missing in your life? Open up your journal and shine a light into the areas you may have been hiding from. What are the things that your soul longs for but that you convince yourself you can do without? The range of possible answers for this one is as broad and diverse as we are. It could be a specific person, a community of people, a place, a thing, a vacation, a treat. I think mostly that it comes down to a feeling, and that the person, place, or thing we long for is what gives us that feeling. What is the feeling you long for, the one you have been missing lately? Relief? Peace? Forgiveness? Companionship? Inspiration? Fulfillment? Permission? Freedom? Connectedness? Challenge? Exhilaration? Gratitude? Worthwhile? Do you know what you need to do to get there? Is it a trip? A conversation? An acknowledgment in your own mind? How big of a risk or sacrifice will it require? How much of your longing can be curbed by better use of your mind?   For example, regarding my ocean, does my excitement over my recent fantasies speak to a need to better use my imagination—to daydream with a purpose—to get my fix for these soul-fillers that are difficult to visit in person often enough? Can you get what you are missing without going anywhere? Does the thing you are missing have relatives (e.g. I know that I would have a similar experience in preparing for a Summer camping trip to the mountains of Montana, another place that feels like home to my soul but that I haven’t visited in ages)? How much denial do you live in about the things you miss the most? Does that denial protect you? Is there anything you have uncovered in this process that you could go after? What step can you take today in that direction? I dare you to move! Leave me a reply and let me know: What are you missing in your life?

Live consciously,

William

P.S. If today’s letter stirred you up, I hope that you will share it with someone who might appreciate a stirring, too. Blessed be.

What Would It Take To Get You To Move?

DSC_0390“I always wonder why birds choose to stay in the same place when they can fly anywhere on the earth. Then I ask myself the same question.” –Harun Yahya

Hello friend,

My wife came home from work a couple of days ago looking like she was deep in thought. I said hello, and she said—to me, but also seemingly to herself—“What would it take to get you to move away from here?” I could tell she had been pondering this all the way home on her long commute and was struggling for an answer. Silence ensued as I tried to think of some decent responses. The only two that jumped to mind immediately were the lottery and the super-duper dream job. As I was searching for something more reasonable, she said, “I just happened to hear about an opening for a job like mine, and it got me thinking about why people really leave one place for another and how often they regret it.” She mentioned some friends who had left for a few years and then came back, not aware at the time how much they would miss it and how the grass is not always greener on the other side. My mind was definitely churning for answers by that point, as she had hit a sensitive spot with me.

Her question made me think of my interview I did with my Mom last week in anticipation of her 70th birthday. We were doing a life review and talking about lessons she learned, things she was proud of, and things she would regret. In the middle of it, she casually mentioned—in a way that suggested that I have always known this—that she never really liked the town that she has lived in for the last 40 years (my hometown). My jaw dropped. HUH???? I was blown away. I never knew! In her casualness about it, she added, “But I can’t think of any other place I’d want to be, either.” She rattled off a few of the contenders in the area but none were appealing enough to make a change. Much like my wife’s question this week, I was really left wondering about my choice of town, the one that my kids will always know as their hometown. Just how great is this place? But, more specifically, how tied am I to it? How likely am I to leave in the next 20 or 30 years? What would it take to make me go? Hmmmm…..

When I was young, I moved all the time. I thought nothing of it. Between my 21st and 22nd birthdays, I lived—my definition of “living somewhere” is that I bought mustard at the grocery store there, a sign that I was somewhat settled in and not at a hotel—in five different cities: Grand Forks, ND; Minneapolis; Chicago; Washington, DC; and New York City. Shortly after that, I finally settled in Los Angeles and thought I was done.   A few years later, it turned out I was not done. Cities were then like jobs have always been for me: as soon as my heart wasn’t in it anymore, I had to move on. I moved a couple other times before finally settling here, where I have been—albeit in a few different houses—for the last 13 years. When we bought our current house almost five years ago, we thought of it as our forever house. And, despite the fact that my wife was looking on a real estate website today—old habits die hard–I think we both believe we are here for the long haul.

Or are we? Her question this week—and my Mom’s revelation last week—have me wondering why we are here and just what it would take to get me to leave.

I have never loved it here. I haven’t hated it, either. I just haven’t loved it. There is nothing particular about it that especially appeals to me, nothing that demands to be called Home. I live in a pleasant suburb of a fairly large city that has lots to do. However, I just don’t value the size, and I don’t take advantage of all the cool things about big city life. I can’t stand traffic; it seems like a waste of time to me. And Winter is very long here. It is gorgeous in the Summer—by far my favorite time of the year–but there is so little of it and so much nasty Winter.

In theory, I prefer to be in a relatively small town. I would like to know and trust more of the people around me, the way it seemed my parents did when I was a kid in my hometown of around 35,000 people. I would also, in theory at least, prefer to live either in the mountains or on the ocean, and somewhere with mild to warm temperatures most of the year. So, a smallish city on the beach or in the mountains with lots of active, outdoor options and open spaces. None of those qualities are even remotely close to my current situation! What the heck have I done?

The options certainly change when you get other people involved in the decision. Suffice it to say that I would probably not be living here right now if it weren’t for my wife and kids. And I DEFINITELY would not be living here right now if it were not for our extended families. They have shaped everything.

Living in a city this size is one of my wife’s ideals. Part of that is something we both desire, which is racial and ethnic diversity. We are a multi-racial family, and it is important to us to at least be in the same town as people whose ancestors do not all hail from Northern Europe. In most cases, with size comes diversity. So, here we are in the city! The reason it is this city, though, instead of one in a warmer climate or on an ocean—or even a more diverse one—is the reason that seems to trump all of the others: FAMILY. The proximity to both sides of our family and the ability to see them all frequently is the reason we came here, and it is the reason we have stayed. It means so, so much to me to be within a day’s drive of my parents and siblings, including both my childhood home and the lake cabin/family gathering place. I love that my kids’ favorite times of the year are when they gather with their cousins, and I so appreciate how well they know their grandparents. We just couldn’t pull off this combination anywhere else.

So, what would it take to get me to leave? Any old job opportunity wouldn’t do. It would have to be an absolute dream job—like writing or public speaking on topics of my choice—that also came with an obscene amount of money and time freedom to allow us to come back this way frequently to visit our families. Or, if my wife got a job that paid so well that I could work only on my passions at home and, again, we could easily and frequently visit family. Or, yes, the lottery would still be nice, I admit! All of the possibilities seem to involve 1) a dream job opportunity, 2) lots of money, and 3) the necessity of easy access to family. Short of that, I think I am a lifer. For better or for worse!

How about you? How tied are you to the place where you live? Open up your journal and share what it means to you to live where you do. What brought you there in the first place? How much choice did you have in the matter? What were the things that appealed to you when you first arrived? How have those things changed, and do you still value them the same way? What are the things about your home that you see as positives now that you didn’t think about when you first moved there? How much does proximity to family play a part in your choice of location? Is just knowing they are around enough, or do you really make the effort to see them often? If you took family out of the equation, what kinds of qualities matter most to you when you consider your ideal hometown? What kind of climate would you prefer? How about the landscape? Population? Diversity? Proximity to “culture”? Which of these carries the most weight? How long do you think you will live where you do now? Forever? Can you name one place in the world right now that you would definitely move to, even if it involved a very similar lifestyle to the one you lead now? What is it about that place? Why haven’t you gone there already? Leave me a reply and let me know, “What would it take to get you to move?”

Dream big,

William