I have a few friends who, in confidence, admit they dislike vacations.
Other friends are always planning the next big trip.
Vacations, for some reason, seem like something that people rarely speak honestly about.
I’ll try and be honest here.
Right now, I’m with Lindsay at Glacier National Park.
For me, being on vacation is not better or worse than not being on vacation. It’s just different.
My baseline daily psychological traits (mildly neurotic, intellectually curious, generally conscientious) and my baseline happiness (about average, with swings across the day) don’t radically change because I’m on vacation.
I don’t suddenly become happy all day just because I’m on a hike or lying on a beach.
But being on vacation is different.
To be more specific, being on vacation:
1. Let’s the mind be more creative. It’s kind of like being in the shower for a week; there is plenty of time for the mind to wander. 98% of this thinking ends up being useless, but the 2% can be significant. My decision to step down from NSNO and start consulting was, in part, born out of vacation thinking.
2. Gives time to understand relationships. There is something fundamentally different about being with someone, or some people, for long periods of time without breaks. Everyone is forced to face the best and worst parts of everyone’s personalities. This does not necessarily mean that the people you most deeply connect with are the best people to vacation with. Rather, you just realize that, for you, some people are best experienced in two hour increments, while others are best experienced in weeks. You want your partner, I think, to be in the latter category.
3. Is amenable to long-form works. On vacation, I watch movies and read novels at much higher rates. On this trip, we’ve watched: American Sniper (excellent), While We’re Young (underachieved), Ex Machina (avoided the most interesting questions), and Frozen Ground (exactly what we were looking for). Long-form works have a different effect on the mind; it’s more narrative than bullet points, which is a good way to think, at times.
4. Incites mood fluctuations: Without my usual routines (consulting, blogging, twitter, email, calls, etc.) I find there are fewer guardrails on my moods; I fluctuate more often and at greater extremes. This is by far the hardest part of being on vacation.
5. Is connected to music: I often remember vacations by what music I listened to the most on the trip. This vacation has included a lot of My Morning Jacket, which seems to fit the expansive Montana skyline and mountains; Believe (Nobody Knows), One Big Holiday, Touch Me I’m Going to Scream Part Two, and Golden all rang true.
Here’s a photo from the vacation. It’s of a mountain goat.
I started talking to him about charter schools and he ran off.