Minor Reflections on What It Feels Like to Be on Vacation

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 musicI 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.


2 thoughts on “Minor Reflections on What It Feels Like to Be on Vacation

  1. Ed Jones

    Put down the electronics and go on about your vacationing…

    America (or any place probably) is so filled with things to see and learn, I find no reason to pull out books, movies, phones, etc while traveling and vacationing.

    Your mileage may vary, of course. Children and spouses aren’t always amenable to constant exploration. Still,…

    I never cease to find fascination with the land. These days, sites can usually be found nearby that provide interpretation.

    Over the years, we’ve been able to explore much of how the Civil war unfolded, and the Revolution, and French and Indian wars before that.

    One of the best assets is our wonderful network of Outdoor drama. Aside from an evening of thinking an informative entertainment, you’ll supplement the resumes, skill enhancement, and pockets of drama students across the land.

    A few of the stories we’ve learned through premier outdoor drama:
    – Lost Colony – Roanoke
    – Horn in the West – Daniel Boone
    – Trumpet in the Land – the Moravian massacres
    – White Savage – Simon Girty, during the Revolution
    – Tecumseh! – of the legendary chief
    – Unto These Hills – the Cherokee story.

    Hitting the trails and walking is one of the things your body needs most. My curiosity usually is enough to keep me going ‘just beyond the next bend’ well past physical tiredness.

    I don’t know about charter schools specifically, but teen learning should involve more connecting with the land and it’s history. We can do this much better with the new tools we have today.

    From the canal era to trains, to highways, the Forbes Road and the Trail of Tears and the Mormon trail, and even the march to Donner Pass. We understand where we’re at when we can follow how we got here. Even glaciers. Which are due back soon.


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