When You Can’t Take a Vacation… take a mental one.

If I had unlimited funding and if life didn’t require my regular presence in one place, I’d travel on vacation at least once a month. Maybe go away for a few months each year, and definitely take sabbaticals at least every 5 years. Aside from the beauty of travelling itself and the thrill of new places and experiences, coming home from a trip feels like a new beginning, an opportunity to move ahead with regular life as a slightly different person than I was before.

Sometimes this renewal is small, like the addition of a new dish from my adventure to my regular cooking repertoire (Dominican mangú is one of my favourites). Sometimes it’s big, like the decision to make a major lifestyle change.

But given that most of us can’t travel on a very regular basis, can we still find that sense of renewal in our lives when we need it? I think there are ways to do it inwardly, without having to physically leave, though I hadn’t really considered it until I felt it recently.

It happened quite by accident. In looking for a new Netflix series, we started watching Outlander. And oh man, I got totally sucked into the story of a time travelling nurse who finds herself in the Scottish highlands in the mid-1700s. I couldn’t wait for the show to tell the story, so I started reading the book series by Diana Gabaldon on which the show is based. To date, there are 8 books. And they’re really long. I read all 8 in the last few months. Every spare moment I could grab in the day, devouring.

Taking a mental vacation with the Outlander series

The 8 books that dominated my attention for the last few months

And when I finished, it really felt like I had come back from a long vacation. I even had a bit of what felt like jet lag (probably from late nights of reading). But then I got that particular sense of renewal and a desire to refocus. This also coincided with the end of a time-consuming freelance contract, allowing me space to find greater balance. With those combination of factors–a “return” and a freeing up of some time–I feel ready to move forward. To start again, recommit, refocus, get organized.

I’m not sure exactly why it works this way. Part of it for me as a writer is consuming work I admire, and feeling inspired to create something myself. But I know there’s also an element of taking a break from my “normal” life, just like we do on vacation, and coming back with new eyes that allow me to assess things differently. And I suppose when the book is so absorbing, that feeling of submersion is sufficient enough to create a new viewpoint even though I’m still going about daily life at the time of reading. While my daily life seems to go on autopilot, my inner world is so full of lives and events outside of myself in such a way that when I “return,” I feel different.

(or maybe this is just me and I’m a little crazy…?)

The TV series (on Starz and Netflix) is also really good, but I hope they don’t pull at “Game of Thrones” and pass the books…

Anyhow, I appreciate this effect. I’m not sure how possible it would be to orchestrate it. It’s hard to know before reading if a book will suck you in so completely. And this time around, there were definitely multiple elements that converged to give me this sense of renewal (and I’m sure it helped that the series offered somewhere around 6,500 pages in which to lose myself). But perhaps being aware of it will help me in the future to seize these moments and use them to their maximum advantage.

Do you do this? Have you ever had a book, or books, give you this feeling? Or are you able to find it in other ways?

When You Can't Take a Vacation... take a mental one | www.theselfstyledlife.com

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4 responses to “When You Can’t Take a Vacation… take a mental one.

  1. I 100% agree with this! I think it’s also why you sometimes feel a little sad/disappointed when you finish a really wonderful book. It’s like getting back to work after a vacation. I definitely felt this way when I read Harry Potter for the first time a few years ago. I actually missed my bus stop for work one morning because I was so lost in the story. I recently read the memoirs of George F. Kennan, which is absolutely not a book I thought could become consuming in this way, but it definitely was. And I almost mourn that I finished it because it took me away like a book hadn’t in a long time. I may check out the Outlander series because I need something like this so much right now!

    • Oh yeah, Harry Potter for sure. That’s so funny that you also fell into the George Kennan memoirs. That’s very you 🙂

      Yeah, anything that sucks me in so much that I feel like I can’t put it down definitely helps. Try Outlander! Let me know if you like it!

  2. I can totally relate to how you feel when reading a great series of books. I am totally into readiing Kathy Reichs books. i can’t get enough of them. I am very fortunate that my friend has the series and is lending them to me as I go through the books. She is quite frustrated with me as I have caught up to where she is reading so I am now waiting for the nextt book. Having been in Montreal for many visits in previous years, when she speaks of certain streets or places, I can see them in my mind and it puts me back to a great time. It also makes me want to go back to Montreal to see these areas again but iin a different mind set. Thanks for sharing, Jean.

    • Haha that happened to Mike and me with a book series we were both reading. I caught up! I love when you know the setting of a book and connect in that way. I’ve read a couple of set-in-Toronto books and it’s helped me connect with the city even more.

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