I was on vacation last week. We were very busy, but we didn’t have a set schedule. I noticed something interesting a few days into the trip. Even though there was nowhere we had to be at any given time, I still found myself rushing to get places. I was hurrying to get from one park to the next, and even irritated if we were in a long line of cars. I wasn’t late for anything at all, so what was going on?
We live in a fast-paced world, and a lot of our time is over-scheduled. This leads to a constant sense of urgency – to get somewhere, to finish something, to move on to the next big thing. It’s so ingrained in us to rush, we can’t shut it off when we finally get some down time. And as our bodies hurry from one place to the next, our minds jump ahead, too. As I waited in line for one attraction, I was thinking and planning about what we were going to do next. I finally realized that my push to get to the next fun thing was sucking the pleasure from the experience, because I wasn’t present to enjoy it.
Vacations always seem to teach me something. Last year I learned to stop counting down the days and dreading the end of my time off. This year I had to force myself to slow down, to look around and notice things, to hear music and laughter and taste my food. I had to let go of the need to do everything in order to savor the experience at hand. I can’t say I walked more slowly, but I allowed myself to rush with the thrill of the moment, rather than the need to check another item off the agenda. I think it’s always easier to remain mindful when I’m relaxed, so vacation is the perfect time to practice. I’m happy to take this lesson back into my real life this week: slow down and enjoy this moment, the present is where the excitement lies.