Vacation expectations

Turns out, the key to a great vacation is managing expectations. Not for other people, but for myself. The only bit of happiness which is under my control is mine. This little fact may seem second nature to some people, but never has been the case for me.

I’m a little bit of a perfectionist, which is not really a good thing when it comes to relaxing. Vacation is a time when things will not go as planned. People will not behave as you think they should. Arrangements, so meticulously thought through will go astray. Intellectually, I know all these things, yet when they happen I have often become a little sad. One thing piles on the next and then I’m wondering why we left home at all?

I can’t seem to step back and analyze how most of the vacation was quite nice and was happening just as I hoped it would. I fixate on what is not working or on the small details that should not be bothered with. Makes me think of this quote, which I love:

“Oh, the comfort, the inexpressible comfort of feeling safe with a person; having neither to weigh thoughts nor measure words, but to pour them all out, just as they are, chaff and grain together, knowing that a faithful hand will take and sift them, keep what is worth keeping, and then, with a breath of kindness, blow the rest away.” -George Eliot
On recent vacations I have dedicated myself to planning a whole bunch of things I could do in the weather that is being forecasted. My list is long and varied. I read a bunch of different materials, history, food reviews, travel books, etc. I study maps, trying to get a lay of the land. I pack a bunch of things to do on long plane or car trips.
Then I kick back and let it all happen as it will. I live in the moment and embrace everything good about it.
As I think about this visit to Mexico as the sun starts to set, I am happy. I’m not sad to leave, although I could easily create a life here. But that is for another day. Tomorrow, I dive back into my current life with a renewed sense of purpose.

Cognitive tests

Some of the administration details of travel can really put your brain through the paces. It is almost like taking a cognitive test. (This I have recently become all too familiar with my Dad and my Son.)

These “exercises” have an upside though. The feeling of elation when you come through one of the tests successfully is quite something. At face value, it doesn’t seem like the tests would be difficult or that overcoming the challenge should provide that level of happiness.

Very early Sunday morning our travel day started, (and by very early I mean the crack of silly). I was thinking, the evening before, one of our foursome needs to get a good nights sleep. Our cognitive function needs to be sharp. Although travel is relatively easy, there were a number of new experiences, which could go smoothly, or not. I took one for the team and went to bed at 7pm Saturday night.

Armed with our packet of print offs, for each of the transitions, we set off from our house around 4am. The usual routines went as planned.
*Drop off the truck and get over to YVR on the shuttle.
*Priority check in with Air Canada, no charge for the extra bags, including the skim boards.
*Breeze through International security screening, (except the minor blip of a twelve year old and a pocket knife).
*Breakfast at Starbuck’s, (fake smile as my kids devoured frappachinos and highly processed, sugar loaded baked goods).
*Priority boarding.

From then on, we were in new territory. I usually don’t sit at the back of the plane, so close to the rest rooms. I am also not surrounding by children on all sides, my own or otherwise. Take a deep breath, we are on our way, relax!

Then comes the first test – filling out the Mexican immigration forms. I’m used to doing this. I have been to many different countries and to Mexico as recently as last year, so as we easily passed the first inspection where half the people had not filled out their forms properly, we were good.

Luggage in hand, we “pushed the red button” and got a green light, no extra baggage check. (Last year when we were carrying 9 bags, that was a treat!) Then we ran the gauntlet and had to take the correct exit to get our rental car. (I posted about this yesterday, setting off in the rental car, not as smooth as it could have been).

With iPhones and navigation apps, we tried to locate directions to our lunch stop. My husband ended up seeing the road sign and we turned off having found our destination by memory, road signs and general common sense. After lunch, the same technology was supposed to land us at the Walmart superstore, but I was already snoozing from dos cerveza’s in the sun, so we missed it. Just as well, I didn’t really want to go in there. Not in Mexico, or anywhere else.

After a quick backtrack, we were on the highway North to La Paz. Now I could sleep in earnest. As we approached La Paz, my husband drove us straight to our destination and our final cognitive test. Getting into the complex, (of which we had a key for the passenger gate), and into the condo with a code.

Passed with flying colors! Looking back, it was all really easy – but of course anything would seem that way after conquering the car problems first.



Evidently the term “staycation“, was originally coined by Canadian comedian Brent Butt in the television show Corner Gas, in the episode “Mail Fraud”, which first aired October 24, 2005. Of all the things that we can call Canadian, a staycation is probably one of the better examples. We are living at home, venturing out for the day, not too far away, enjoying our local communities, but not too lavishly.

Yesterday was a Vancouver Whitecaps game at BC Place. So much of that is an adventure in itself. The venue is amazing, the stadium seats 60,000 people and has a retractable roof, which was open. While the MLS has 19 teams, 3 of which are in Canada, we don’t sell out our stadium. But none the less, it is a good time for young soccer players from Alberta who don’t have a professional team.

Today is a double-header, outdoor go karting in Richmond for the boys and our local beach for the girls. We meet up on East Beach in White Rock for low tide this afternoon for skim boarding. This is a chance for my son to show off a bit. He has completed a camp earlier this summer and has been practising with an extreme amount of dedication. He really hopes to become a professional skim boarder and earn a living doing that. We have tried to gently tell him that may not be possible. He is 12, on the cusp of still being a child, easing into a tween and soon to become a young man.

On the docket for the rest of the week is:

  • Stanley Park & the aquarium
  • Salmon fishing charter
  • Cultus Lake water slides
  • Lighthouse Park in West Vancouver, (I have never been there!)

If it were not for a staycation, I wouldn’t have experienced Vancouver as much as I have.


Relaxing into a vacation

It is an interesting process. Each of us ease into this alternate state of mind in a different way. Maybe it relates to the kind of person we are at work. The “A” type has a strict agenda and routine including the best tips and tricks to allow maximum relaxation in the shortest period of time.

I am trying to merge my two lives into one person so that the separation is far less severe. My picture of success would be that my work was so enjoyable that when I left it for vacation, no real transition was necessary. I read a quote yesterday from Simon Sinek, “Work requires effort. Things we love to do feel effortless. Only do the things you love and you’ll never have to work again.” I showed this to a few people and there was a general lack of belief that this balance is possible.

The challenge for me is that the traditional work environment is set up according to a set of rules that feel old, dated and hierarchical. There is an old school belief that there is a distance a professional person needs to keep from other co-workers. This can, seemingly lead to a lack of empathy and compassion. Whether this result is intended or not unfortunately does not matter.

If I was to assemble my own dream team of dynamic people to run a company they would largely be friends and colleagues that I trust implicitly. The structure of that type of organization would be rather flat, dynamic and collaborative, generally lacking the absolute structure that is commonly found today. Given how close these people would be to me personally, they would demand to be treated differently than a typical workplace culture. That kind of company sounds really interesting to me.

So as my work life melts away with each passing mile we travel, my challenge is to try not to lose my vacation state of mind when I return.

Lake McGregor circa 2009