Over the years I’ve heard so many people talk about vacations.   The build-up and anticipation of a vacation, the vacation itself, and the return (from).    My imagination is startled how the vast majority of people really don’t understand vacation at all. For most it is simply an escape from the routines of daily life.  A vacating of the premises of daily routine.  But is that all there is?

I ask that question because have you ever noticed how people talk about the actual “vacation” and how they feel when they return from vacation?   My observations conclude that people merely replace one itinerary with another.  The time away from routine is another schedule that must be filled and every moment of that schedule occupied by doing this, that or the other.   In fact they are so busy on vacation that when they come back – the vast majority of the time – they talk about it in terms of how they might define work and their daily routines.  In fact most people over-work themselves on their vacation and they end up coming back to work, to the daily routine exhausted.    They vacated one routine and replaced it with another more itinerant time-filler.  What’s missing?   What’s wrong?

People miss the one important thing of a vacation.   They forgot about the vacant.  The emptiness. The space to breathe and just be.   The space to sit, relax and re-energize.  Finding that vacancy in vacation is the key to a true vacation.

When one finds this vacant space they can then actually find ways to incorporate it in their daily routine for mini-vacations.  My daily lunch time is a mini vacation for me.   Most people eat their lunches in the workplace and in America many corporations have “working lunches” while people have their mid-day repast while they work.  In fact at the company I work for they will frequently provide food to make this more attractive and people buy into it because all they think of is “free food” instead of the break from work they are entitled to.    My lunch break is only 1/2 hr long yet it allows me time to decompress, regroup, relax and re-energize for what’s to come for the rest of my shift.    How do I do it?  There is a small park about a 5 minute drive from work.  I drive to the park.   Sit in silence, eat my sandwich or cup of yogurt – whatever I’ve packed for that day – I round it out by closing my eyes for about 5 minutes before I head back to work.   I have a solid 15 minutes of peace, quiet and “escape” from the daily work routine.  It really is quite marvelous.    Of course there are those odd days where I’m required to be in a meeting that has a working lunch but fortunately those are few.    A vast majority of the time I am able to experience some vacancy during my lunch break.

These are things I learned over the years.   My vacations from work (whether a week, a day or an hour) are wonderful vacant spaces that I purposely try not to fill.  Sure I do some activity, I’m not just  “bump on a log” but  again the key is not to crowd out your time with activity but to maybe have an idea and then let it evolve.  And ultimately having to freedom to change your mind and cancel an activity.

One of my favorite films is Les Vacances de M. Hulot (Mr Hulot’s Holiday) This extremely short clip shows a pair of my favorite characters in the film. An older couple who just meander and amble through the film not really doing anything. Yet their vacation is truly a vacancy an itinerary that is empty yet fully experienced. Enjoy. And if you get a chance watch the whole film because it contrasts both notions of vacation: those who are concerned with over-occupying their time and those who are genuinely experiencing the “vacant”.