Get Busy Slowing Down

Pick up a free copy of West Michigan Plus, this article appears in the June issue.

WM Plus June issue/PDF

It’s always fun to run into a friend you haven’t seen in a while. Greetings are exchanged, pleasantries on family, kids and careers. Most conversations go something like this:

“Hey there, how are you? How’s your job going at AGM?”
“Great, really busy, but working a lot of hours to keep up.”
“We should get together to catch up…grab a bite to eat.”
“That sounds great; let me check my schedule and get back to you.”

Two months go by and the pending reconnection has been buried under a pile of reports, 50-hour workweeks and an overloaded brain that forgot the conversation ten minutes after the initial chat.

We have the disease of busy-ness and don’t leave much time for play, for a heartfelt conversation, or a getaway. Statistics show how overworked we are. We are vacation-deprived with no white space in our calendars. Apparently, we are so busy that many of us don’t use the PTO or vacation days we’ve earned. The boss is paying us not to work, and we don’t utilize this incredible benefit?

Expedia published a report in 2011: Americans leave two days of unused vacation, annually.* Does this sound like you? Most of us skip personal time and vacations for the following reasons:

  • Cost
  • Kids
  • Time/Schedules

The Atlantic found similar statistics. Over 50% of working Americans had up to two weeks of unused vacation time at the close of 2011, and work longer hours than most other advanced countries.* The long-hour work culture that permeates our economy…has this become the American dream? We need to work toward a new solution, where life-work-play balance is a reality.

It’s time for a vacation. Studies show it is good for your overall health and wellness. The anticipation leading up to a trip is almost as beneficial as the actual holiday; my travel buddies call this phenomenon, “peaking.” This boost in happiness occurs for up to eight weeks during the planning stages.

Don’t become a victim of vacation deprivation; start planning, get off the couch and go. Jet across an ocean or stay close by. It’s not important to fly overseas if cash is an issue. Plan something an hour away from home and that too can provide a vacation high. Many of us need some urging and inspiration to take time off. We need a break from our work schedules. We’d love to experience a holiday with a friend we’ve lost touch with. And, we have a chance to open our minds, beyond the familiar and the routine of our overloaded daily lives.

Let travel change you. A new experience or unfamiliar place holds all sorts of catalysts and social nuances, leading you to a new open-minded view of others and more defined sense of self. Want proof? There’s science to back it up. The brain’s neurons are influenced by environment, habits and are sensitive to change. New and different sights, sounds, smells and sensations all have been proven to revitalize your over-digitized brain.

Travel has undeniably changed my perspective and daily awareness, keeping my attitude meter shifted toward the happy side. With many local, Michigan-based destinations, you and your mind will get the needed workout, not your wallet. Here’s a list of getaways within easy striking distance:

  • Run down the dune at Sleeping Bear National Lakeshore, west of Traverse City. (Named the most beautiful natural wonder in the 50 states, 2011 Good Morning America poll).
  • Camp on a Lake Michigan beach at Nordhouse Dunes Wilderness area, just north of Ludington.
  • Hike or mountain bike the NCT (North Country Trail), the nation’s longest scenic trail. Yes, longer than the famous Appalachian Trail.
  • Backpack the Manistee River Trail and NCT connector, the site of the largest wooden suspension bridge in Lower Michigan.
  • Visit the Lake Superior shoreline and Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore.

No matter how much vacation you took last year, aspire to a new goal: Be more present and passionate now vs. whimpering and complaining, filling every time slot in our iCalendar. Get out of your box and go stay in a tent or treehouse somewhere else!

*Reference sources: Expedia 2011, The Atlantic.

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