Vacation mode, appreciating the small things

On Vacation

Although I am on a ‘garden leave’ from work it doesn’t mean that I can’t take a vacation as well.  It’s a vacation from job hunting, networking, self-development, exercise and focus on the to-do list.  All these items tend to be a full-time job these days.  Sleeping in until 10 am this morning was truly a treat as we typically get up at 6 am to start our morning routine.  I may even take a nap today, ssssh, please don’t tell anyone.

I am writing this blog while sitting in the sun, listening to nature and overlooking a beautiful lake in East Tennessee.  Two years ago, we started planning this trip while on our honeymoon with our dear friends, Team Honeymoon.  We were enjoying the Finger Lakes at the time and looking at the stars when someone called out that the Solar Eclipse would be happening in two years.  We quickly looked at the path and agreed, we should all meet in Nashville to check it out.  This is what I love about my friends.  With that initial seedling of an idea, we all worked together and made it happen.  Just in case the eclipse was a bust, at least we would be in a great town that we have all wanted to visit.  We then decided to tack on a few extra days to check out the Smokey Mountains.

Appreciating what I could see

We traveled all the way to Nashville to see the eclipse. We always knew there was a risk we would not see it due to the weather.  However, if we lived in fear, we would not have seen anything, so we proceeded.  Everything was going perfectly. We got to a great viewing point at a Science Center, had the proper glasses, a few cocktails and each other.  The eclipse started and it was amazing, unbelievable, phenomenal really.  I got goosebumps.  It then started to get dark, the temperature dropped. It was getting close to the total eclipse, just 20 more seconds… Queue the big, ugly black cloud.  Yup, that’s right, right before the diamond and the total eclipse, the cloud blocked everything.  We could have let that ruin it.  However, we did get to experience the bugs and the birds going nuts, the darkness and the awesomeness of the entire event.  I appreciate every minute of it and am so glad we did not miss it.  Isn’t this part of the effort to not sweat the small stuff?

Don’t sweat the small stuff

For the past six weeks, we have been talking about not sweating the small stuff.  While I had some downtime, I thought it would be the right time to recall some of the nuggets I’ve been talking about. This trip has been a true reminder of these items and a chance to test whether I am living them, owning them, and incorporating them into my life.

  • Make Peace with Imperfection
  • Lighten Up – let go of a plan
  • Live in the present (NOW)
  • Fill your life with love; find the extraordinary in ordinary and recall your favorite things

It’s interesting, as I sit here and think about my friends and this trip, I naturally live these things when I am with my friends. They taught me these basics years ago and I only tend to truly embrace them when we are together.  Even with the eclipse, I appreciate what we did get to experience, not what we missed and can look forward to the next opportunity in 2018 (Latin America) and again in 2024 (USA).

Common Denominator

My life changed tremendously when I moved to England and met my colleague and her husband.  She had been helping me find a place to live before I had even arrived.  She invited me to come stay at her place in the country that first weekend to ensure I was not alone.  This was out of my comfort zone; staying in someone’s home that I did not know.  Because I was living in a new country, I knew I had to take the leap of faith and just go with it.  That first night, after some niceties, we walked through the field and I had my first pint in the pub.  Six hours later, she and I were still up talking about anything and everything.  When we woke in the morning, we couldn’t remember exactly what we had discussed but we knew that we had created a lifelong friendship.

Five years later, another American acquaintance had a similar experience. I was visiting England and invited her to meet my England friends.  Many hours and drinks later, as well as conversations, she was brought into the fold and the friendship grew.  This pattern repeated through the years.  Someone would introduce someone into the mix and invite them on a trip with us.  It wouldn’t be unusual for one of us to open our house to a stranger because they were a friend of a friend.  There was always a common denominator.  Everyone is nice and kind and funny (duh, that’s a no brainer), but they would also have an adventurous spirit, a sense of FOMO (fear of missing out), a silliness they were not embarrassed to admit and most importantly an appreciation for the small things (and drink…can’t omit that one).

Appreciating the small things

When my England friends first came to America to welcome me home from my year’s travel abroad, they had a laundry list of things they wanted to do.  There were the obvious things, i.e. Empire State Building, Statue of Liberty, etc that they wanted to see.  However, more importantly there were the small things, like, steam from a pothole cover, being dripped on by an air conditioner in NYC, catching a firefly in a jar, seeing a cow.  These simple things could make us smile and laugh uncontrollably.  We worked hard to ‘tick’ the boxes and appreciate all the little things we have seen and done.  As a result, over the past 16 years, we Yanks and Brits have spent hours/days trying to out-do each other on the various vacations we have taken together to find the small things to appreciate about a city, county, state, etc.

When I stop and think, they have taught me so much about living in the present, appreciating the simple things, going with the flow, and lightening up.  We can be happy spending the day overlooking the lake or jumping in a car and being silly in Dollywood the next day.  We have our list of things we would like to do, but then prioritize and ensure we spend quality time together and appreciate the simple things.  Isn’t this what we have been talking about?  I can assure you, I am not sweating the small stuff this week.

Because I am on vacation, I am going to keep it short and share one last thought so that I can go and meditate and spend some quality time with my dear friends and husband, whom I wish a very happy 2nd anniversary to whom.

The greatest gift of life is friendship, and I have received it. – Hubert H. Humphrey

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