If you’ve been reading along, you know that I recently vacationed in the Canadian Rockies spending time playing in Banff and Jasper National Parks. It was a fabulous time and only reinforces my belief in the value of getting away from the grind, disconnecting, and truly taking a vacation in every sense of the word. It is not only an amazingly enriching and fulfilling thing to do but I know I have come back with extra juice, energy, and inspiration to throw at my dreams and goals.
While we’ve taken many really awesome trips, what was different about this one was our approach and intentions. In the past we’d either have ourselves planned to within an inch of our sanity or have a long list of “must-see’s” that filled our minds. We would find ourselves constantly looking at the clock and planning our next move, not always enjoying what we actually were doing at that moment. This time we had a general sense of things we wanted to do and then just made it up as we went along. Every day we came up with a plan for the day and then let it go. If it changed, that was ok. If the weather didn’t cooperate, we had a Plan B. If we changed our minds or weren’t in the mood, we’d do something different. And when all was said and done, we not only did a lot of really amazing things (like paddle 28 km round trip on Maligne Lake, the second largest glacial lake in the world) but truly immersed ourselves in whatever we were doing in the moment.
This approach we had to our trip can hold clues to experiencing more fulfillment and success in every day life too. The keys?
Set a Clear Intention
Be clear about what you really want. In our case we wanted an enjoyable, inspiring, and truly satisfying experience in this beautiful location filled with natural gems. We knew we wanted to be active yet not be ready to fall over at the end of the day. We also knew we wanted to do a variety of activities and I wanted to have some focused time with my photography. Get clear on what you want from each day as well as from the big picture long term.
Yes I am someone who likes to plan. Sometimes I get more anal about the details than other times. Like it or not, though, no matter what you want to do some degree of planning is involved. As the saying goes, “A failure to plan is a plan to fail.” A plan doesn’t have to be elaborate — one day we just woke up and said, let’s rent bikes and at some point in the day end up at the Banff Springs Hotel. That wasn’t exactly project planning 101, but it worked. We put on the right clothes, packed some stuff, rented bikes, and got a map. The rest is, well a humorous tale for another time, but bottom line is we had a lot of fun.
This is perhaps the most important and yet most difficult thing to do. Once you get an idea of what you want and clearly take steps to make it happen, then you need to let it go. Let go of the expectation of what it has to be or look like. This was probably the most important new element to our approach. In the past we’d want something & then be married to the weather having to be a certain way, the timing being just so, and everything having to be perfect. This time we just went with the flow. For instance, we set out on our Maligne Lake paddle just to be on the water and see how far we got. The person who rented us the kayaks explained that Spirit Island is 14 km one way from the boat house. Spirit Island is the destination of the scenic cruise boats that many people take each day. We thought…hmmmm.. think we can paddle that far and still get back without being miserable and dead tired? So we headed out with the intention of getting to the island but being totally OK with not making it that far (It was a whole new mindset for us). After all every minute was so mind-numbing beautiful it was like spending a day in paradise. In the end we did get there (and back) but I believe it was being OK with not reaching the destination that made all the difference in our attitudes and enjoyment that day (even with our back and shoulder muscles burning like hell…but it’s a GOOD TIRED!! :-))
Be Open to Change
Sometimes things don’t go as planned: trails get closed, weather changes, and bodies can ache. In spite of the best laid plans, “stuff happens”. On our flights out we were just dying to get there already. Having worked all day and taken an evening flight it was already going to be late (midnight M.S.T) for us since we’re on EST. While catching our connecting flight in Denver, the whole schedule went to pot. Mechanics in the cockpit are never a good sign. After much ado, we did end up flying out but never got to Calgary until about 1:30 am MST (that’s 3:30 am EST and I’m too old for all-nighters). A little cranky, yes, but we were open to whatever transpired and it significantly lowered the “bitch factor” while allowing the “stuff happens” to not get in the way of our having a good time.
Savor the moment
It all comes down to this. Right now, this very moment is all that any of us really ever have. If you’re not in the moment, then you’re not really anywhere at all. You can’t touch the past or reach toward the future, you can only stand solid in the right here, right now. This time rather than spend our days thinking about some artificial schedule or worrying about what’s next, we just enjoyed the moment. Whether it was sucking wind as we hiked up the Plain of 6 Glaciers trail or swirling and savoring the bouquet of a fine wine at The Post Hotel, we were fully present to each other and our experiences. It doesn’t get any richer or better than that.
Whether you’re on the trail, at the beach, hanging with friends, or in the heart of your professional life these keys can make a difference in the level of happiness and fulfillment you experience each day.