At the start of the year, my mother and I sat down to create a budget. It was laid on my heart to start saving for my wedding because I knew it wouldn't be cheap. I was single, but I went with it anyway.
I decided to save a certain amount of money this year and knew that meant cutting out some of my excessive spending – the most of which was attributed to vacationing.
I spent anywhere between $800-$1500 per trip. This varied based on location, duration, and whether an all-inclusive resort was an option or not. I may not have vacationed often, but when I did, I did it well. Cutting this per trip expenditure out of my yearly budget had the potential to bring me well above my savings goal.
This was a major – and worthwhile – sacrifice.
With my love for islands, and the Caribbean Sea, I went into it knowing it would be hard. What I didn't know, however, was how abstaining from vacations this year would lead me toward a deeper path of self-discovery.
Admittedly, many of my vacations were an attempt to escape some hardship. I vacationed when I graduated with my Master's and had no idea of my next move. I vacationed after I lost a valuable friendship. I even vacationed (a lot) after ending a three-year relationship. Unlike past years, escaping to a tropical paradise wasn't an option in 2018.
When life became challenging, I had nowhere to run. I couldn't hop on a flight and temporarily ignore my problems. I couldn't explore new terrains, imagining that it was my new life. I simply had to sit and deal with whatever life was throwing. I'd still take vacation days from work – because, self-care – but I did not accompany those vacation days with an actual vacation. Instead, I used those moments to pursue clarity and peace right where I was.
There was beauty in doing so that I had never taken time to understand. There was so much possibility in healing right at home. For as long as I could afford taking vacations, I vacationed. I'd venture off to discover a new part of the world and find a new part of myself. I pursued healing in different countries and found fun in places that I would have to spend loads of money to visit again. As memorable as those times were, they weren't sustainable.
Why should my only source of fun come from the exploration of foreign places?
Why should healing only happen poolside?
Why should my only escape be by way of a 4-hour flight to an island in the Caribbean?
And how come the idea of living my best life is only reflected in my ability to do these things, to visit these places, and to take pictures to prove it?
Truthfully, there is nowhere I could go that would make me immune to life happening. I could vacation for 13 days and return to the same turmoil I had just left. Since I couldn't run away from life this year, I decided to craft the life I desired. Finding fun and creating the best life right where I was.
In my moments of sadness or anger, I would retreat to my apartment, turn the lights off, light some candles, and find zen in the smooth sounds of my favorite soulful artists. Doing this helped me create a peaceful space in my own home. I set up a fortress that I could utilize for meditating and self-discovery; this served to be incredibly helpful for re-centering myself after bad days.
In the moments I needed fun, I would use Eventbrite and Instagram to find activities that could provide the level of "turn up" I was looking for. Doing this helped me make new local friends and explore events within the city that I never knew existed – events that I would later frequent.
When I needed time to simply relax, I would schedule a sauna visit at a spa about 20 minutes from my apartment, sit in solitude, and listen to ocean waves, compliments of Pandora Radio. On special occasions, I'd include a one-hour facial. This provided me with a similar sense of isolation and calm as my usual vacation, for a fraction of the cost.
With all these alternatives, I haven't missed vacationing at all.
This year, I learned that living my best life isn't about escaping from the life I have, it's about embracing it. It's about exploring the places right outside my front door and finding joy in what each one has to offer. It wasn't about counting down until my next trip, it was about enjoying each moment for what it was. It was about fostering growth in the space God placed me to grow in. It was about being able to find refuge, and healing, and possibility, and fun wherever I went.
It was about curating a fulfilling life right here, right now. This is my version of my best life.
This isn't to say that you shouldn't take vacations. Of course you should! It's to suggest that if you're looking for your best life, it can be found right where you are.
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