Written on July 16, 2017
I’m writing this blog post on my way back to Singapore from the U.K. For the last two weeks, I was lucky to have travelled with my fiancé. We hiked in the Faroe Islands, caught up with close university friends in England, and explored Scotland.
The main purpose of this vacation is to spend some time with my fiancé, who’s in a medical school now. But the vacation also had a great, unintended benefit.
Being away from home and not following my usual routine, I had the opportunity to reflect on my life from a different perspective. It was like stepping outside of my life and re-examining my life from a third person’s perspective.
Thinking back, I had a similar experience during my Taiwan vacation last December. I took a break from my triathlon training during the vacation, and I felt happier. I realised that I gradually lost interest in triathlon and the sessions were starting to feel like a chore. I made the decision to stop the coached program after the vacation and exercised only when I felt like it. Eventually, I started to enjoy swimming, cycling, and running again.
This time, my main reflection is on my attitude towards my personal development goals and side projects. In short, I felt I’m too easy on myself when I don’t achieve my goals.
Several things helped make reflecting easy and valuable.
1. Having a different routine (Or not having a routine)
My days during this break was starkly different from my usual routine.
I slept in instead of starting my day early with a workout. I was open to being more spontaneous about making plans for the day, and I gave myself a break from work. This was refreshing, and it offered me the opportunity to step outside and reflect on the things I had been doing, from a different perspective.
Is there anything I miss from my usual routine? Is there anything I’m glad I don’t have to do now? Is there anything I like about the “new” routine?
2. Being (mostly) disconnected
We didn’t have internet access during the first few days of the vacation while we were on the Faroe Islands. That was great because it helped me disconnect from the internet, social media, and work right from the start of the vacation.
I rarely felt the urge to check social media or my email inboxes which gave me pockets of time to reflect on the things in my life.
3. Reading self-help books
During the vacation, I read Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi and An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth: What Going to Space Taught Me About Ingenuity, Determination, and Being Prepared for Anything by Chris Hadfield. (Both are great books I would recommend.)
Reading Flow prompted me to think about my life in terms of the concepts mentioned in the book while reading An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth inspired me to want to improve my lifestyle and habits.
4. Wanting to write a blog post
As I know I think best when I write, I decided to write a blog post of one takeaway from the vacation at the end of the vacation. At first, I wasn’t sure what to write about. So I chatted with my fiancé about our takeaways from the vacation and wrote down whatever that came to mind.
This blog post covers only a tiny part of my reflections but the process of chatting with my fiancé and writing this blog post helped me consolidate my thoughts.
I felt great being able to reflect this way — to reflect without the daily rush of life and from a perspective different from usual. I have been taking such one to two-week vacations about every six months (with shorter breaks in between), and it feels like a good frequency for recharging mentally and reflecting on my life. So I might continue to take such breaks every six months.
How often do you take long breaks? What do you usually do during your breaks?