Call it a breakdown, an impossible dream, or a quarter-life crisis, but my 27th birthday was approaching and I had to get away. No more sirens, hustle and bustle, trash on street corners, or neighbors who party way too late. What I was looking for was a little rest and relaxation, all alone, far away—to really unplug.
I was trying to slow down, and vacationing in France was a welcome change of pace from the frenetic Manhattan madness. Now that I’m back, I’m savoring the memories and integrating many of the habits I picked up into my daily all-American life. The fact is, not everyone can fly to a foreign country to get away from it all. So—drawing on my time spent in Paris—here are 5 ways to bring vacation to your every day.
1. Step off the beaten path. One of the thrills of vacation is the excitement and wonder that comes from discovering the unfamiliar. Give yourself that same feeling by mixing up your daily routine.
Always take the same route to work? Strike out on a new path, try a different block—or better yet—leave extra early in the morning and stop at that new coffee shop you’ve been meaning to try. You’ll march into the office with a fresh glow and a spring in your step—humdrum just got happier!
2. Amble. As a New York City girl, I can speed walk with the best of them. When I was in France, I was refreshed by the lack of accelerator. Leaving the house 10 minutes early gives you ample time to amble your way to your daily destination. You might be surprised at the details you notice when they no longer exist as a blur in your periphery.
3. Eat…slowly. I am a repeat offender when it comes to eating lunch in front of a computer screen, or worse, forgetting it altogether. But in France, meals are sacred, sometimes lasting 3 to 4 hours. Eating your food at a leisurely pace is also scientifically beneficial. Studies show it takes the brain 20 minutes from the time you start eating to register that it is full. This means refraining from inhaling your food will prevent overeating. So sit back, and enjoy the texture and flavor of your meal!
4. Set boundaries at work. As a social media junkie with at least six different channels to interact with friends online, it is difficult to unplug. Throw in a culture fueled by productivity and consumption and I’m sucked into a spiral of checking off the “to-do” list and updating statuses. But in France, the maximum work week is 35 hours and some families turn off the internet and social media outlets at night just to focus on their relationships.
Find boundaries that work for you and communicate them to colleagues and friends. While it can be scary to say "no” to the pressing deadlines, reclaiming you time energizes you and your job will benefit in the long-run. Not to mention, you will begin to discover the you that exists outside of your job, and that’s a beautiful thing.
5. Do that thing. Don’t wait for a vacation to start crossing things off your bucket list, you can start with the small things now. Perhaps it's sketching the autumn hues at the park near your house, going for a picnic and taking in the crisp dusk air, tasting a sampling of newfound cheeses, or cooking that Pinterest recipe. Vacation can be a mindset… one that leaves room for something new. So take a Saturday and hop to it!
As is usual for most people at the end of a great trip, I wanted to package up all the memories of France into a little bottle to save for later. But armed with these lessons learned, I’m hopeful that I can change the phrase “I left my heart in Paris,” to “I live Paris every day.”
(Photo by Regina Leah)