I recently took a trip to Banff National Park in Alberta,
Canada with some of my closest girlfriends. Each of us held separate challenges
and stresses in our lives from which we each needed to detach. As a Mom, it's common
from within Mom culture to hear women talk about wanting to get some "me-time"
away from it all. We just wanted a break in the daily norm of getting the kids
ready for school, preparing meals, cleaning the house, working, shopping and
being drug around to our significant other’s company events (I know that is a
highlight on many readers list). While we all take different approaches to
accomplishing this desire, a family-free vacation can be a valuable tool for
getting in that me-time, but it can also draw criticism from outsiders who
don't understand the reasoning behind it all - us trying to reconnect with ourselves.
I am a person that existed before being a Mom and a wife. I
am a person who has goals, dreams and hobbies that are specific to me, and only
me, and that person is human with many flaws and internal struggles of my own. We
tell ourselves that compromise and sacrifice is part of being a grown-up, a
partner, and a Mom. As a result, we locked away our old selves before we
dawned our new titles. Eventually, we become sad, agitated, or depressed because
we compromised and sacrificed too much of ourselves in the process.
In moments like these, it's hard to climb out of what I like
to call “the funk” as it becomes difficult to find motivation to accomplish
even the simplest of tasks. I’ll find myself looking backwards and saying,
"I used to do this," or, "I used to be that." You get
stuck so much in the past that you risk becoming trapped there, which only
makes the present that much worse. So, how do I overcome it when I get stuck? I
look to my friends and make a plan to travel to some destination (sometimes
near or sometimes far) that allows for me to reconnect with the part of me that
I often neglect because I'm so focused on helping everyone else around me.
These trips are so meaningful to me because they allow for
the chance to process things in a manner I just can't get from a 1-2 hour
coffee meeting, or a 30 minute phone call, with a family member or friend. Why?
Because these encounters are simply too short to get the job done. See, my
vacations with friends allow for me to first unwind (which can take a day or
more to accomplish) and then begin catching up. Catching up often addresses the
daily grind in each of our lives back home; my family is doing this, my job is
awful because of that, and we do it because it makes up most who we are daily.
This phase is also important because it allows for me to move past the funk and
focus on things that just never get touched in other, shorter, get-away
sessions back home.
Around day three, I have normally peeled back the layers to the unloading phase that addresses the part of me that's just, well, me - the things that I don't want my children to see. These are things that I put on the back burner because my family has other matters that come first. It's here that the magic truly happens because my friends become my sounding board for ideas, my voice of reason, and they help me to see that I'm not alone, reminding me of who I am deep down. There is no time limit on how long this phase goes, and sometimes we'll come back to it at several moments throughout the trip, but each time we do it helps us to heal. Healing then becomes the bridge that leads us back to our centers, purpose, and inspiration.
By the time our girls trip draws to a close, we’re ready to get back to our daily lives and hit the ground running. This makes sense because many studies have shown that people feel happy and less stressed post-vacation. In fact, a 20-year study was released by Dr. Thomas Gilovich, a Cornell University psychology professor, in 2016 showing that 91% of people who travel feel reduced stress and anxiety levels. This same study also shows how 81% of American’s who vacation do so for “mental wellness” reasons. While other studies state that vacationing can have long-term benefits to your health as well. The Helsinki Businessmen Study (HBS) followed the health and life habits of over 3,400 businessmen, and CEO’s, in the 1960’s. By the 1970’s, HBS showed results suggesting that taking vacations can actually lead to better health (namely a reduction in heart disease.) HBS spanned over 50 years building on even more evidence to show how vacationing can help you not only stay healthy but can help you live longer by many years.
While I know some of you might be reading this and thinking to yourself, I would like to travel but can’t due to finances. I hear you, and no you’re not alone in thinking this was. Half of American’s still don’t take vacations as shown in a 2018 study by Bankrate- half! The main reason behind this has to do with money, something many families know all too much about. To counteract this, my family created a monthly budget to help keep finances on track. My husband and I also sat down and prioritized what things our family needed, and what things we didn’t. Some examples of things we don’t need is eating out at restaurants/fast-food chains all the time. Another example is making our own coffee from home (which tastes so much better than many of the big chain brands!) These changes not only give my family a healthier lifestyle, it also saves us a lot of money. Enough to help factor in a travel budget every year.
At the end of the day vacationing, either family or girl trips, comes down to personal priorities. It’s what YOU want in life and not all of us are the same. My family budgets vacations because I prefer making family memories over buying nice-to-have stuff and eating out all the time. We also budget for trips away with friends because it’s good for our mental health. Regardless of YOUR reason, you could also face guilt about getting away on a girl’s trip. The guilt can come in many forms either from family/friends who think it’s selfish, or even from you because you think you don’t deserve it. I’m here to tell you that I don’t feel guilty in the slightest, and I truly don’t care what others think about what’s best for me and my mental health, and neither should you.
I came back from Banff National Park feeling refreshed and
happy with the help of my girlfriends. They helped to remind me of who I am
outside of wearing my Mom and wife hat. For I can’t be the best wife and mother
without acknowledging all parts of who I am. The benefits to both my physical,
and mental health, from vacationing are also a priority for me and my family. While
we make some sacrifices to ensure this can happen, we gladly do it because it
works for us. Even if it’s only an overnight in a nearby town, I’m telling you
it could be good for you as well. You just have to find what work’s best for
you, and your family, and not feeling guilty about taking care of you in the