Consciously unplugging and plugging-in on vacation

It's summer and that means that many of you are likely to take some kind of vacation. I myself have recently returned from a wonderful Hawaiian vacation with my husband, which inspired this blog post (and next week's Mindful Monday post - stay tuned). 

During our travels, including our most recent vacation, my husband and I occasionally share our adventures with friends and family via social media. Personally, I also use social media to organize and store snapshots of my travels so that I can revisit them later. For example, on Instagram, I create a unique hashtag to categorize my travels and, by clicking on the hashtag later on, I can fondly revisit the highlights of my adventures (this can help me get through a rough day).  

However, despite these, what I think to be positive uses of social media, I found that others gave my husband and I a lot of flack for "plugging-in" to social media during this most recent trip. Comments under our posted photos would read along the lines of, "Get off [social media], and enjoy your vacation!"

I instantly felt protective of my husband and myself. The fact was, we were enjoying our vacation. It made me wonder, "Why are others so quick to judge?"

When it comes to "plugging-in" on vacation, whether it's posting to social media, answering emails, or, perhaps the most frowned upon, actually working, I asked myself, "What's the big deal?" 

My answer came back to mindfulness.  Honestly, and as a practitioner of and cheerleader for mindfulness, I disagree with those who say you should completely "unplug" when on vacation. Well, disagree given one caveat.

That caveat is: If you're going to plug-in, do so with awareness. This involves making a decision and asking yourself, "Is this really how I want to spend my time?" While it's not realistic to be mindful all of the time, you may miss out on your vacation if you're not deciding or choosing (i.e., being mindful of) when you're "checking out" or "unplugging" from your vacation.  

If you have difficulty consciously plugging-in (i.e., you plug-in mindlessly), you may need to set a limit on how much time you spend "plugging-in." Setting a time limit and following it, can be especially helpful if you find yourself mindlessly scrolling through social media or checking emails and then, once becoming aware of this fact, realize that a lot of time has passed, feel guilty for "wasting" your time, or feel a loss of control over "plugging-in" (i.e., it's a habit, not a choice).

It can also be helpful to mindfully check-in after consciously unplugging from your vacation. This can help bring awareness back to the present and help you get the most from your vacation. You can do this by observing and describing your surroundings with your five senses (or by using other mindfulness exercises). 

Photo of Lanikai Beach, Oahu from my recent vacation. Both before and after posting this snapshot to social media, I mindfully observed and described my surroundings with my five senses. Because of this mindful interaction with my surroundings, I can recall the smells of the air, the feel of the sand, the temperature of the water and sun, and the sounds of waves breaking, people chatting in foreign tongues, and children squealing with laughter.

I find that when relaxing or on vacation, my natural creative juices begin flowing. I consciously decide to go with this "flow" and jot down my ideas or type them up in an email and send them to myself for later review. I can put them down and come back to them later. If not, I find myself ruminating on my ideas and later forgetting what my thoughts were and wishing I had written them down. This ends up taking me away from the present for longer than if I would have listened to and respected my creative energy. In fact, this blog (and next week's Mindful Monday post) was developed this very way.

Paradoxically, when jotting down my thoughts on vacation, I find myself in a "flow" state, which is mindfulness, as I'm fully participating both non-judgmentally and intentionally in my writing. After jotting down my thoughts, I observe and describe with my five senses to come back to my surroundings (see photo at right to learn more about my observe and describe experience). 

Do you have judgments around "plugging-in" or "unplugging" while on vacation?

How do you stay mindful while on vacation?

What fuels your creativity or stimulates your energy and new ideas?

Please feel free to discuss in the comments section below. And don't forget to stay tuned to next week's Mindful Monday post, which was also (mindfully) inspired by my recent travels to Hawaii!

- Chelsea