What did you learn from your vacation?

An article by Jason S. Sullivan, 06/05/19

This article first appeared on LinkedIn.

Sedona, Arizona

I recently got back from a week-long vacation in Arizona. I had a fun time filled with adventure and relaxation!

Vacations should be mandatory. Everyone needs – and deserves – a break to get away from it all. Daily life is rough. Vacations offer a chance to relax, reflect, and recharge.

Even though vacations can help us escape reality, your vacation life sometimes mirrors your real life. Do you find yourself falling into the same patterns while you’re on vacation? Or, do you step outside of your comfort zone, try new things, and experience a different side of the world – and yourself?

It might not seem like it at first, but vacations are a great chance to better yourself and learn something new. The things we learn from vacations are the best souvenirs! If you can go on vacation and come back relaxed, recharged, and wiser because of the experience – then it’s both rewarding and worthwhile.

A natural curiosity

Within us lies a natural curiosity. I strive to learn something new every day.

It goes back to when I was a kid. My parents would ask about my day at school. They would sometimes ask, “Did you learn anything?” That was a hard question because often it felt like I didn’t learn anything at all. But it was a good question because it made me think. I had to reflect on my day at school and pull something out of it. I started to anticipate the “dreaded” question, and it made me actively seek something to learn each day.

A different example of natural curiosity is a bit more recent. I went through an Internal Auditor class a couple of months ago. The instructor said, “Don’t go into the audit with a checklist of every possible question to ask. Instead, go in with a handful of purposeful questions to ask and let your natural curiosity take over from there.” That’s an interesting approach, especially to something where you don’t know much about it.

Make sure that “lessons learned” are more than “useful tips”

When I first thought about my vacation, these lessons came to mind:

  • Preparation is key.
  • Expect the unexpected.
  • Manage your expectations.
  • Use your resources.
  • There’s always room for improvement.

While these are some useful tips, admittedly, they are somewhat generic. Useful tips are one thing, but what did I learn?

How was your vacation?

Ask someone about their vacation, and they often focus on the “brochure.” They list off some of the things they did, maybe mention a fantastic restaurant or a unique bar, gush over the beautiful weather, tell a funny story, and show the Instagram-worthy pictures – the usual stuff with enough adjectives to make you feel jealous. 

After asking someone – “How was your vacation?” – try asking this:

“What did you learn from your vacation?”

What did you learn from your vacation?

Now, some people might laugh it off with something like, “I went there to relax, not to learn anything!” And there’s nothing wrong with that. But, ask that question enough times, and you’ll find someone who takes a moment to contemplate it. It may be an eye-opening moment for them – and you. Listen to their response because it will be insightful. 

So, what did I learn from my vacation?

I learned that stepping out of my comfort zone is exciting! (Let’s go ahead and say it. I’m not known for stepping out of my comfort zone.) 

I surprised myself a bit. I did things that were out of my “zone” – I went hiking in deserts, canyons, and a forest near a volcano. I drove up and back down a steep, winding mountain road. I went on an off-road Jeep tour. I tried Avocado Toast, twice – ok, not exactly a bucket list item, but never thought I’d do that! 

Trying new things and stepping out of my comfort zone were the best souvenirs from my vacation. Momentum starts somewhere. I aim to build on that momentum in my daily life.

Move forward through personal growth

Whether at work or in our personal lives, we have to move forward. How do you move forward? By personal growth. It should be no surprise that personal growth starts when you step out of your comfort zone. I like the Kaizen approach – small, incremental improvements. Think of it as aiming to get 1% better than you were yesterday. 

Continuous improvement is vital. Take a moment to learn something new every day – even when you’re on vacation.

About the author – Jason S. Sullivan is an aspiring writer. Connect with Jason on LinkedIn and check out his other articles!

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