Summer family vacations are a time of connection, joy, and fun.
They're also often the emotional equivalent of running an ultra-marathon or completing a full Ironman Triathlon.
During an ordinary workday, we have built-in breaks from each other. We go to school, go to meetings, check our email, or run errands around town alone.
During a day on vacation, however, this sprint-and-recover world of breaks flips upside down. We wake up, together. We eat, together. We drive long distances with carsick kids, together.
And while being together is amazing, on vacation, it can easily turn into too much of a good thing.
We experienced this several weeks ago during a five day experiment with #VanLife. That’s right, the three of us toured parts of Colorado and Utah inside the confined space of a Sprinter Van.
We slept three feet apart. We ran into each other constantly while navigating the van's tiny galley kitchen. We argued over violations of the one-minute-hot-shower rule.
In the end, we had a blast, and we were also sick of each other.
We realized that we made one fatal mistake. We forgot to do the essential practice of “family rest time."
How do you do that?
When you’re in an exciting new place with so much to see, it’s tempting to ride the momentum of adventure all day, every day, to line your itinerary with back-to-back excitement.
There’s only one problem with this strategy. At a certain point, everyone in the family begins to feel the fatigue of spending every single moment of the day in each other's presence.
Arguments arise. Fights break out. And family fatigue begins to set in.
The good news is that you can inoculate your summer vacations from this trap by simply scheduling an hour or two each afternoon or evening for “family rest time." This could be a time for actual “rest,” where you take a nap or read a book. Or it could simply be a “rest" from being in each other's presence.
We realize how un-80/80 this sounds. But, if possible, spend this time in separate spaces. Go to a different room. Take a walk outside. Sit alone by the pool. Go on a hike.
Creating actual physical separation helps to dissolve the claustrophobic feeling of being on top of each other. It also creates a sense of excitement for coming back together as a group.
After an hour or two of “family rest time," you may notice a subtle and yet powerful shift. It’s the shift from family chaos to family harmony, from infighting to connection, from exhaustion to rejuvenation.
Notice and savor this shift. When you're out at dinner take a look around the table. Check out how much happier every one seems after taking a break from each other.
That's the magic of "family rest time." It's the essential break in the day that allows everyone to bring their best selves to this precious time together on summer vacation.