I usually return from a vacation with a new perspective on my life. This past month, we took a trip to Switzerland, France, Denmark and Norway.  Here’s what I learned.

  1. Eat real food. Europeans eat small servings of real food, like cheese, bread, sauces and pasta. The first morning in France, I was shocked when breakfast arrived and I realized that if I was going to eat, I was going to have fresh bread, meats, cheese, some fruit and yogurt. This was not a gluten-free, protein-rich, anti-oxidant filled, no fun breakfast like at home. Baguette, cheese and strawberries for breakfast? Yes, please.
  2. Take your time at meals. Our meals on vacation would often last 30 minutes to over an hour. At home, we whiz through dinner in less than 10 minutes. Slower meals feel more relaxing and civilized.
  3. Eat outside when possible. On our cruise ship, we regularly ate our lunches outside and admired the views, breeze and weather. At home we have a lovely deck that we seldom use. With minimal effort, we could be enjoying some outdoor meals at home.
  4. A good night’s sleep is invaluable. I can’t think of a single better way to improve my day than a good night’s sleep. It makes me a nicer person too. I want to continue to make getting a good night’s sleep a priority, which means going to bed early.
  5. Reconsider learning Spanish. All over Europe, people seamlessly flip from one language to another in a blink of an eye. I want to to do that. I took Spanish in high school and two years ago, began studying it again. I abandoned my studies when my mom was diagnosed with cancer and my brain became thick. However, I think it might be time to start my study again. It sounds like plain old fun.
  6. Try checking email twice/day. Contrary to my pre-vacation intentions, I did check email while gone. However, my time online was limited, not necessarily because of my self-control, but due to weak and limited wi fi connections. I called my approach, “Progress, not perfection.” I did learn that I could keep up with my email fairly well by checking in once/day. While at home, I could expand that to just twice a day and probably not miss a beat on my projects.
  7. Weave unstructured time into your day. One thing I most enjoy about vacation is having free time. I’m not scheduled within an inch of my life, which I’ve been known to do. Unstructured time is lovely. I want more of it.
  8. Walking still rules. In Europe, we did all of our sight seeing by walking. I love covering the land by foot, seeing things at a slow speed and being in touch with the ground, sky and fresh air. Fortunately, when we get our new puppy in early August, he will motivate me to get out on at least a couple of walks/day.
  9. Less TV is good. In two weeks, I probably watched 10 minutes of television. I didn’t miss it. It freed up time to read and socialize. These activities are more satisfying than most TV shows. Time slows down (in a good way) without television.
  10. Dinner with friends is one of life’s greatest pleasures. Every dinner we had on vacation was with family or friends. I learned a lot and also laughed quite a bit!
  11. Undistracted time with Joe is best. Joe and I were joined at the hip for a couple of weeks. We weren’t distracted by regular life and could enjoy each other’s company. We see each other a lot in normally, but we are often distracted.
  12. Wear fun clothes. In Europe, people seem to reflect their personality more in their choices of clothing. We saw many cute, young women wearing whimsical sundresses and practical sandals when riding their bikes in the city. Seeing this and with some encouragement, I bought some bright red pants in Norway. They are fun and funny!
  13. Sometimes the best restaurants aren’t all that good. We dined at a Michelin star restaurant twice. I didn’t care for it – too rich, too much meat and there was very little on the menu that appealed to me. My favorite meal of the trip was at a nondescript restaurant on the second floor of a pedestrian mall in Bergen. It was a traditional Norwegian lunch of grilled salmon, boiled potatoes, cucumber salad and sour cream. Yum!
  14. You never know what will be interesting. Before our trip, I was most excited about visiting Bergen, Norway. However, after visiting many places in Norway, I ended up enjoying the smaller towns of Geiranger and Flam more than Bergen. The moral of the story is that you never know what will be the most interesting. You think you know. But you don’t.
  15. Condo living looks appealing. Joe and I are going to move into a new downtown condo in 18 months or so. I’ve been guardedly interested, but also worried about not having a yard and living around so much cement. When we pulled into our port in Copenhagen, a beautiful condo building was directly across from our ship. One of the balconies had native grasses growing that gently swayed gently in the breeze We stood on the ship’s deck and watched the condo’s residents get ready for their day, open their windows and eat breakfast. And all of a sudden, condo living looked very simple, cozy and natural.IMG_2953
  16. It is still more fun to give than to receive. Midway through our trip, I got a manicure and the Serbian manicurist was raving about how much she loved Swiss chocolate. Little did she know that I had extra Swiss chocolate in my room. After the manicure, I scurried back to my cabin, found the chocolates, ran back down to the spa and gave them to her. She was so surprised and gave me a big hug! As much as she enjoyed receiving the candy, I had more fun giving it to her.

I am excited to be home. But I do hope to make our vacation linger on by inserting these lessons into my normal life.

What about you? What kind of things do you learn on vacation? I’d love to hear what you think after you return from a getaway.