“When all else fails, take a vacation”. – Betty Williams
Seems like just about everyone I talk to has taken advantage of a “spring break” getaway this year, myself included. This might be a sign that the economy is on the upswing or it might be validation that vacations and travel play a vitalrole in our lives.
Vacations are not mere indulgences. They are a chance to temporarily get off of those hamster wheels we find ourselves on and take a much needed breather. Most of us are so entrenched in the rote actions of life – working, running errands, shuttling kids, doing chores, repeat, repeat, repeat – that we never stop long enough to check in and see if we’re living a life that is fulfilling. If we did, we might see that we are living in constant motion but going nowhere.
Vacations don’t have to be exotic tours of foreign lands or require opulent accommodations. They just need to be a physical and energetic departure from our daily routines. Sometimes we just need a day, sometimes longer. This break from the known world is actually an opportunity to see different ways of doing things, to experience new tastes, to process new sights and to feel the effects of a change in tempo. Not doing so leads to stagnant thoughts, stagnant living and narrow mindedness. Not departing from our routines is like eating the same old gruel every day and never knowing the variety of flavors the world has to offer.
This expansion into the world is what connects us to something bigger, externally and internally.
The beauty of a vacation is that whatever we’ve experienced isn’t lost when we unpack our suitcases. Some piece always comes home with us. In fact, some of my favorite design projects were initiated by clients who wanting to replicate some aspect of their vacation experience. Sometimes it’s a material or a color or a texture they would like used in their own home. One client was inspired to remodel her bathroom after a trip to Italy because she loved the feel of marble floors beneath her feet. Another incorporated the same sandblasted glass walls in their bathroom renovation after seeing them in their favorite hotel. Yet another painted her home the faded shell pink hue so commonly found on homes in Bermuda. Their projects could have been very predictable and frankly, ho-hum, had they not been exposed to other options.
Sometimes what we bring home is a desire to replicate the activities we enjoyed on a trip. If we made time to cook together, enjoy an evening on a screened-in porch or read in a cozy spot, we might wonder why we never thought to incorporate space for these things in our own homes. One couple expanded their kitchen by 12 feet so they could replicate the family cooking and gathering they enjoy in the French villa they’ve rented for many years. Another put in a beautiful stone patio and hot tub because they loved it so much on their ski holiday. Sometimes little things like a swing arm lamp near a hotel bed or drapes with blackout lining can remind us of the little details that we might appreciate in our own homes.
Traveling and seeing architectural and décor diversity can sometimes provide those missing puzzle pieces that give us a better understanding of our homes. Currently, I am working on a house that never really found its design identity. Built with clean lines and natural material like soaring stone walls, floor to ceiling windows and wood ceilings, the houses architectural features were always ignored by previous owners. One incarnation involved faux painting, Country French furnishings and billowy drapes. Talk about incongruity! When the current owners moved in their furnishings and art were a combination of contemporary and traditional. While it was an improvement from previous owners, there was still some piece of the house that was not being understood. A recent trip to Africa changed all that. Seeing homes and resorts that were architecturally similar to their own the owners immediately related to the simple textiles, the comfy understated furniture and the natural color palettes they saw. They finally understood the direction that the house needed to go and it’s on it’s way to finally feeling just right.
Our travels can help us to find the materials, experiences or vibes we are missing and we can start to incorporate these things into our homes. But sometimes a vacation can show us the places where we have excess or spaces that aren’t really serving any purpose. My last trip was a reminder of that. We rented a house with several friends and spent our days lounging by the pool, reading in the shade or sneaking off for naps. We spent evenings having cocktails at sunset and listening to music and dancing in a living space that opened to the outside. We retreated at night to our own private bungalows with comfy beds, nice sized bathrooms and ample space for clothing storage. While the total square footage was smaller than what we had at home “it managed to feel more spacious, even with 5 adults under the same roof”. That’s because the homeowners put thought into the things that make living more enjoyable, like shady spots to nap, crisp bed linens and lots of wine glasses! There was nothing extraneous. It made us realize how little space and few possessions we really need to live well.
Travel and vacations make opportunities for us to go into the world and entertain new ideas and experiences we couldn’t have on our hamster wheels. Our homes can be the destination where all those ideas and experiences find a place to live. Once we are inspired we can figure out what’s missing and what’s simply not needed.
Whether it’s a world tour or a weekend getaway, we all need to occasionally leave home to figure out exactly what we need to bring home.
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