When our daughter Sarah was in middle school, she had a much earlier bedtime than most of her schoolmates (Sarah is about to graduate college, with a math degree that she completed in three years. She is headed to graduate school to get her masters in teaching. You’re welcome Sarah.) She struggled with getting to sleep, and would find one reason after another to come downstairs and talk to Bob or I. She’d often find Bob watching episodes of Seinfeld and in an attempt to delay her return to bed, she’d ask Bob questions about it, who the characters were, what it was about, etc. She got so mad when Bob would tell her the show was “about nothing.”
I was reminded of this when reading an article on Afar recently in which the author said she had a hard time doing “absolutely nothing” when on a beach vacation. Everyone’s interpretation of absolutely nothing is entirely different of course, as the Seinfeld analogy details, but I must admit, doing absolutely nothing when on a beach vacation has never been hard for me. Bob and I often take city vacations, where we’re on the go all the time, walking, eating, and trying to burn a few extra calories so we can eat more. But when we go on a beach vacation, a switch in my brain just seems to turn off, and I can sit in a lounge chair staring at the ocean for hours on end. Sure, I probably have a book or magazine with me, but I don’t always read it. My ideal beach vacation is lounging under an umbrella, with water, a magazine and book at the ready, and slowly sipping on a cold cocktail. And if my girlfriends are nearby, even better. We talk when we have something to say—I don’t know what it is with girlfriends, but we always seem to have something to say—we nap when we’re sleepy, jump in the ocean when we’re hot, and eat things that take the least amount of time to prepare, because we’re on vacation, and cooking on vacation is for the birds. It’s also ideal when there are others at the beach, because people watching is another fun doing-nothing pastime.
Mastering the art of doing nothing is, in my opinion, really not that hard. I try, when possible, to get a little exercise in before the beach lounging begins, so my muscles don’t atrophy. I leave my phone/computer/wifi off, figuring if the world got along without me for so many years before cell phones existed, they can get along without me for a few days when I’m on the beach. And I just let go of the idea that a vacation has to be about doing all kinds of things. A vacation is about what you want it to be about. If that means laying in a hotel room watching movies (I’ve been known to do this with my girlfriends too), that is a vacation as well. If it means reading a dozen Harlequin romance novels, good on you. And if it means laying on the beach in some exotic destination (or even the Oregon Coast) and doing absolutely nothing, you go. And please, take me with you.