Picture it now: you, lounging on a striped deck chair, your new straw hat shielding you from the sun glinting off the soft ocean waves. You’ve left your cell phone in the cabin and your worries on the shore. In one hand you hold a pina colada (okay, make mine virgin) and in the other hand—a digital voice recorder?
Vacation travel isn’t what it used to be. Many people in this day and age, especially seniors, want to do more than just snooze, booze, and cruise on their weeks off—they want their precious leisure days to mean something. Educational and philanthropic travel experiences have taken off in a big way in recent years, and those who choose to participate in meaningful travel come home with more than just a sunburn and an empty wallet. Doing something that feels meaningful to you, whether for yourself or for others, can recharge your batteries far more effectively than a “float and bloat” on a beach somewhere. After all, my grandmother (or maybe it was Mary Poppins?) used to say, “A change is as good as a rest.”
This year, maybe it’s time to do something different.
If you are reading this blog, chances are that you already understand to some degree the importance of recording your life experiences and values for posterity. In our years of experience in teaching people how to do just that, we often suggest that you take on such a project in small doses, chewing that proverbial elephant one bite at a time. Generally it is good, sound advice (or we wouldn’t be giving it!)
On the other hand.
There is also merit to the idea of throwing yourself at a project with gusto, casting aside all other concerns, and not letting up until it’s done. My husband Tom, who speaks Navajo, likes to use a word that has no exact English equivalent: iimááł, which roughly means “to bolt.” It’s how coyotes eat—gulping their food in one large bite.
If you have thought about preserving your history for years, maybe made some small progress in fits and starts, but it’s not really going anywhere—you might want to reconsider your methods. Sometimes, our friends and clients are forced by external realities—terminal illness, approaching dementia, or the funeral of a loved one—into completing a history quickly. How much better would it be to have a pleasant, self-imposed external deadline as your guide?
Which brings me back to the coyote idea. Sometimes giving a project a short, concentrated, uninterrupted burst of time and energy can be much more effective than stringing it out indefinitely, especially if you are the type that always has too many things going on in your life.
A vacation could be the ideal time to tackle a personal history or other writing project. You are (ideally) away from the minutia and interruptions of your regular life; a change of scenery can refresh your brain and get your creative juices flowing. And having a finite time in which to meet your goals can sharpen and focus your efforts. You can do it yourself with a list of memory-jogging questions and a notebook or digital voice recorder, Or you might want to consider a guided life history workshop, with help from an expert. (Marketing alert—we offer a variety of personal history workshops here.) You can even purchase a vacation package that includes a finished book and video. Either way, whether you go it alone or get help from a professional, make your vacation mean something—to yourself, and to your posterity. And have fun while you’re at it!