Lauren Zander, Chairman, HG Life Coaching
May 22, 2008
Ah, vacation… it’s supposed to be the best of times, the reward for many months of hard work and responsibility, the frosting on the cake, the crème fraiche on the strawberries. Too bad, then, that many times vacations are vaguely — or hugely — disappointing, more like skimmed milk on bran flakes than delectable treats. It’s not that the vacation is necessarily a horror story — it’s just that reality didn’t live up to the fantasy. Those romantic walks on the beach didn’t occur. The lively conversation with your spouse ended in an argument. And as for the dancing, well… you get what I mean. Just about everyone has been disappointed by a vacation at some point in their lives, but it needn’t be that way. Vacations can, indeed, bring you pleasure in the moment and in memories, said life coach and frequent Daily Health News contributor Lauren Zander of The Handel Group, when we were talking about my next family vacation.
MAKING THE RIGHT CHOICE
Lauren says the immediate problem concerning vacations comes from the multitude of possibilities — they are so broad they bring the differences between people into sharp focus. For example, he is a thrill-seeker and she loves the beach. She believes in first-class… he looks for money-saving deals. He wants to travel the world and she likes returning to the same place. Sometimes one spouse would rather not go away at all during his/her time off and instead snuggle into the comforts of home. Other couples vacation with the same couples or families, year after year, maybe because the relationship works… maybe because it’s become a vacation habit.
After many vacations with conflicting desires and unmet preferences, a residue builds up of disappointment and the feeling of being stuck, says Lauren. The unspoken conclusion around a vacation then becomes, “How I wish he/she were different.” Even the word “vacation” may trigger anxiety — it might be about the potential of more failed expectations, fears around flying or being in strange cultures. Overarching all of this could be the worry that time away is going to cost a great deal of money. That’s a lot of fretting, but there are ways to resolve these issues and happily so, says Lauren. However, be prepared — success calls for thoughtful planning, careful design, negotiation and, above all, honesty from everyone concerning hopes, dreams and expectations.
GETTING DOWN TO BUSINESS
The first step is, as always, self-assessment. Ask yourself on a scale of one to 10 how you feel about your previous vacations, including your satisfaction with the length of time, destinations, other people, the cost and activities involved. Be as specific as possible so your real desires and issues concerning the current vacation mode get aired. Your spouse or other vacation buddy or buddies must also do this exercise and with equal honesty. This will bring clarity to your discussion and planning.
With self-assessments completed, someone must be designated the “vacation leader” in order to ensure the job gets done to everyone’s satisfaction. The leader should be the person who is the best organizer and clearest thinker. The first job duty is to review with every single person who will be on the vacation, including children, what he/she really wants from the holiday. Lauren says the biggest challenge here is to get everyone to speak up. The reason: Some people remain mum because they don’t want to hurt feelings or are shy about stating personal expectations and wishes. It may take some needling and persistence, but it is crucial that everyone contributes to the pre-planning discussion. In my house, we have a family meeting for this, where everyone speaks up and we plan together.
After everyone is heard, the organizer should present the facts that are known, such as “we have four days” or “we are going here.” Lauren suggests predetermining a schedule (days begin at 10 am and not before, for instance) with time built in for spontaneity, too. For restaurants and activities, list first, second and third choices so everyone gets their first choice at least once. Then begin to negotiate what you will do. This stage should confirm that everything has been said about people’s desires, including even such seeming minutia as what time you prefer to eat, how you feel about background music if renting a vacation house, what foods you like, games the children want to play, etc. Laying out the plan for the vacation in this manner offers the opportunity for people to decide what they are willing to accept and where they draw the line. For instance, Lauren recalls a vacation planned with several other families including a husband who was a chef. She explains that her family is happy to eat standing up or on the run, but this was unbearable to the chef. As a guest in Lauren’s house, he wasn’t going to say anything, but he seemed uncomfortable and she asked him straight out what was the problem. He told her and they agreed that breakfast would be up to the individuals, but lunch and dinner would now be sit-down affairs if he was willing to cook the meals. He was. Although this was foreign to her way of thinking, Lauren says that all involved ended up having a wonderful time and great food.
As Lauren’s experience shows, compromise is always part of successful negotiation. Through compromise you can find numerous ways to accommodate individual wishes and desires. Money is a huge consideration, of course, and it is vital to feel you can afford the trip. This means putting the matter of cost up front, talking about it and, if necessary, setting aside a special savings account to be sure you will have the money to cover your trip. Whatever the budget, it is definitely possible to find a trip that fits the parameters, whether that be pampered in luxury, or not as posh, but still interesting and filled with great memories. Once you have determined the destination, gather a list of activities available. All vacationers should look it over and decide what really interests them and what they want to do… nothing breeds resentment faster than feeling forced into something.
OTHER WAYS TO GO
For spouses who simply can’t agree on the best kind of trip, why not take an occasional vacation with a friend or relative? The wife who thrives on the excitement of Paris has a much better time with her sister who shares those feelings than with a spouse who is bored by everything French. The husband who loves high-mountain Western skiing is better off going to Colorado or Utah with like-minded pals than with his wife who hates the cold. Other ways to resolve conflicting ideas — take several small vacations a year, one for each spouse capped by one mutually agreed upon bigger vacation so you each have your dream vacation by taking turns as the holiday designer every other year.
“People sometimes resist planning so carefully, but this is the only way you can be sure a vacation will be a happy experience for everyone involved,” says Lauren. An approach like this prevents fights, hard feelings and having a bad time. Instead it assures that vacation really is everything everyone had hoped for… argument-free, walks on the beach and fudge on the ice cream.
A little planning can go a looooong way to making sure your vacation is great. Join us for our teleseminar, Make Sure Your Vacation Doesn't Suck.
Reprinted with the permission of:
Bottom Line Publications
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