Now that you know the story behind how in the world I unintentionally booked a flight to Germany, I want to share six things that made this the perfect vacation for my soul; things you may want to consider for your next get-away.
#1. Down Time.
This wasn’t my first time to Germany so I didn’t feel the need to travel once I arrived. I knew in my heart that what I needed more than anything was down time. This was really important. Too often our vacations are filled to the brim with activity. There’s so many people to see and things to do that we miss out on that intentional rest, which is often what is needed most. Looking back, this was a huge part of what made my vacation so great. Make time to put into practice Psalm 46:10:
Be still, and know that I am God. (ESV)
#2. Alone time
My friend had to work part of the time which gave me the perfect amount of alone time. I would lie in bed those mornings listening to the church bells ring and the birds sing, thinking to myself, “What shall I do? Go back to sleep? Eat some Müsli? Go for a walk? Bike to a cafe? Take a long soak in the tub? Spend time in the Word? Read a good book?” I hardly knew what to do with myself.
And I cried. I cried because I felt so incredibly blessed in that moment. I felt so cared for by my Heavenly Father. I felt spoiled and I knew I didn’t deserve it. And I felt a little overwhelmed by my options. 😉 So, what do you think I did? I did it all. Just because I could. And I relished every minute of it.
#3. Friendship and Laughter
What would we do in life without friends? Traveling with friends is the best! If you can’t travel with them then do what I did and travel to see them. Share your vacation with someone who knows you and loves you. Pick a friend who will edify you, and if possible, a friend that can make you laugh until your sides ache. Take them with you! Adventures are richer when we share them with others. Laughter and friendship is the perfect combo for a weary soul.
#4. No Media
If ever there’s a time to remove yourself from media, it’s when you are on a vacation for the soul. Contrary to what one might think, getting wrapped up in other people’s drama (even if it’s fake drama in a movie) is draining. I can’t urge you enough to go without! It will always be there when you get back.
#5. Eating Out
I don’t eat out much. It’s generally expensive and I have a hard time spending money on a meal that will leave me hungry a few hours later. But when you are on a restful holiday, you have to be intentional about getting and guarding that rest. Maybe it’s just me, but I have a hard time relaxing bent over a hot stove. It will cost you to eat out, but it doesn’t have to be expensive and remember, you are getting more than just a meal. You are getting a break! And that, my friends, is worth it!
My friend Eva and I usually ate a simple breakfast and lunch at her flat and then would eat dinner out. Sometimes we would split a meal. We’d usually sit outdoors by candlelight. And we always lingered. We reminisced about the past. We talked about all that God has done in our grown-up lives in the last 18 years. We wondered together about what the future might hold for each of us. We were mutually encouraged and edified by each other. What a priceless gift. And all without a messy kitchen. 😉
#6. Fresh Air and Exercise
Go where you can enjoy God’s creation. There is something about spending time in nature that nurtures the soul. We rode bicycles nearly everywhere. (Somehow vacation is just better on a bike.) The sound of the birds, the scent of the spring flowers, the beauty of the seasons; these are gifts from God. Slow down and enjoy them!
And friends, don’t wait too long. Listen to your body. Listen to your family. (Sometimes they can see it and we can’t.) And prayerfully consider if your soul isn’t also in need of a vacation. Somehow as American Christians, we can feel guilty for taking time away. There can be guilt associated with rest and refreshment. But friends, we need it! We need to get away from all the busyness and entertainment and daily duties to reflect and refocus. We need that alone time with our God. Retreats and laughter and sunshine nourish our souls and give us strength for the journey ahead. And while we can learn to do a bit of that every day, sometimes we need a retreat. A sabbatical of sorts.
I know we can’t always just up and take vacations whenever and wherever we want. We all have limitations: health, time, money, families, responsibilities. And the list goes on. But how many of us even give it a thought, let alone make it a priority? I know I didn’t. I wouldn’t have gone if God in His sovereignty hadn’t made it happen. But I am so thankful He did.
Somewhere, somehow, I would encourage you to make it a priority to give your soul a respite before you burn out. Remember Jesus words to His disciples in Mark 6:31:
Come away by yourselves to a secluded place and rest a while. (NASB)
Be creative and do what suits you best that’s within your reach. Find a small town nearby and book an inexpensive Airbnb. Visit an old friend. Consider camping or backpacking (though you might have to do some simple cooking). And there really are some great deals on airline tickets that aren’t too good to be true. You can always save costs by traveling with a friend. One way or another, I encourage you to find the time, save some money, and work to make it happen!
And if all else fails, you can always accidentally purchase a plane ticket. You won’t be the first! 😉
And now it’s your turn. Share about your favorite destinations and retreat ideas in the comment section below. I’d love to hear them!