Understanding the Symptoms of Vacation Brain

5-14-13 Vacation brain

Vacation Brain discussed the mindset that happens when one fails to live life deliberately. The symptoms of vacation brain include increased comparisons, God neglect and flesh focus.

Let’s address each of these symptoms in detail.

Increased Comparisons

On sea days, cruisers spend a lot of time lounging around and being entertained. The entertainment staff provides an almost constant schedule of entertainment opportunities. However, my husband and I found people watching to be more intriguing than most of what they offered.

Unfortunately, I too easily started playing the comparison game while people watching. I naturally found individuals “better” than me in some way, and I deliberately looked for those “worse” to help me feel better.

I eventually realized the danger of living in a constant state of comparison and what it did to freeze my progress and growth. I mean, I could easily feel good about myself or berate myself depending on where I placed my focus.

This idea of how constant comparisons can negatively impact our lives gets more attention in the series Battling Boredom.

God Neglect

A cruise offers activities for virtually every interest. Comedy acts, dance shows, trivia contests, video games, casino gambling and club dancing are some examples. There’s no chapel on the ship that I’m aware of, and no Bible studies make the daily itinerary.  In other words, any focus on God does not appear to be a cruising priority.

I am not suggesting that everyone on a cruise ship totally neglects God. With over 3,000 people on the ship, I am certain some people spend time with Him. In fact, one couple at our dinner table on our second cruise prayed together each night, and we had some faith-related conversations with them.

I am suggesting that the cruise ship atmosphere does nothing to promote one’s faith. Routines are broken, and everyone seems to be living the good life. Unless an individual deliberately chooses to incorporate God, most of what is offered on a cruise ship does more to promote desires of the flesh than anything else.

While I believe that a God focus remains the responsibility of the individual, I also understand how the pull of our culture, especially in such an amplified way, can significantly impact an individual’s choices.

Flesh Focus

The draw of abundance is as clear as the surrounding ocean on a cruise ship. Opportunity for gluttony, drunkenness, laziness and poor stewardship abound. To make the ease even easier, cruisers receive a “sail and sign” card that allows them to “pay” for everything. In other words, no actual money exchanges hands when buying drinks, gambling or purchasing anything while on a cruise.

So, focusing on the flesh really requires little effort, and to some extent that is why cruises are so immensely relaxing. When this focus becomes a habit, though, an unhealthy life becomes a trap. Our fast-food, immediate gratification society cultivates this focus on the flesh, which then grows naturally if we do nothing to resist.

The post Are You Living a Cruise Ship Lifestyle? looks at how these symptoms undermine a productive and fruitful life.

DISCUSSION: As with any illness, symptoms can manifest themselves differently from one person to the next. Can you name additional symptoms of vacation brain?

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26 Replies to “Understanding the Symptoms of Vacation Brain”

  1. It is really weird to me Kari. When I am on vacation, I find it harder to focus on my Bible reading and intimacy with God. I rely on quiet and a set aside time for myself. I get neither on vacation. Instead of coming back spiritually refreshed, I come back hungry and lacking. That is one reason I never take a vacation where it ends on a Friday or a Saturday and I have to preach Sunday. I will end it on a Sunday or a Monday so I have the week to get back in the mode. Its not the flesh (as you talk about). Its not the distractions of the "outside" as you talk about. It is just plain no time, no quiet. 'Course my vacations have always been traveling kinds, not "get there and stay there" kind.

    1. One reason I try my best to have all my posts done for the week I return from vacation is because of what you talk about. It takes me up to a week to get back into my life's routine, and I want to avoid that intense pressure if I can. My husband travels a lot for work and struggles as you do with setting aside time for quiet, and he usually comes back not having been able to find any. My prayer is that you are able to discover vacations that are truly relaxing and that allow you to connect with God in a unique way. For me, I struggle doing my usual prayer and Bible study routine, so I try to focus more on God in the activities of our vacation. It's almost as though it takes more effort though and goes against what vacation is all about. Just some rambling thoughts here… Perhaps your vacations aren't truly vacations? We have been trying to do a better job at realizing the purpose of our vacations. For example, when we went to Disney a year or so ago, I knew I would not rest physically a lot, and I needed to focus on enjoying it for what it was. But when we went to Myrtle Beach over New Year's, the goal was to relax and reflect. My prayer for you is that you are able to experience a truly relaxing vacation. I'm assuming that's what you'd like anyway.

      1. I agree. My vacation this year is the same as two years ago. I join my family – my parents and my sister and her kids, uncles, cousins, aunts, etc – on top of a mountain in Tennessee. No phones, no TV, no real outside world for one solid week. My husband thinks that this sounds like the worst possible vacation ever in the history of the world, but for me – it is a time to just vegetate, connect with my family whom I do not see very often (every year or so), talk, listen to good Christian music (gospel), and just live a very slow country existence for 7 full days. I came back so relaxed and reenergized last time and am hoping to do the same. I pray for everyone to have a TRUE vacation. Going away is definitely not always relaxing and I think it is important that we do get that time to completely detach.

        1. Sounds like a wonderful vacation to me! My husband and I have worked heard over the years to find a good balance to our vacations. He wants to do more things, and I want to do a lot of nothing. We sometimes combine those goals (he plays in the pool with the boys, and I read), and we also sort of take turns with them too (I like to go hiking and will go miniature golfing or something, and he has learned to sit and read and talk more). But it's taken a lot of trial and error and compromise on both ends. We're pretty good at it now though. We have found that pre-planning on our part truly gives vacation a more balanced feel, but then he likes to be spontaneous too, so I've learned to leave room for that.

  2. What struck me in this post was that you are really a very gifted writer. You always make me think and reflect and cause me to focus inward even if I don't want to. That is a good thing, because life is so busy and we get so caught up in "life" that reading posts like yours help to make us stop and consider instead of just going and going. I think that "living the cruise ship lifestyle" is so easy in our culture. Everything is right there, in your face constantly. In my walk – and I know I am not the only one – I experience so much of this because of the unsaved around me. It is sad to think that my family (for the most part) is part of that group, but it is the reality.

    1. Thank you for your kind words, Angie. God is so good to me, always sending His Spirit with the words to write. I just try my best not to get in the way of that. Being surrounded by unsaved loved ones certainly has to make the pull of culture even greater simply because you never get a break from it. You have to be very intentional about building in time where your culture isn't constantly pulling you away from God. But, I know God is enough and can do that for you. He can make you able to withstand culture and to be able to dwell in His presence no matter what is happening around you.

  3. I struggle with finding a good balance and keeping my eyes on the Lord always. In the Mother's Day video on Sunday, Ally said that one of mommy's favorite places to be was Church. I know some thought that she was just saying that, but what I didn't realize is that she really is paying attention. I didn't realize that she heard all of the times that I have said, "I want to go to Church" or "I want to go to Ladies Night", etc. I have to pick and choose my connections, because those around me do not value those things as I do. For that reason, it is so important for me to stay focused – and this blog helps me to reconnect and work harder to keep that focus. Thank you!

    1. I just read in my devotions this morning to not neglect meeting together so we can encourage and warn one another (Hebrews 10:23-25). Even though I am somewhat of a loner and definitely an introvert, the importance of regularly meeting with other Christians has become so clear as culture tries to pull me away from God. Yes, staying focused on God is SO important, but let me encourage you to not rely on yourself for that. With the pull of culture and life in general, it's so easy to lose focus. Rely on God's Holy Spirit to constantly help you focus. Remember that you get new mercies every morning (Lamentations 3:22-23); in other words, you get enough to take you victoriously through your day!

  4. With my 'new life" that does not require me to be in church each Sunday and often makes it unavailable, I find it harder to resist some of the pulls of society. We do need the support of other Christians, and I am grateful for people like you Kari who are willing to post things that help me stop and think about my life. I am grateful for Christian sisters who I can talk with and share with and how we can encourage each other. I would recommend next time considering a cruise that was organized by a Christian group that would include those things that help you grow. I have seen them advertised and would much prefer something like that to all of the "worldly" things most cruises are known for. And like cycleguy often the vacations I have taken are so full of doing I come home not feeling at all rested! I believe we do have to be VERY intentional in connecting with Abba on a daily basisi.

    1. The internet can be used in so many evil ways, but when I hear stories of people like you who would otherwise be really disconnected, I am more thankful for the internet and technology. The Bible tells us that we need to support each other and that our faith is strengthened when we live it together. A Christian cruise is a good idea. Intentionality is crucial to living a life of faith, that's for sure.

  5. Your observation is true of most of us – we tend to always look outward to others around us. We have a centrifugal viewpoint which de-emphasizes what we are doing or where we are, but on what others are doing and where they are from our perspective. That leads us to constant evaluation of others. I like people watching too, but I also wonder what I may doing that they may be observing an evaluating. Am I providing a worthy example or not. How others behave should not impact us, but hopefully how we behave will impact others!

    1. Great way to put it, Coach. I kind of got at this idea in a post about serial killers a while back. It's the idea that we can justify our actions or thoughts or whatever based on others actions, thoughts and ideas. In other words, what we are doing is right because of what someone else did or didn't do. That's a very dangerous place.

  6. It seems to me that I can get vacation brain sometimes as a result of stress being taken away. During stressful times I am relying on God and reading and praying to get through whatever struggle is going on. When the stress is taken away I am tempted to relax and take it easy and not do the things I should be doing when the pressure is on. The environment of things not being stressful and being easy and relaxed led me to doing nothing to keep my guard up. So it is easy to get into that mode of vacation brain and let focus go away and just feeding things I want to do.

    1. Terrific example, Mark! Just like the Israelites, we tend to forget God in times of prosperity. It's like we need struggle and pain and challenge in order to grow and to keep on track, just like a car needs a constant hand on the wheel to stay on the road. So, another approach could be stepping up our appreciate and worship of God in the good times. In other words, a deliberate approach to keeping prosperity and abundance and blessings from leading us away from knowing our desperate need for God.

  7. I was actually looking forward to getting back to work after this vacation. It helps me to remember that life is about God and not about indulgence. That way I don't come back with an "I deserve the good life" mentality which makes me want to be back on vacation and not here working. I just realized God has changed me a lot in this area. That's good because I needed it!

    1. Vacations can really be a terrific way to help us see how much God has blessed us. He sometimes allows us these concentrated times of blessing that really do help to re-energize and refocus us. Also, I am inspired when people acknowledge how God has changed and helped them grow. That in itself gives a new perspective as well as is a catalyst for future growth.

  8. Your comments on competition intrigue me. I agree with you – that excessive competition is a bad thing. But it's something I'm really struggling with. I took the StrengthsFinder test and my #1 strength is competition – meaning that everything is a competition to me and I am constantly gauging myself against others. I'm trying to figure out if this is just a universally bad thing or if there is any way redeem this.

    1. YOUR comments about my comments on competition intrigue ME. I am not a competitive person that much, but my husband and both boys are very competitive. I am going to study this one out a bit, because you make a valid point with regard to competition being a strength. God would not give you a strength that wasn’t beneficial, that’s for sure, and I suspect it relates to balance, heart, etc. Anyway, I am definitely going to meditate on this one a bit. Thanks for bringing it up!

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