Thursday, June 9, 2011

Relaxing without shopping made for a memorable vacation

My husband and I have just returned from five glorious days of soaking in the Mexican sun. At the outset, the goal of our vacation was simple: do nothing. No meal planning or chasing dust bunnies. No worrying about the ketchup handprints on the back door or about getting everyone to bed at a decent hour. Nope. This vacation was intended for lounging by the pool, dangling toes in the water and walking on the beach.

We paid for a trip to an all-inclusive resort so that our expenses would be finite—no leaving in search of a restaurant or something to entertain us. Instead, we planned to settle in and enjoy the best our resort had to offer, which included nightly shows and such personal touches as a chocolate fountain with fruit skewers served in the lobby.

It didn’t take long, however, for our “do nothing” goal to be challenged. In fact, the moment we walked into the lobby, a handsome and plucky hotel concierge tried to arrange a special breakfast where we could learn about all the benefits of purchasing a resort membership. He plied us with offers of a couple’s massage and cold hard cash.

Not long after that, the travel company we used to book our vacation had arranged for a representative to meet us to schedule our return transfer. In truth, he was trying to sell us tour packages.

Add to this offers made to have our photograph taken with the Benito the monkey, with a pair of beautiful macaws and a long-tailed lizard. We could have bought silver jewelry from the young men walking up and down the beach, purchased a new swimsuit from a poolside kiosk or jumped on a nearby boat for a parasailing or snorkeling adventure.

Everywhere we went, someone, somewhere was trying to sell us something. In fact, if I had a dollar for every time my husband and I said “no thank you,” we probably could have paid for most of our trip. And though having Benito the monkey perch on top of my head for a photo wasn’t exactly a tempting prospect, I did find myself browsing the racks of swimsuits and cover-ups near the pool.

In the end, we resisted all the offers to go and do and buy, reminding ourselves that the goal of our vacation was simply to relax. Neither Benito nor a new swimsuit were ends to that goal. Our overarching vacation goal served as a slide rule, of sorts. It helped us to filter through all the messages we were getting and to stay focused on doing what we had set out to do.

Our experience in Mexico reminds me how essential goals are to all of life. They’re really the most effective way to ensure that you remain focused on doing and buying those things that bring you true satisfaction.

At home and virtually everywhere you go, some company or individual is trying to convince you to buy what they’re selling. The messages may be subtler than those of our hotel concierge, but they are present nevertheless.

Decide what you want. Put it in writing and use what you have written to guide all of your spending decisions. My husband and I don’t regret spending a single penny on our vacation, but we probably couldn’t say that if we were staring down a picture of us posing with Benito.

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