Vacation is a hot topic in a society that is driven by work performance and encourages workoholism as a highly appreciated addiction. It takes clear priorities to enter a discussion about vacation that are NOT about visiting friends or family and longer that just an extended weekend or 7 days in a row.

Recently I met a Motorola Executive from Israel with his 2 teenage kids on a 6-day trekking tour around the Mont Blanc in France/Italy/Switzerland. “This is a dream I had for more than a decade and it is the first time in 31 years I take a real vacation,” he confessed. “It took me 3 days before I stopped to check on my business emails. Only now I am fully open for the immense beauty of these mountains, the unique flowers and the profound peace of mind that comes with being ‘off the grid'”.

Biologically, our nervous system craves variety: Breaking routines might not come easy and natural, but always means hitting the ‘refresh’ button in more than one way. There is plenty of research on the impact of relaxing vacation without a driven sightseeing or bucket list agenda on emotional and physical health. However, what does all this evidence mean without pleasurable and joyful vacation experiences?

I LOVE vacation as a regular part of my life; this time Susanna and I expanded it to greater extremes to test our capacities for enjoyment: When we checked in for our flight from Phoenix to London we got an unexpected offer to upgrade to first class – what a difference in quality for our bodies! The first five days we spent in a boutique hotel in Valle Aosta to relax, enjoy nature, swim and enjoy Italian food and fashion: slowly my mind shifted from busy to ‘perceptive’; we were ready for the adventure of a 6-day hike around the Mont Blanc with overwhelming beauty of glaciers, flowers and interactions with people from around the world. Yes, we hiked 66 miles, climbed 1184 floors and counted more than 150,000 steps, but the deeper shifts happened on the inside: New sensations, tastes, flavors, feelings, vulnerability with weather changes, the miracle of physical recovery overnight after long days of hiking with a 24 lb backpack.

The last 2 of 16 days we spent at the Montreux Jazz Festival – a different world with international artists and top quality concerts: Creativity, spontaneity, playfulness and the feeling of being a valuable global citizen dominated this experience.

Relaxed intensity? Works for me to enhance a joyful life!