Farewell, Cabo; Greetings, Island Time.

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Before my holiday, I was a tangled mess of stress.

My body was begging and pleading for me to slow down, but I have a hard time listening to it most days. Weeks prior to leaving the country, I was writing, working, running and rushing. My left eye began to twitch incessantly for about three weeks. My bruxism returned and I awoke every morning to a clenched jaw. Three days before my departure I broke out in a rash, which spread from my thighs to my stomach and back to my armpits. I chocked it up to stress. Unfortunately we’re not designed with off switches or reset buttons. We will work ourselves until stress appears in the physical form. That’s exactly what happened to me. I turned to my dear friend Alli, who offers tarot card readings, and she gave me a spoonful of everything I needed to hear. I packed my bag the night before my trip (oh-so-typical of yours truly) and my groggy roommate awoke with me at five in the morning to haul my high-strung, jaw-clenching, rash-ridden, over-whelmed ass to the airport (Thank you, Carmen).

Wouldn’t you know that by day two of being in Cabo San Lucas, my rash disappeared, my eye was no longer twitching and my teeth-grinding ceased. It could have been the salt water. It’s likely the Tequila cured my ailments. Perhaps it was a combination, but I have a sneaking suspicion that vacation time did the trick. During my stay I was elated, I was all smiles and dated in my man bites dog town with a Spanish name.

As I write this post, it’s my last evening here in Cabo. I’ve had a jam-packed day, brimming with pina coladas, parasailing, mountain climbing, pizza and chocolate. I have an attention-deprived dog lying on my feet and Pierce the Veil is flowing majestically through my ear buds. And it’s good enough to make you want to fall in love. While I’m not necessarily ecstatic to venture back to fifty-nine degrees, I feel recharged and energized (and I think I’ve gotten enough sun to hold me over through the winter). And with that, I’m ready to apply my new attitude towards everything that’s been waiting for me back home. It’s the key ingredient I think we could all use to make life a little bit sweeter : Island time.

I’ve got a “to-do” list that does not stop. I have novels longing to be finished, friends prying for my attention, articles to write, zines to publish and half a dozen other tasks that circle around my head before I drift off to sleep at night. All of the aforementioned tug me in various directions, leaving me drained and exhausted at the end of the day. Every day. I am hereby putting my foot down and proclaiming ISLAND TIME. What does this mean? Easy breezy, “I’ll get there when I get there,” good ‘ole Jimmy Buffett singing “Now we’re runnin’ strictly on island time” (minus the Hawaiian shirt, etc). It’s time to slow the hell down. And I welcome you to join me.

Unless you are getting paid for your time (i.e. you work in the service industry), what’s the rush? I’m not suggesting you adopt this mentality while employed as a bartender in a fast-paced restaurant (I’ve worked plenty of jobs that pay the bills with tips and slow service does not invite hefty tips) – save that for your day off. I am suggesting you pull into the right-hand lane as you cruise through life, enjoy the scenery and let the rushing maniacs pass you on the left-hand side. I’m talking about cruise control, windows down, music, island time. I’m talking about the wind in your hair, losing your hat on the highway and not giving a good goddamn.

Learn to say no. I often go weeks without a single day off because I can’t say no. Addie and Tembo need to be sat for. Bogie needs walked. I get called into work. I have to make a special trip to the copy shop. My neighbor needs someone to feed her cats while she’s away. I have a bad habit of saying “Sure!” to a plethora of small tasks and find myself tangled in a web. That means no days off. That means blasphemy. I convince myself “Next month will be better.” But it’s not because I struggle to say no. Learn to say no or at least say “Let me check my calender” until you can give it some thought.

If the phone rings, you don’t have to answer it. This, my friends, is why I love the silence option oh-so-much. I rarely have sound on my phone. Why? If I’m watching a film, eating dinner with my family or getting drinks with a friend, I don’t want to be bothered with someone commenting on a Facebook photo or a buddy asking if I’ve seen that latest episode some mediocre TV show. A text message or missed phone call will be duly noted and responded to on my terms. Also, I find it highly obnoxious when I’m enjoying a moment with a friend and a cup of coffee and our conversation is halted for a petty exchange of click-click-clicks on the keyboard. Learn to forget your phone and exist without it.

Don’t forget to breathe. Do not underestimate the power of conscious, deep breathing. We breathe without thinking, but rarely do we practice good, honest breathing. As you inhale slowly, you should feel your stomach expand as well as your ribs and lower back. In with the good, out with the bad. Breathe. After your nightly ritual, as you sink into bed, breathe. And breathe deep. I’ve adopted this nightcap and it’s been quite a success. I lie on my back, relax, release tension and focus on breathing and nothing else. I generally pick a number between thirty and fifty and take long, deep breaths until I reach it. By the time I’m finished with the exercise, I’m relaxed, sated and float off to sleep. This isn’t solely a pre-bedtime exercise. Practice conscious breathing as you wake up in the morning, on your commute to work or when you’re feeling stressed. Breathe. Relax. It’s a cliché for a reason. Because it works. And when on island time, the last feeling you want in your gut is stress and chaos.

Give yourself something to look forward to. Consider a real vacation get-away. Start planning a semi-far-fetched holiday. Pick someplace you’ve never been to and start stashing cash away. Or you could take less drastic measures. Create weekly traditions. My friend Carmen and I go on a date every week to a speak-easy, where we indulge in cocktails and crème brûlée. We escape from our fast-paced daily grind and enjoy the dimly lit atmosphere that is Knee High Stocking Company.

Let a notebook take the place of your smartphone (I have a penchant for Moleskins). I can walk three blocks on Broadway, from the post office to the coffee shop, and pass thirty plus people with their heads looking down at their iPhone. Such a disheartening sight. If you’ve still yet to forget your phone, start doing so. Oftentimes we reach for our phone when we feel alone or antsy. It serves as a distraction while waiting for the bus. It helps us avoid awkward eye contact while ordering a latte. If your fingers are tinging for something to occupy your time, bust open a fresh notebook. Sketch what you see, even if you “can’t draw.” Write down what you see. Look around for leaves or flower petals to press between the pages.

Slow down. Zenhabits offers a helpful article on How to Slow Down Now. Pace yourself. There have been several times I’ve caught myself near-sprinting from destination to destination and for no reason at all. I’ve come to accept that I’m just high-strung and wired to operate in that sense. But no more. Make a conscious effort to slow your pace.

Do something new every day. One of my favorite parts of vacation is new experiences. While on vacation in Mexico, I crossed several items off my bucket list. Leaving the States, horseback riding on the beach, snorkeling, kayaking, parasailing. While the average Joe (or Jane) may not have access to these experiences, your local library can offer all of the aforementioned in a literary form. Learn something new every day. Read an autobiography about someone. Watch a tutorial video. Ask a friend to teach you something you’ve been interested in learning. Thanks to Ava, my Cabo travel companion, I learned how to successfully make obnoxious dying-duck noises with a blade of grass pressed between my thumbs. Triumphant!

Most importantly:

Slow down slowly. Anything traveling at high speeds needs a bit of a winding down before coming to a complete stop See: Whiplash. Don’t get frustrated if slowing down doesn’t come easy. Slow down slowly. The first step is to take the foot off the gas pedal. Coast a bit before applying pressure the the brake. Relax your white knuckles and sweaty palms.

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I have a world of “Thank You’s” to give my very dear friend, Ben Malisow for making this the trip of a lifetime. Thank you to Ava for being a complete babe and utter bad-ass. Thank you to my mother for her continuous love and support, and thank you to my roommates for feeding the cat (and watering my plants…once) while I was away. View all photos on Flickr.

Commence island time.

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