Last month my husband and I took our two young children on their first big road trip—2,000 miles round trip from Austin to Durango, Colorado. The whole family was excited as we prepared for this adventure. I knew I needed a vacation, but I also wondered, as most parents do, if I would need a vacation from this vacation after it was over.
I had a lot on my mind that last week in the office. At one point, running from meeting to meeting, I realized I was on MoPac (Highway 1) driving to the wrong restaurant for a business meeting. I said to myself, “You need to fix this. You really, really need a vacation!” I looked in the mirror and could see how tired I was. I needed a case of Red Bull or a week off. I opted for a week off.
My vacation was pregnant with revelations. During the course of hiking, white water rafting, luging down a mountain and watching The Lego Movie, the space between my ears and shoulders relaxed, and I took time to reflect. Of course my branding and PR brain never fully shut off; that would take much more than a vacation. Here are just a few things I learned about myself and the world around me:
Get Out Of Your Comfort Zone
Climbing on cliff-side ladders in Mesa Verde National Park was one of the biggest eye openers. If you aren’t awake before you arrive, you will be soon enough. I watched my kids, my husband, my acrophobic brother-in-law and his two boys all experience this. We exchanged high fives and talked about what it means to be brave and what life was like when native people lived in the cliff walls (high above the canyon floor) and accessed their homes in this way. While we could have just driven around and taken pictures, this experience left an imprint.
Chicken Little can step up to the plate, and I know this because I am Chicken Little. I signed our family up for a number of things that would push us outside our comfort zone, yet inside I was secretly terrified of luging down the side of a mountain. Strapped onto a glider with one control for fast or slow seemed like an accident waiting to happen. I suppressed my worries and let it rip! The sense of exhilaration was contagious, and suddenly I remembered why I love skiing. It’s that intoxicating combination of freedom and fear.
Embracing Team Work
White water rafting was a reminder that teamwork is essential for success, and a good attitude goes a long way. Everyone has a paddle, but there’s one boss calling out instructions, and everyone needs to row in harmony toward a single goal. Left side do this, right side do that, everyone lean in. Our group, which included people ages 8 to 50, deftly maneuvered down the Animas River. No one fell out (unless they wanted to), and everyone felt more connected as a result of the experience. Separately I realized how lucky I am to have the A team at Red Fan and how, in my absence, the business ran smoothly and with big results. Only one phone call was needed during my trip, and it was a delightful call from my staff with three great ideas for clients. Now that’s a well-oiled machine and one I enjoy being part of each day. Communicating well, tapping into the expertise of each person and making great strides is what it’s all about.
People talk about unplugging, but most of us fail when we actually try to do it. As a business owner I made sure my team could reach me, and I let them know if there were any emails I needed to read they should call me. Having the right team in place and setting up things in advance helps. I took photos and shared those online but I didn’t fall into the email or voicemail trap. I witnessed people on vacation trying to both work and play, and not only did they seem stressed out they created stress for their family and those around them. At one point I heard a little boy say, “Dad, don’t they know you’re on summer break? Why do you have to be on your email and phone so much?”
Tap Your Inner Child
Being creative means using all aspects of your brain, so playing board games like Scrambled States, In a Pickle, Hangman, and even listening to books on tape can be a real awakening. Let’s just say I’m a new Percy Jackson fan, and my kids now know more about Greek mythology after listening to Jackson’s book titled “The Lightning Thief.” I thought an eight-CD book on tape would be a yawn for my kiddos, but they insisted we listen to the entire series as they took in the dramatic scenery passing us by.
Don’t Forget To Breathe
When you’re hiking at 9,000 feet, the air is thin and breathing can be harder. You have to change your expectations, get a rhythm and enjoy your surroundings. After all, that’s what you’re there to do. It’s your very own Thoreau moment. We often forget in much less taxing situations to stop and take a breath. I’m at my best when I’ve taken time to reflect on my family, my clients and my friends before I act. I’m reminded that, when I build in quiet time for myself, everyone benefits.
Wisdom Comes From Many Sources
I gained great insights from the park rangers we met at Mesa Verde, Silverton and Carlsbad Caverns, as well as from our rafting guide on the Animas River. Let’s face it; it takes true skill to lead a group of people you have never met. We experienced this with a brilliant biology major from Wisconsin who was delightful and knew his stuff, and from a ranger at Carlsbad Caverns who took us 750 feet below the mountains and turned off all the light so we could let our imagination take charge. A candle gave us the ability to imagine the 15-year-old boy who discovered the caverns in the late 1890s, bravely explored them and shared them with the world.
Bend Your Mind
Branding problems and opportunities exist everywhere. We stayed at the absolutely exquisite Purgatory Lodge by Durango Mountain Resort. My daughter called it heaven, and in fact, one of the stores there has shirts that say “Purgatory – half way to heaven.” The resort has new ownership and they rebranded as Durango Mountain Resort to imply that it was close to Durango. The truth is the resort is 25 miles north of Durango and is on a beautiful mountain known for years by regulars as Purgatory. As I visited throughout the resort, enjoying every moment, I couldn’t help but notice a brand struggle was presenting itself. Even the restaurant at the base is called Purgy’s. Two stores at the base of the mountain present different brands—the old and the new. The new, conservative Durango Mountain Resort brand look and feel is falling flat while the flamboyant Purgatory brand is more attractive than ever before. In fact the Purgatory cult brand sells out each season with people grabbing shirts, caps, bumper stickers and all of the branding that reinforces the essence of being half way to heaven. After all a brand needs to create an authentic emotional connection, and Purgatory brings out the passion in folks young and old. Needless to say, I have a new business proposal in the works along with fresh ideas for all of my clients that came flowing in after recharging my batteries.
For these reasons and more, vacations are a nonnegotiable expectation in the Lucente family and at Red Fan. Have you scheduled your getaway?