I took my brain on a vacation to Goa
Because that restless engine in your mind needs an oil change and a day off
Have you ever been on vacation, and found yourself battling a thousand thoughts running through your brain while you’re trying to enjoy your morning puttu and filter coffee? “Did I miss a client email?” “Let me quickly check if the post hit the target.” “Should I ask Neeti about that pottery class she took last week?” My brain races in multiple directions, like my mom on an early Sunday morning scrambling to clean the house for no good reason. Vacations are meant to be about switching off and relaxing, a break from the hustle of work, endless meetings and traffic jams caused by kadai-sized potholes. But the pandemic has left us with our professional life slowly trickling into our personal space (here’s how to set boundaries), turning our days into a soggy mess.
“We belong to a culture where toxic productivity and hustling is glorified. It makes us as susceptible to work around the clock,” says psychotherapist Rhea Kishnani. “We now associate rest with laziness or a lack of ambition — unless someone is burning out, they are not considered to be working hard enough.”
Neil Shah, author of of the 10-Step Stress Solution, calls this the ‘Roadrunner Effect’ – like the famous cartoon, we too struggle to stop running and are always on without really switching off.
So when Baale Resort in Goa invited me to take a dip in their pool and let all worries melt away for a glorious three days, I knew this was the perfect opportunity to put this information to test. The private villa resort in Arpora is festooned with lush greenery, invoking a state of calming bliss while you’re sipping on mojitos in your private pool. This would be a quiet escape from the chaos of the city where I could unbuckle the suffocating seatbelt of endless commitments, unwind and rejuvenate.
3 things I did that made switching off easier
- I planned my time like a ninja. This became the base to kickoff the switching-off process. I set an out-of-office notification on my work email so it wouldn’t seem unprofessional if I didn’t respond. I worked extra hard two days prior and completed the pending jobs on my to-do list, so the hanging knife of incomplete tasks wouldn’t kill me with stress.
- Another cool trick a friend suggested was to create a pact with a colleague at work where they cover for you while you’re on holiday and you can do the same when they are on break.
- If you don’t trust your itchy fingers, create a ‘do not open’ folder on your phone and add to it any work-related apps or even better, turn notifications off for apps like Slack, Skype or Google Teams.
As soon as I arrived at Baale, I was escorted by my personal butler Avijeet through Taro, my boutique villa. While I was elated, my mom was definitely not vibing at the same level and made it clear. “Make the most of it, once you’re back home, you will need to go back to picking up plates.” Thanks mom.
I spent the first day sticking to my self-imposed ‘no phone’ policy with a few exceptions to take pictures of the property so I could save those as memories. But more importantly, to make my girlfriends jealous. It honestly wasn’t as hard as I expected, probably because 80% percent of the day was spent either lounging by the pool or demolishing a delicious Asian lunch from the Mandala restaurant followed by an ‘I’m too full but I can’t stop eating’ private barbecue prepared by chef Bhushan.
When you search online, meditation and yoga top most lists on how to unwind. But for someone with the curiosity level of Abhijeet from CID, I can almost never meditate without eavesdropping or getting distracted by the weird noises people’s stomachs make in class. Thankfully for me, the comfy lounger by the pool was a great spot to practice my concentration skills and post-burrito sukhasana, as I like to call it, which has little to do with yoga and more to do with an overstuffing-my-face habit.
I’d be lying if I said I didn’t miss the hustle of work; I think the whole idea of saying “I’m drowning in work” gave me a sense of importance that I was now missing. With no texts, no calls and no questions, I was left feeling like the lone pomegranate in the fruit basket that never gets eaten. And though it sounds like a me problem, I learnt that it’s part of the process to actually disconnect and be happy with your own company. Being someone whose mind is always running on overdrive, this proved to be a great time to think about the bigger things in life that get lost in the black hole of our thoughts otherwise. I actually set personal goals for the next few months and also put together a list of things I wanted to accomplish before the year ends.
My mornings in the villa were paired with giant platters of fruits, croissants and eggs that I enjoyed in the grand dining room while jotting down my thoughts in a little diary. Journaling is a great aid in switching off, not only is it something you’re actively doing, but it also helps to go back and read your thoughts and how they made you feel. Entry 1 in my journal – I am never leaving this heaven, can I convince my mom to hire a butler?
On the last night, I decided to emerge from my dungeon and explore the world outside. I put on a nice dress, some questionably bright red lipstick and walked a total of 18 steps to get to the Gong Bar. It’s a charming outdoor bar right next to the common pool, stacked up tall with shelves full of colourful bottles of artisanal liquor.
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After enjoying a gin cocktail and my 5th meal of the day, I walked back to my villa and tucked myself in the comfy pool table-sized bed before watching an episode of the Big Bang Theory.
I was not sure if I’d be cheating on my challenge by watching some TV, but then again, this was a holiday and I reassured myself that switching off also meant indulging in pleasures without killing yourself with any guilt.
As I waved goodbye to Avijeet and the courteous staff at Baale, I watched the skyscraping coconut trees swaying with the wind through my rain-frosted car windows. I’ve never felt more connected and disconnected at the same time. My t-shirt was a tad bit looser, my mind only concentrating on the waves hitting the shore like a ticking clock and my vacation responder left on for an extra day so I didn’t need to jump right back into the work.