A recipe for success – brought to you by Moses, Jesus, Muhammad, Buddha and… Bill Gates
When we think of the best vacations ever we think of Hawaii, Tahiti, Maldives, or Seychelles. If we are a different type of person, we might think of Paris, Rome or New York or some ski resort like Aspen and they are all indeed some of the very best locations for the best vacation ever.
But what determines which locations and activities we would choose for our “best vacation ever”?
According to Yuval Noah Harari – the well-known historian and author of “Sapiens”, the fact that most travelers dream of visiting Italy or spending some time in a “five-star” hotel is a bit odd. Though we all perceive the modern vacation concept as universal and common, it is actually not common and not universal.
That is if we take into account all geographies or even different times throughout human history. As Harari puts it, Pharaoh – the king of Egypt did not think to take a vacation and visit a neighboring kingdom (though he could) and the same was true for most other privileged people throughout most of our history.
The reason for which we are considering to take a vacation every once in a while and wonder what might be a fit idea for the best vacation ever is that we are constantly “primed” with the ideas of taking a vacation by TV advertisement, media, friends and relatives. The global tourism sector is expected to reach $1.7 billion in 2021 and much effort and resources are being put in order to lead us towards the idea that lying on the beach with a coconuts drink will most probably end up being the best vacation ever – especially if the sand is extra white, the trees have this windy angle and the ocean is turquoise clear. But is the best vacation ever really is a “vacation” as we perceive it?
Between the king of Egypt and us these days, some of the most influential figures of all times seemed to have a different concept for what might be the best “vacation”. One of the most important benefits of a vacation is that it allows us a temporary break from life – some escapism and relief from the endless pressure of modern life. In that sense, a few days of good relaxation, best foods, some new experiences, and a good close view of white sands with turquoise clear water and shakes are definitely more than a fair option. Perhaps even the very best pick for many of us.
If such a vacation goes well, it can “fill up” our reservoirs, expand our horizons and even help us gain some valuable insights, habits, or connections. But if it goes beyond that, it can do much more than that. A really good vacation can equip us with a new perspective on life. The best vacation ever can end up being much more than a great week or two off, but a shift positively impacting as many weeks as we have left.
While a good vacation will help us gain many great memories that will pop up in our mind in good and bad times, reminding us of how good life could be, encouraging us to keep it on and gain another relief, the best vacation is something else. We may come back from such vacations differently – not just because we gained few different memories, but because we are different and we have a different perspective on life or different goals in life – we had a change in heart or a shift in mind – we have changed.
Not less interesting than that, some of these best vacations ever had ended up not just by changing the person who took the vacation – they also changed us – all of us. Bringing us Judaism, Christianity, Islam, and Buddhism. It is no coincidence that both Moses and Jesus spent 40 days and 40 nights in the desert taking a break from everything and just thinking, listening to their inner voice, to God, to the world. According to Muslim belief, Muhammad, similarly to Moses and Jesus, also spent a few days isolated in the desert. A habit that was customary those days and it is in those days where he was present all alone in a cave in the desert that it is believed he was visited by Gabriel and received the words of God. The last to join this respectful group was Buddha, who spent six days and six nights and a seventh morning meditating beneath a tree. A vacation ending up in the revelation of an answer to his “burning” question on how we humans can free ourselves from suffering. This week of deep thinking brought the Buddha to conclude that lust is the source of all human suffering. An insight ending up in the formation of the Buddhistic rules of life, followed by 40 years of preaching and half a billion Buddhistic believers.
This is not to say that we should stop dreaming of those milky coconut shakes in Thailand or Seychelles and commit to complete isolation in the desert, nor to try and form the next big religion, but we have to admit this common denominator between those four figures that might have impact humanity more than any other suggestions they all benefited from the few days off they took and maybe we could too.
But there are some serious challenges with that. How should we translate solitary isolation in the desert, in a cave, or under a tree to our own days and to our own life goals and things we hold dear?
Interestingly enough, there is another well-known figure that not only took a week off but did so regularly and in our days. The vacation he took was not only the best vacation ever but also its only vacation.
Though not forming a new religion and not being related to God more than me or you, it is as impactful a figure as any figure was during the last 1,000 years and its vacationing habits might have played a crucial role in it.
Bill Gates famously took what he called “thinking vacations”. A yearly week off, with no one else joining on board – not even his computer. The only thing he took (differently than all the other four figures who took nothing) was printouts of ideas that people working in Microsoft could send him to be reviewed during his “thinking week” vacation. Though specifying some highly impactful ideas born during these thinking weeks in “The Greatest Business Decisions of All Times” by Verne Harnish and the editors of Fortune, this article is not about Gates, Microsoft, or any other impactful figure, but about our next vacation and how might it look like.
Hence, the first question is: can we really consider an alternative vacation as the best vacation ever for us? How might a “thinking week” versus a “Coconuts week” might end up for us?
Truth be told. Not everyone can afford a week of vacation or even a weekend off and definitely, not everyone can get to the exotic Coconut zones. Making things even worse, many times an even more aggressive limitation is our own ability to consider an “out of the box” vacation.
In other words, if we do get to a point where we can secure a great vacation, it may seem we must be somehow “insane” to put it to risk and sit with ourselves for 7 days and nights planning nothing but thinking.
It was not too many years ago when I had done my military service and knew I would have to spend many hours in a watchtower watching on the border between Israel and Egypt that I was freaked out – not by the danger of spending time on the border as a soldier, but from a far more frightening thought! Having to deal with this for the first time in my life in a situation where I will have to spend many hours just watching and thinking, having no books, mobile or television and nothing to do but think.
If it was not a compulsory or useful required service, I would do anything in my power to avoid it. Or as sir Joshua Reynolds put it “There is no expedient to which a man will not resort to avoid the real labor of thinking”.
Undermining our existing concept of the best vacation and pursuing the concept of a different type of vacation as our preferred choice, even just once in a lifetime is not an easy choice to make.
But what might we be able to achieve should we choose to deal with such a challenge? What options could really offer us the very best vacations, and how Bill Gates or Time Economy might be able to help in facilitating such a vacation?
To be continued…
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Many interesting stories have been told and countless valuable theories have been suggested to cleave the secret for human development, behavior and success. Time Economy and the Human Time Machine tells the story of the human success, but from a new perspective – The perspective of behavioral economics.
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