For the last several years some of the people most near and dear to me, my parents and my in- laws, have been making their way down south leaving the cold Canadian winters behind in favour of enjoying the warmth and sunshine of places like Mexico, Arizona and Palm Springs. The trips started out as short vacation getaways, increasing the length each year until all of a sudden, you guessed it, somewhere along the line they officially became Snowbirds, staying for months at a time.  My parents pull their trailer along a pre-arranged route, meeting up with friends at various campsites, attending and even performing at various events along the way.  My husband's parents even went so far as to purchase a second home in Arizona, and have carefully calculated how many days they are legally allowed to remain in their new-found paradise.  Sound familiar to anyone? 

Now, even though we all consider leaving our original homestead constitutes a vacation, this popular lifestyle should really be thought of simply as being able to enjoy life and relocate to a more desirable location.  I'm sure you must be asking, "Does what I call it really make a difference?"  Let me share with you why I believe it does.

It's all about mindset and what we believe to be true.  Most people have a different mindset on vacation than they do at home, believing the vacation is the time to relax, enjoy and indulge in things not regularly available back home.   For example, at home the person who exercises regularly, may decide that while on vacation he/she will skip the daily workout in favour of sleeping in, relaxing on the beach or curling up with a good book.  Or, the family that rarely eats out or indulges in dessert, makes several trips to the all-inclusive buffet and ice cream bar each day of their stay at the resort.  Now don't get me wrong, missing a few workouts or enjoying a few treats is not the end of the world - on a one or two week vacation that is.  But continue that mindset and the actions that come with it on vacations lasting for months on end and, Houston, we have a problem. 

People that cast aside good habits, with regards to balanced nutrition and exercise with comments like, "I deserve (a treat....to relax, etc.) once in a while”, or  “After all, I only do it when I'm on vacation.", when they are away for four to six months of the year, are effectively mistreating and/or neglecting their health and their bodies anywhere from 30%-50% of the time.  Big numbers, that over time, result in even bigger consequences.  Crazy, isn't it? 

I know in bringing this fact to my mom's attention, the realization of what having a "vacation" mindset for this amount of time could potentially do to her health, caught her a little off guard as the length of time away from home had grown so gradually for her and my dad the way it does each year for many other sun-seeking seniors.

When you get right down to it, our bodies, with all its complicated systems and amazing abilities,  work relentlessly to bring us through each new day and providing us with an experience, the quality and enjoyment of which is directly proportional to the care we have shown it prior to that point in time.  It's like owning and operating a vehicle. 

Every day, you get in and drive to work, maybe do some errands, and then drive home.  You put gas in it, so it keeps running, but are too busy to change the oil regularly and only take it in for service when the engine light comes on.  Fast forward a few years and you are planning to take your family on a road trip through the mountains for a week in the summer.  You pack up your stuff, load up the vehicle, everyone piles in and you take off.  At first everything is going great, you're sailing down the highway, not a care in the world.  But as the day goes on and your poorly serviced vehicle loaded with extra weight attempts to climb the hills in the heat of summer, all of a sudden, it chugs to a stop, unable to continue on the journey maybe at all, but most definitely not without sufficient rest and a service call. Out bodies are not really that different. 

In fact, the body is the vehicle that drives us through life.  Whether you experience your journey in a rusty old jalopy regularly overheating and chugging to a stop on the hills, or whether you are that well-maintained classic car that causes heads to turn as you fly by in the passing lane is entirely up to you.  So yes, do take those extended vacations, absolutely, you have earned them.  Just have the attitude and the mindset to leave the jalopy at home.

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