Finding serenity by "losing" control in paradise

I think most people (myself included) take vacations to take a break from their busy, and at times hectic and stressful lives.    Vacations give us the opportunity to spend unhurried quality time with friends and family, or just simply to lay back, let go and enjoy what comes our way.

For those with control tendencies such as myself, a vacation is also a time when we don’t have to worry, think or analyze so much, or feel the need to always be on top of things.

And for me, there is no better place in which to fulfill my vacation desires than in a tropical paradise.

Control Issues in Paradise

In our recent family trip to the beautiful, lush, garden isle of Kauai, I discovered a fascinating aspect of the control dynamic.  

It doesn’t stay behind when you leave home!

Yes, unfortunately it can follow you to paradise.    Moreover, it can rear its discomfiting head in the most unexpected times and ways.   Let me share how it happened to us while in Kauai.

Near the end of our trip, we decided to go kayaking on the very tranquil Hanalei River, which leads to a natural wildlife reserve at one end and beautiful Hanalei Bay at the other.

Our daughter, Lana, and her friend, Greta, jumped at the opportunity to navigate their own kayak.  My wife and I opted for a double kayak (the romantic thing to do, right?)

The Double Kayak Divorce Boat

My wife and I quickly lagged behind the girls.  We kept veering from one side of the river to the other–often pushing into the bristly brush along the riverbanks.    Our paddling techniques and strategies were vastly different.    We were out of sync from the beginning and it only got worse from there.   And not surprisingly, we each thought our way was best, and neither of us hesitated to instruct the other about what needed to be done to avoid further mishaps and glide smoothly down the river.

Sound like two controllers?

In short order, tranquility almost turned to hostility and “fun” was nowhere to be found.   There was only one thing we agreed upon: the need to turn around and go back.

Upon returning the kayak to the embarkation platform, I asked the kayak instructor, “Are double kayaks always so hard to use?”  He quipped, “Oh yeah, around here they are sometimes called double kayak divorce boats!”

Return to Paradise

We gladly exchanged the double kayak for single ones and paradise was soon restored.  The difference was so noticeable, it was almost laughable.   Our grimaces turned to smiles as we easily paddled along the river.

There was no longer a need to control.   We were each in charge of our own destiny.

The lesson learned:  “Lose” control in paradise or it will become paradise lost!

Letting Go of Control in Paradise

As I have had time to reflect on what happened with us in the double kayak, it occurred to me that there were core reasons for the discomforts we endured while kayaking.   We both became anxious when things went awry, even a bit fearful when we lodged into the bushes.    Fear and anxiety are prime catalysts for controlling behavior, and as I learned in Kauai, no less so than when in paradise.

Vacation Decontrol Tips

For those of you who have experienced similar control mishaps while on vacation, here are several tips I recommend when the need to control surges during vacations:

*Identify and address your fears and anxiety.    This will immediately reduce the need or compulsion to control.  (My book addresses this subject in some detail.  Also see my blog post on some ways to deal with fear.)

*Accept “what is” when things don’t go as planned.   That allows you to focus on what you “can do” (under the circumstances), which often leads to more fun and enjoyable experiences because you are being spontaneous and expecting much less.

*Ask yourself, “How important is it?”  When on vacation, it mostly isn’t!   Then let it go.

Please share with me any control experiences you have had on vacations and what you did to overcome them.

In the meantime, remember to

Let it go!


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