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This Simple Phrase Will Make You Love Living Here Again

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In recent years, my enthusiasm for the Bay Area has dwindled due to numerous factors. From cost of living, car break-ins and shootings to a pervasive sense of negativity and chaos, it often feels like we’re constantly avoiding doom and gloom in our daily lives here. Thanks to one simple phrase, I’ve reclaimed my love for The Bay. I just say: “I’m on vacation.”

Hear me out. Yeah, it’s a little weird – but it totally works! Previously, the overwhelming chaos in the Bay Area plunged me into a state of depression, forcing me to confront the difficult reality of potentially leaving the place I grew up in. This year, I really wanted to consciously shift this dialogue in my head but I really didn’t know how. I dove into events, added extra therapy sessions, took art classes, hung out with friends… none of the normal ways I cope with these feelings helped me.

Always say yes to time with friends when on vacation! Here is Stuart and I at DECANTsf – photo by Vita Hewitt

Around March, I had family come visit for a long weekend. They live in a small mountain town in Idaho. Aware of the chaotic environment here, I made a deliberate effort to shield them from it. During their vacation and my own staycation, we prioritized spending time outdoors, immersing ourselves in nature to strike a balance between the city’s chaos and the serene beauty that surrounds us.

After they left, I experienced a revitalized sense of curiosity and joy about our local area. The abundance of incredible hiking trails, exciting adventures, shopping destinations, and excellent bars/restaurants right on our doorstep reminded me of the wonderful experiences and opportunities available here.

Why did one long weekend reawaken my love for The Bay in just one weekend? It’s because of one fact: I was on vacation!

“Don’t make a distinction between work and play. Regard everything that you are doing as play, and don’t imagine for one minute that you’ve got to be serious about it,” quoted from a lecture by Alan Watts.

As someone with a remote 9-to-5 job, it’s easy for me to confine myself indoors for extended periods unless I make an effort to venture out. Since March, I’ve been experimenting with a new phrase that has had a profound impact on my perspective. Instead of simply referring to my weekends as a brief break before returning to work, I now label them as “two day vacations.” This simple shift in my mindset has significantly transformed how I view and experience where we live and also makes me more inclined to actually say yes to Sunday night plans or push myself when I’m feeling a little tired or shy.

Sitting in the picturesque dahlia farm – photo by Vita Hewitt

Why does this phrase work to improve your mental health?

It’s all about setting intention and shifting your mindset. When you’re on vacation you’re more likely to meet new people, more willing to take chances and you’re looking to take it all in and finding adventures along the way. 

The less the stress, the more likely you will experience a positive benefit from the time off. A positive, well-managed vacation can make you happier and less stressed, and you can return with more energy at work and with more meaning in your life.

Positive vacations have a significant effect upon energy and stress. In our study, 94% had as much or more energy after coming back after a good trip. In fact, on low-stress trips, 55% returned to work with even higher levels of energy than before the trip.,” according to this article about why vacations make us happier by The Harvard Business Review.

There’s an ease a person has when time feels abundant and less constrained – photo by Vita Hewitt

We know that we live in a place where people love to vacation – we have the best food, the best sites, the best hiking, adventuring, music venues and more! We know that what’s available out there is FUN and so much of it is FREE. We know that, when we do some of our favorite things, we are lifted up and reminded that life is pretty great! Sure, we all have chores and responsibilities we need to handle – that’s just what comes with being alive, eh? But that doesn’t mean you can’t treat at least part of your week as a vacation. Vacations can look like sitting and reading a book, saying yes to a sunset walk, painting with no time limit or even seeing a Sunday night show at The Fox without a care in the world.

Vacations have a way of resetting life and fostering a sense of exploration and adventure. When you’re on vacation, you’re more open to solo exploration and willing to take risks, driven by the desire to fully immerse yourself in all that the Bay Area has to offer within a limited timeframe. Even if you have kids, you would treat your time away from work differently if you were to declare the time a “vacation”. By adopting the mindset of being “on vacation,” you gain a fresh perspective that infuses each day with a renewed sense of excitement and possibility.

That time the Broke-Ass Stuart team all went to an Immersive Art Experience just for fun – photo by Vita Hewitt

I went from feeling disheartened about the Bay Area to rediscovering my love for it and that’s been transformative. The visit from my family and our intentional focus on nature and balance brought back my own sense of curiosity about The Bay and my appreciation for our local area. Setting intention with the phrase “I’m on vacation” has helped me to embrace the wonders of our environment and has me viewing each day as a chance to experience more joy.

Today, I am more likely to say yes when someone asks to hang out. I live more spontaneously than I had before. I follow a path towards fun as much as I can. On week days, I use my lunch hour to play, for painting, for nature walks and hikes to grand views of The Bay. I’ve found the shift in the way I talk about my time off work and then the perspective I get when I’m on a nature hike has helped heal me in ways I felt were worthy of sharing with all of you.

Sure, pretending you’re on vacation doesn’t make the chaos go away. It does help us remember why we do love it here instead of just seeing what we don’t love.

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Katy Atchison

Katy Atchison

Katy has lived in The Bay Area since the age of 3. While other kids were attending summer camp & soccer practice, she was raised selling wares at craft shows with her working artist parents and spent vacations in a small 1920s Montana log cabin. This has all given her a unique perspective on the ever-changing texture of San Francisco and the Greater Bay Area. Currently a blend of all that is The Bay Area - she's a web designer at a tech-company, artist and DIY teacher.