5 min read
This past summer, I decided to take my own advice. Well, not my advice exactly.
If you’re feeling burnt out and in need of inspiration, shut down, get up and change your scenery.
Like many of you out there working full-time jobs and side hustles and managing home life and desperately trying to catch up on Game of Thrones before you fall dead asleep on the train all at the same time, I needed a little break in the action. I needed a moment to catch my breath, recharge my batteries and refocus on my goals and my strategy for achieving them.
To combat burnout, many wellness experts champion the idea of stepping away from our desks and getting out into nature. And while some may scoff at the notion that watching a pretty sunset could have anything to do with finding business success, science agrees. Experts including Dacher Keltner, Ph.D., co-director of the Greater Good Science Center at UC-Berkeley, have researched the mental and physical benefits of experiencing awe—defined as witnessing something that is vast, difficult to even comprehend, and, well, awesome. Research has found that being around something that brings on awe leads to a reduction in stress, an increase in open-mindedness, and a sense of being a part of something bigger and greater than ourselves.
All of those things tend to wrap us up in a big ball of happiness, and in my experience, happiness opens up the floodgates of creativity and “let’s do this”-ness, and so this summer, the family and I decided to skip the cotton candy and long lines of theme parks and hit the road in search of awe.
So where to go? The first place that sprung to mind when considering vastness in nature was the Grand Canyon—doesn’t get vaster than that, right? Some internet browsing introduced us to the nearby towering Red Rocks of Sedona, which led us to book a stay at the nearby Enchantment Resort. (There are a ton of other hotels in the area at all different price points listed here.)
Here’s a view from Enchantment’s pool, which should immediately answer the question of whether or not we found the awe I was after.
The resort sits in the Boynton Canyon, surrounded by insanely beautiful rock formations — buttes, spires, mesas and many other words I was suddenly remembering from 8th-grade geology. I grew up on flatter-than-flat Long Island so I can say without question that I’ve never seen anything like it in my life. Shortly after unpacking, I found myself hiking and biking the canyon trails, while the rest of my family took a more gentle approach to experiencing awe (i.e. hanging out by the pool sipping virgin pina coladas and playing an occasional game of tennis).
Sunset, wherever you stand in the Red Rocks, is crazy gorgeous, but our favorite view came while we took a Pink Jeep Tour. Pink Jeep tours are just what they sound like, an experienced guide drives you through the back roads of the canyons in a pink Jeep, explains what you’re looking at an,d if you time it right, stops to cut some ripe cactus fruit off the wild plants for a mid-excursion snack.
(Cool side note: the founder of the Pink Jeep company, Don Pratt, was a real estate agent who would drive prospective real-estate buyers around in Jeeps back in the 1960s. He quickly realized that the people had more interest in his off-road rides than the real estate, so he pivoted and started charging for them. And thus, a company was born.)
We were able to tear ourselves away from the stunning sites and delicious meals at Enchantment and hit the road for a day trip to the epicenter of awe: The Grand Canyon. As we walked through a short trail from the parking lot to the South Rim edge, I was reminded of my niece Tara’s observation when she came here 10 years earlier, “That’s a big hole!”
Credit: Alan Majchrowicz/Getty Images
Tara was right. Like the breadsticks at Olive Garden, it’s bottomless. Or at least feels like it. I’m not going to try to describe the feelings you get when looking into something that geologists believe the Colorado River began forming 5 million years ago. I’ll just say that that data overage bill sitting on your kitchen table back home suddenly seems incredibly small and not so meaningful in the grand scheme of life.
Alas, our time at the Grand Canyon and Sedona sadly came to end. But, as the awe research suggests, that sense of jaw-dropping awe we experienced stayed with me long after stepping off the plane back in New York. As did the smiles on my family’s faces. I’m recharged, renewed and ready to go. So whether it is in the Red Rocks of Arizona or a park down the street from you, I encourage you all to unplug, get outside and put a little awe in your life. The ideas and energy that fuel your passion will follow you home.
Related video: Richard Branson on Discovering Brilliance