The Backwards Plan

Remember this?


How many times have I planned a vacation that was packed to the brim with activities?

The problem with the “Do It All” trip is that at the end of the vacation I have seen and done and experienced everything.  But I haven’t relaxed.   Those kinds of vacations are fun but they wear me out.  I come home happy but exhausted.

There is an alternative to the “Do It All” trip.  I call it the “Backwards Plan” vacation.  These breaks leave me feeling centered and rested. I’ve got an opportunity to backwards plan my next break and it’s turning out to be blog-worthy.


I’ve written on skirt! about my upcoming maternity leave.  (No, I’m not pregnant, nor do I have an infant.  Yes, I’m going on maternity leave.  Confused?  Read here.)  The summary is that I’ve got a paid vacation for 6 weeks, starting at the end of this month.

<pause for you to fling jealous obscenities in my general direction>

I’ve been worrying about planning what to do with my time off (which is clearly more a vacation than a maternity leave).  It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and I don’t want to waste it.  My inner dialogue has looked a little like this:

Should I take a service trip to Africa? Spend all day at the pool? More importantly, why did I chose this picture of the dude who needs to shave?

Image: Danilo Rizzuti /

 The options range from the mundane to the grandiose.  But considering all of those things didn’t leave me with a sense of purpose.  Instead, I felt a growing ball of anxiety in the pit of my stomach.

And then it struck me…

 I need a Backwards Plan!

Or, as I affectionately call it, a NALP!

So here’s how a NALP works; instead of planning what I want to do with my vacation, I instead define how I want to feel at the end of it.  Then I plan backwards to include only activities that will support the end goal.

At the end of this break, I want to feel:



 Writing this blog has offered me opportunities to reflect, learn, and share.  There’s something about writing that feeds me, makes me find inspiration in the little moments.

There are other sources of inspiration that have been calling to me, too.  One of my first loves (besides writing) has always been music.  I’m a terrible, terrible guitar player but I love to sing.  And every once in a long while, I hear a song that makes me miss the stage.

Ironically, those songs seem to be finding me lately.  One after another.  My guitar whispers to me from its lonely corner.  Open mic night schedules find their way to my computer screen.

There’s inspiration out there to be found.  And my vacation will afford me precious time for the search.

“Inspired” activities include: writing, painting, play guitar, visiting a museum, people watching, reading.



Feeling peaceful is work for me.  I don’t wake up in the morning with the thrum of serenity in my soul – I have to spend time and energy creating space for it.

For me, creating my own peace means making time for stillness and meditation – two things that I value but don’t come easily.

How could THIS be hard??

Image: meepoohfoto /

 The reality of meditation often feels a little more like this:


Image: Arvind Balaraman /

It can be a painful experience for me to truly stop multi-tasking and sit still with myself.  So why do it?  Because I experience my life so differently when I feel peaceful.  My cynicism shrinks; my ability to see beauty in others grows.  I am more optimistic and positive.

In short, it’s worth the work.

“Peaceful” activities include: silent meditation, nature walks, meet-ups with other spiritually-minded friends



Oprah says your home should rise to meet you.  Right now, my home looks like she was dragged out of bed, still wearing last night’s makeup.

Yes, there is housework to be done.  I have more “don’t-ever-let-anyone-look-in-there” closets than I’d like to admit (ahem – all of them).

The Pantry of Shame

And then there’s the craft-room-slash-office that looks more like a squatter’s den.  And no, you’ll never see a “before” picture of that room until there’s an “after” picture beside it.

Our house may never look magazine-worthy and I need to be careful not to spend my whole break cleaning closets.  Not only would that be tedious but I might also be resentful of doing all that work myself.  And even if every inch of my house got organized, I’d risk ending my vacation feeling martyred and bitter.

I do want to spend time organizing, cleaning, and otherwise honoring our home. And I believe that I’ll feel accomplished by making just a dent in the list of work to be done.

“Accomplished” activities include: organizing closets and pantries (duh), assembling donations of toys/clothes/household goods, purging house of clutter.



Peanut is going to Kindergarten in the fall.  I’m not sure why this feels like such a rite of passage for me as a parent, but it does.  I want to spend as much time with her as possible this summer, before her “school years” start.

Every day, I see Pumpkin’s personality grow as she learns new words and experiences the world around her.  I love watching her as she experiences the world and feels both the wonder and frustration of being a kid.

This vacation gives me an opportunity to spend more time with them, on my own.  The best way to reconnect with someone is to just be.  I feel closest to my kids when I’m simply observing them and taking joy in witnessing who they are that day. No agenda, no expectations. 

But in an effort to balance my time with kid time, I’ve decided to split the leave in half – the first 3 weeks they’ll continue to go to daycare (and I get to pursue my goals of ‘inspired,’ ‘peaceful,’ and ‘accomplished’).  The other 3 weeks the girls will be home with me.

“Reconnected” activities include: trips to the pool, children’s museum, beach time, reading time, neighborhood walks and bike rides, sidewalk chalk, blowing bubbles, or generally doing a whole lot of nothing.


So how do I plan my days to make sure I achieve my goals?  The planner in me says I need a schedule – not for the weeks I’m with my kids (that part will be easy) but for the time I’m on my own.

Here’s what I came up with…




You know what they say about the best laid plans of mice and men… and I’m not hoping to plan the perfect vacation.  At the end, I’m sure there will be things I wish I did differently.  But my hope is that I’m so peaceful, accomplished, inspired, and reconnected that I don’t even care.

This post (particularly the pantry of shame) is linked to Adventuroo’s “Capture the Everyday”

Capture the Everyday from Adventuroo

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