I vividly remember a coaching conversation with a former client in June last year. He entered the call, cast me a doubtful glance, and told me: “Simone, I need to make a confession”. I told him: “Of course, what do you want to tell me?”. He said: “I want to talk about something that no one else will understand. It’s something I almost don’t dare to say out loud because it’ll make me look like such a weirdo. It's about this strange fear I have...”.
After more reassurance from my end, he hesitatingly confessed: "I am afraid of vacations."
What he didn’t know yet, but was very relieved to find out, is that I’ve got a term for this: FOV. Short for Fear of Vacation. It’s a real thing. Or at least, for gifted people it often is.
“What do you mean, you fear vacations?”, will the outside world ask. My client was right about that, not many people will understand. What’s not to like about time off? Who doesn’t like going to the beach to do nothing all day, except lounging around?
Well, it turns out, for gifted people, this idea of ‘free time’ isn’t always that appealing.
Boredom and understimulation
For some of us, the summer season can feel like a large, looming void. No studies, no work, no nothing. The nothingness is key here. Because a lot of gifted people fear empty agendas. A lot of gifted people are terrible at 'doing nothing'.
Why? Because of boredom.
Understimulation is the culprit here.
It’s not fear of vacation itself, but the underlying fear of getting bored.
I’ve had clients who not only feared summer vacations, but also weekends and sometimes evenings too. Those yearly, weekly, and daily returning moments of nothingness.
One client told me that once she’d get out of work, she just felt so lost. She dreaded evenings, because she’d get understimulated, and was clueless as to how to keep feeding her brain after working hours.
You may recognize (some of) this. You may not. Fearing free time and vacations is not something that will make you more gifted than if you don’t. So if you can’t relate and are currently thinking: “What? But I love weekends, and I love my summer vacay!” Then great!
But if you do relate, then I hope this article will make you see that this too is something that is commonly experienced by gifted people. You’re not a weirdo. And you’re not alone.
4 steps to overcome FOV
Here are some things you can do if you struggle with Fear of Vacations:
1. Understand the underlying root of the fear: most often, it is not about vacations per se, but about getting bored (for most people, that is. If you think there is a different underlying cause, send me an email so we can chat about it). Knowing the root fear will help you to come up with better solutions.
2. Face your fears: get bored! This is something you’ve heard me say before: do things that scare you. Does boredom scare you? Well, then do it! Go and get bored. Approach the sensation of boredom with curiosity: what’s going on in your mind? Which thoughts are returning? Perhaps you keep telling yourself you should be more productive or ‘useful’. Notice those thoughts. Not because they’re true, but because they’re fascinating.
3. Find summer programs to join: look for a summer school, or a course about something you’ve always wanted to learn. Check out local volunteering programs, join a group trip to a new destination (or go solo!), find a surf camp to sign up to, or try a chess club. Perhaps a summer reading group is your thing, or a local gardening initiative.
4. Create your own summer project: if you can’t find what you’re looking for, go and create it yourself! Perhaps you feel like starting a new research project, or perhaps now is the time to finally read Nietzsche’s philosophical works, or dive into Iranian Sufi poetry. You could immerse yourself into learning a new instrument or painting technique, or research your family’s history. Perhaps you want to go on daily walks with your camera to see what you can capture. Work out a new business plan. Start a cooking club to discover north-Indian cuisine. Study star constellations. Learn a new language and find a buddy to practice with... The options are truly endless here.
How I spend my summer vacays
For me personally, the summer is when I like to travel, spend time with family (a rare treat for me), and visit friends who live abroad. It’s also a time to rest up, reset, and reflect on the new cycle of study/work to come. I journal a lot during the summer. I read for pleasure. I give myself full permission to let go of any to-do lists.
I used to suck at doing nothing. I used to make detailed plannings for how I’d spend my summer, just so I could keep myself entertained. But I’ve found that it is the nothingness that I once dreaded that now brings me some of my most treasured time in terms of inspiration.
These days, white, empty space on my agenda means it’s playtime.
It’s time to slow down, get centered and reconnected with myself again.
It’s time to linger with a book and cup of tea, and let the ideas come through.
Find your own balance, and make sure it brings you joy.
Hope this helps for those of you who suffer from FOV ;)
Greetings from a remote beach in Sulawesi!