How to truly reap the benefits of your getaway...
The value of taking time to unplug and recharge is a no-brainer. Harvard Business Review’s The Data-Driven Case for Vacation came to the following conclusion from the authors’ research: “If you take all your vacation days and plan ahead for trips, you will increase your happiness, success rate, and likelihood of promotion, and you’ll lower your stress level to boot.” Besides, vacations are simply fun!
But if you are like me, you have had a vacation that is so jam-packed with activities and excursions that you came back home feeling sleep-deprived and over-extended physically. Maybe you experience this when you take time off with family over the holidays. The same Harvard Business Review article reported that “poorly planned and stressful vacations eliminate the benefits of time away.”
By the time your vacation is coming to a close, you are dreading going back to everyday life because you didn’t feel that you had enough time to truly relax. OR you are so completely over the hectic agenda of your vacation that you look forward to returning to the normalcy of your everyday life. Vacations can be so much better than that!
Here’s how to have a vacation that is both fulfilling and restorative, so that you are mentally and energetically refreshed to do real life when you get back home.
Set intentions for your trip. Get clear on what you want to get out of this vacation. Do you want to spend time in nature, take in the local art scene, party with the locals, or all of the above? Write down your priorities for the type of experience you want to have and how you want to feel after your trip, so that you are focused on planning specifics that satisfy your intentions.
Plan in advance (but not too much). Based on your intentions for the trip, take note of the non-negotiable experiences you must have while away. Think about those sites or activities that are unique to the location that you’ve been dreaming about experiencing. Beyond your must-see/must-do list, leave some open space in your travel agenda to sleep in and practice self-care, or whatever relaxation looks like to you. An over-planned agenda can leave you feeling just as exhausted on your way home as you were before you arrived.
Allow yourself to go with the flow. Create flexibility in your schedule for spontaneity. If you don’t have dinner reservations, a local might be able to recommend a great place off the beaten path. If your schedule isn’t planned to a T, you have more time to wander and discover interesting people and places, and maybe stumble upon a great experience you’ll never forget. And if you find yourself at a tourist site that isn’t as great as you hoped, ditch the plan and explore other options for a good time. Some of the best vacation memories happen by surprise.
Be present to your surroundings. Sometimes when people plan out their itinerary, it seems like they’re just doing it for the ‘gram. Getting that awesome photo op is great and all, but really take some time to look up and all around you to appreciate your surroundings. A good mindfulness practice is to observe your surroundings and think an appreciative thought about what you are seeing, smelling, tasting, touching, hearing. Use all of your senses to immerse yourself in your environment, rather than social media.
Come back home having gained great memories and the R&R you truly needed. And for all of you staycation-ers out there, these tips are completely applicable to you too! Rather than spending your time off going through your personal to-do list, use the tips above to plan a great experience for yourself in your local area.