Five tips for a stress-free, relaxing vacation
Ever feel yourself stuck in a vacationing rut?
Maybe you try out different places, but they all kind of seem the same.
Maybe you find the planning exhausting.
Maybe you stress out over small things so that your energy gets sapped.
Maybe you cram too many things into too little time, and you come back more tired than when you left.
Maybe you bring work with you, even when you say you’re not going to, so that you wind up giving away precious vacationing hours to your job.
I’m going to be bold and say: This is not what a vacation should feel like.
Here are five tips for a stress-free, relaxing vacation. Trust me — you’ll never regret taking these on.
1. Move a little bit every day you’re on holiday, especially if your job is the kind that has you sitting at a desk all day long.
This isn’t about working out; it’s just about doing what your body and brain want you to do, which is move around a little. Lounging is great — there should definitely be time for lounging — but only lounging for days on end has an ironic de-energizing effect on the body. (It’s part of why desk work can be insanely exhausting, even though you technically didn’t do anything physical all day long.) Whatever your level of mobility or fitness, pick something to do every day that gives you a burst of activity: walking, swimming in the ocean, going for a bike ride, playing with your kids, doing morning yoga or stretching. If you have some physical limitations, plan ahead and find walker- or wheelchair-friendly spaces to explore, even if it’s just for 20 minutes each day. Your body and your brain will thank you. Activity actually helps boost your body’s ability to fully relax and soak up the restorative purpose of vacationing.
2. Get present to real, peaceful, natural beauty.
You might not be the camping type. Or the sporty type. Or the outdoorsy type. That’s 100-percent okay! You don’t have to hike the Grand Canyon to sit in total awe of it. Even the biggest, loudest city has peaceful places to just be in the presence of natural beauty. If the weather’s nice and you have the option, sit outside for your meal or pack a picnic. Just soak in your surroundings and the view; pay attention to light, sounds, sensations, and smells.
Claudio Fernández-Aráoz, a senior adviser and business author, recently wrote in the Harvard Business Review about a CEO friend of his who swore by intentional time in nature to up his business game: “Before retiring from the CEO role, John would try to take these breaks just before his global partners’ meetings because he found that his ideas, initiatives, and even speeches would become much more focused, rich, clear and powerful as a result—even though he didn’t spend any time actively working on them!” We can’t underestimate the power that being in nature has for bringing out the best in our thinking and seeing, and for creating stress-free relaxation.
3. Cultivate your appetite for “different.”
This one can be challenging — but it pays huge dividends when it comes to creating vacations that are full, satisfying, and memorable. This is less about booking some extreme trip and more about being willing to approach every trip as a learning experience, to being open to the possibility that every vacation can actually make you a better person. Seek out conversations with interesting strangers. Learn some phrases in a new language and practice them and see what happens. Try new foods. Take in a performance that features local music or dance. Take the risk of not knowing and being willing to ask. As Fernández-Aráoz observes, “The world’s most productive people are deeply curious and collaborative and constantly seek out new acquaintances and allies — even when they’re on vacation.”
4. Put your money into experiences, not things.
Again, this one can be challenging. We’re taught in our culture that having more stuff will make us happier, even though research has proven this over and over again to not be true. Vacations in and of themselves are experiences — so that’s one step in the best direction — and getting a few small things to remember your trip is certainly not a bad thing. But keep an eye out for ways to maximize your experience of each moment within your holiday. When the moment comes to decide if you want to blow a ton of cash at the duty free shop or a souvenir shop — ask yourself what kinds of experiences you could buy that will be with you forever and that will continue to bring you happiness long after they’re over.
5. Treat your vacation like a vocation.
Notice there’s only one letter that separates the time you spend relaxing, re-energizing, and reconnecting and the thing you were born to do. The word “vacation” comes from the Latin vacare, which means “freedom from obligation and duty, release, to be free and at leisure.” The word “vocation” comes from the Latin vocare, which means “to call” — as in, your personal calling, your purpose, the thing that brings you deep joy and brings out the best in you and everyone around you. Think of the joyful energy you would put into your calling — the intention, the planning, the attention to detail, the gratitude. Consider the other word we frequently use for vacation — “holiday” — and note that it means “holy day.” It’s okay to approach your upcoming trip as something that can hold a bit of magic, because it just might. As Fernández-Aráoz writes, your vacation can be the thing that actually brings you back better than you were before — better for yourself, your family and friends, your work, your life.