Since everyone knows I’m not a fan of Top 10 lists, let me present to you four suggestions on how to get the most out of your vacation.
Let’s face it, you’ve got your precious two weeks do you really want to waste them being uptight, upset or a negative Nancy? No, I didn’t think so. Oftentimes, when people actually take their vacation (a shocking amount of people – mostly Americans – do not take all their allotted vacation time) they don’t relax.
Have you ever felt you needed a vacation from your vacation? I have for sure, and it was generally because of two things: I was running around like a mad person through some state or country trying to see everything humanly possible, or I was partying my ass off. Typically, it was due to a combination of the two, however skewed, maybe 70/30 (Disney Land) crazy person or 3/97 (Acapulco) party person.
So, as someone who should have some travel authority, let me offer you some of my tips:
The first thing is, and I can’t stress this enough, is to fight the urge to see tons of crap. I know it is hard, I’ve been there, those big thick shiny guide books sitting in Barnes and Noble or on Amazon, just chock full of information, so many places to see and things to do…must…see…them…all.
Put down the book, and slowly walk away.
It’s ok, life will go on if you don’t go to the ‘authentic restaurant’ with three stars that’s filled with tourists. Since the point of a vacation is to get away from the hectic life you are living at home, let’s not replace that with a hectic vacation schedule.
Ironically of all people I look to my mother as the paragon of vacation bliss. She sits by the pool, reads a book, heads for tea time around four, takes long baths and will pick only one or two things she really wants to see. She couldn’t be bothered by duty free shopping, or hitting up the hotspots, she enjoys her tea in a little cafe in the town square, will chat up anyone who comes within 10 feet and returns home relaxed and smiling. My father on the other hand, spends weeks before the trip reading every single guidebook he can find, cross referencing the ‘hottest’ places and wakes up early to leave my mother to her lounging, running around like a psychopath spending 23 minutes at each destination in order to see what is next, and returns to the hotel, grumpy and exhausted, and returns home needing to relax from all the running around he did on vacation. Do we see the difference here?
My second tip is unplug. Christ almighty, put down your Blackberry and check out the sunset for ten minutes!
One of the things I liked the most about when I worked at one of the Big4 accounting firms was that they went by the principle of ‘vacation unplugged.’ When you were on vacation you were on vacation, they didn’t want you to bring your company issued laptop and log in from Cabo, they did not want you checking your voice mail from Wellington, and they would never ever call you while you were boarding a train to Budapest.
As someone who is ‘plugged’ to the max I need to heed my own advice sometimes. Your phone, email, laptop all keep you tethered to the real world, which is the last thing you need on vacation. I mean look at Tim Ferriss, in the Four Hour Work Week he says he only checks his email twice a day! And then moved to only twice a week! So when you head off somewhere, put up your out of office responder and don’t worry about it. There is nothing you can do on vacation anyway. You will sink like a stone to the bottom of the resort pool if all you can think is that the TPS report has an error on it.
My third tip to do a little exploring on your own. I am anti tourist. I am sorry if you do not agree, but that’s the way it goes here. Thus, I find that a lot of stress and anxiety can be relieved by not going to see and do touristy things. I do not want to go on vacation only to be fighting crowds to see something, that is not fun, or relaxing, that makes me angry.
I went on a cruise once and one of the stops was Ochos Rios, Jamaica. So of course, we picked the most popular tourist side trip which was Dunn’s River Falls. The falls themselves are supposed to be beautiful, but I don’t remember that, what I do remember is being forced up a hand holding waterfall march dragging a 350 pound Frenchman in a speedo behind me. When I looked around what did I see, the other 400 people I was on the cruise with, interacting with local culture it was not.
So when you are out there in the world, just try to explore a little bit, I don’t mean you have to go bushwhacking, move over a few blocks off the main street, or ask a local a good spot for dinner, it can be pretty simple. Of course, and this goes without saying, make sure you feel safe and comfortable, and if you are vacationing in a place that is very dangerous, then maybe stick to exploring the other side of the swimming pool.
And my last tip is do something for you. This is supposed to be YOUR vacation, remember? It could be a massage at the spa, or shelling out a bit extra for a really nice meal at a restaurant you’d love to try, it could be hitting a site you really want to see, or even just having some alone time for a few hours. I am a believer that to make any vacation truly yours you have to do something for yourself. I can still remember some vacations I went on where I didn’t make a case for what I really wanted to do and regret it. Give yourself a gift besides just the trip and you will be far more likely to remember and enjoy it.
After everything life throws at us, 50 weeks of work, spouses, significant others, kids, pets, angry bosses, yappy coworkers, flat tires, gridlock, snow, tornadoes…whatever it is we all deserve a little bit of downtime.