Author: J H McIntosh
“A vacation helps to relieve stress and boredom, gives us a change of scenery, provides us with adventure, and helps to bring us closer to the people in our lives.” – E. S. Woods
In the eighties I vacationed for the first time to South America. In the taxi, as the Simon Bolivar International Airport receded in the background, a wrenching intuition in my gut kept urging me to command the driver to “turn around and go back to the airport, now!
What brought on this panic attack was the visible, almost palpable poverty that assaulted my eyes from every direction. Even though it would be overly charitable to refer to my childhood as “lower middle class” (indeed we were among the poorest of families) still, I was not ready for the level of abject poverty screaming at me from the enveloping hillsides as we traveled to our hotel.
Surely it would have been thrilling to fly a Concorde super sonic jet out of there (it was still routinely flying to and from Simon Bolivar), I’m really glad I overcame my urge to flee. For me, vacationing in Venezuela became one of those wonderful, cherished memories that replay over and over in our minds.
Reliving in my mind’s eye my breathtaking beautiful girlfriend embracing the crystal-clear waters of the Caribbean Sea and strolling its beaches hand in hand fills me with joy abundant. A balm soothing the metaphorical cuts and bruises we, like any couple who has shared forty-plus years, endures.
In fact, the only other vacation that holds an equally therapeutic value was a weekender at Cannon Mountain, NH in the cold, snow-covered, frost encrusted month of February.
I’m no historian, but visiting Cannon Mountain in the winter helps one understand why New Hampshire settlers named the area “White Mountains”. Snow, snow, snow, and more snow. The kind of stuff upon which skiers dream of leaving their mark. The latest heavenly delivery of that white stuff was so perfectly tailored for skiing, we lost track of how many times we rode the ski lift to the top, just to ski back to the basin.
To feel the enlivening, bristle of the cold air as we bounced from mogul to mogul. Swaying left then right navigating around pine tree after pine tree was incalculably invigorating and thrilling.
By the time the sun took its leave and we returned to our quarters, we were so exhausted we crashed on the bed. There we were, conjoined in a deep, deep sleep. One so deep, neither of us awakened from it until well past the reservation hour at our favorite bistro.
That night we went without dinner and we didn’t even care. The joys of the day had completely satiated us.
True confession, I would not be a very good candidate for “vacation poster person”. My love of my vocation (my work) keeps me way too busy to adhere to any kind of “routinized” schedule of vacations.
Perhaps you also are among the countless who love your work too much to take a vacation. You might be surprised, as was I, to learn that taking a vacation, whether it’s a weekend trip or a week-long holiday, is actually, good for your health.
Scientific research has confirmed what many of the “enlightened” knew: we all need some time away from the “job”. No matter who we are, where we are, or what we do, vacationing is good for us.
What is it about going “on vacation” that makes us feel better, lowers stress, and allows us to live more fully?
Improves Mental Health
After a while, the same old routine tends to become mentally draining. Whatever your situation, a trip to a new and interesting place could be just what the doctor prescribed to help you cope with life’s challenges.
Going from a dreary desk job to a well-earned break in a stimulating new locale can offer a much-needed lift to your mental health. In fact, you will likely discover that vacationing leaves you feeling less nervous, happier, and rested. If you are more tied and drained when you get home from a vacation, then you are doing it wrong. More about that below.
Increases Productivity and Creativity
Vacationing in Italy, Paris, Brazil, Dubai, Vale, etc may do more to increase job performance than any known productivity training. Test driving a new language, seeing new sights, hearing new sounds, and experiencing different cultures revitalizes the mind and increases long-term creativity.
Relationships with the people you love are always in flux. No matter how long you’ve known a spouse, significant other, sibling, child or friend your relationship with others can always be improved. Traveling and discovering with others can invigorate and enliven the bond you share on a far deeper level than one might expect.
Jamie Zeitzer, PhD, a Stanford University assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences and a co-author of a sleep study said: “The data set is pretty amazing. We looked at more than 30,000 people over 18 months, which came out to more than 3 million nights of sleep analyzed.”
The study found that sleep disturbances and restless nights are common complaints. They are generally the result of having too much on our minds. When we can’t stop thinking, it affects our sleep. Lack of sleep results in diminished focus, loss of attentiveness, memory lapses, an increased risk of accidents, and a lower quality of life.
Vacations, according to researchers, can help break behaviors that impair sleep, such as working late into the night or staring into a backlit device before bed. If you’re stressed at work and your sleep is being disrupted by anxiety or tension, take a break and discover how to reset your sleep cycle while on a vacation.
Additionally, if your career and personal issues exhaust you regularly, your upcoming vacation becomes a source of optimism and enjoyment in the days leading up to your departure. Because you’re planning and preparing for something you’re excited about, everyday work becomes easier and more gratifying. Hey, it’s paying for your vacation.
If you’re exceptionally clever, you’ll plan your next trip while you’re on vacation. When back on the job this helps provide the energy and enthusiasm to do the work because that’s what makes the next vacation possible.
Some of us love to think we are irreplaceable. Most of us are not. Believing things will disintegrate if we are not on the job is a bit narcissistic. It is also harmful not to trust our coworkers enough to let them share some of our work burdens and responsibilities.
There are many good reasons to take a vacation. If you are snapping at someone for no apparent reason, feeling weary on a regular basis, or dreading the thought of another day on the job, maybe it’s time.
Take a vacation already! Any of the great festivals or annual events highlighted here are among the best times to visit the country and city where the event takes place.