How to Take a Restorative Vacation

Sun on Beach 2

I came back from a marvelous trip to Europe two weeks ago. The trip was wonderful in so many ways and exactly what I needed to take a break from work, relax, and feel restored.

One of the wonderful things about vacations is their ability to bring us into the present moment. The new sights, sounds, and experiences help us to stay mindful in a way that is more challenging when we are at home. Limited wifi and cell service and failing cell phone batteries help us to disconnect from social media and pay attention to what’s right in front of us. However, while it is easier to stay present and relax on vacation it is still possible to feel stressed and worried instead of calm, which is why it is important to be intentional about making our vacations restorative. In this post I share my suggestions for how to do this.

Plan to have a slow pace

One thing that helped my vacation to feel restful and restorative was not having too much planned each day and taking breaks when I needed rest. When I was planning my trip I made sure to only schedule 1-2 activities per day and then left the rest of my time unstructured so that I could do whatever I felt like that day. Most of us live very busy lives; running from meetings to activities, to appointments, to drinks with friends. Consider the pace that you would like to keep while you travel and structure your trip in that way. If you are traveling with a group think about ways to take breaks from the group activities if you want to go at a slower pace.

Limit your time trying to craft the perfect picture

While on vacation I noticed my desire to to capture the joy and euphoria I felt through pictures and I soon realized that it wasn’t possible. I came to understand that the best thing I could do was to allow myself to fully soak in the experience, the sights, the smells, the tastes and to savor all of these things while they lasted. While on vacation I encourage you remember that just like a beautiful sunset the amazing experiences you have cannot be fully captured or held on to. So take a few shots of what you see and yourself and then put your phone and camera down and allow your senses to fully embrace what you are experiencing.

Go with the flow

I am a planner and I tend to get frustrated when my plans are changed unexpectedly or don’t work out. One of the things I aimed to do while on vacation was to go with the flow. On my first night in Florence I was excited to try a restaurant that a friend had recommended. It was pouring but I went out in the rain (and got soaked) and when I arrived at the restaurant they did not have any openings for the night. By practicing flexibility I was able to find another restaurant and fully enjoy my meal there. The next day I tried to make a reservation at the first restaurant and they did not have any openings that would work for me and I ended up going to a restaurant where I had the most delicious meal on my entire trip. I could have gotten upset about the rain, and being soaking wet, and feeling disappointed that I couldn’t go to the restaurant that was my first choice. Instead, I acknowledged my disappointment, moved on, and was able to fully enjoy the meals that I had without wondering if another restaurant would have been better. As you travel, I encourage you to go with what comes and try to move on quickly after any disappointments or frustrations.

Avoid doing work

If you continue to work throughout your vacation it is less likely that you will feel restored at the end of it. Here’s a question I’ve found helpful in increasing mindfulness: “When you’re in the shower, are you in the shower or in your office?” This gets at the idea that we can physically be in one place and mentally in another. In order for your vacation to be truly restorative it is important to keep your mind and body in the same place. Don’t let your mind be in the boardroom while your body is relaxing on the beach.  I know this can be particularly difficult for entrepreneurs but I encourage you to limit your work. This may mean setting aside 1-hour/day to respond to important emails and disconnecting after that. Consider turning off email notifications and not having email automatically pushed to the email app on your phone. Set an “out of office” email so that people know you will be responding more slowly or not at all. Have someone cover your work responsibilities while you are away. You can offer to do the same for them when they are on vacation.

Whether you’re planning to travel abroad for a vacation or are taking a stay-cation I hope these suggestions will help to ensure that your vacation is restorative.

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