Ideas about the ideal vacation time amount will differ for each of us. While numerous studies agree that at least two vacations a year can do wonders for your mental and physical health, two holidays a year might be too much for some and not enough for others. For example, one U.K. survey revealed that you need a day off at least every 62 days to avoid feelings of anxiety, aggression, and physical illness.
Research shows that the ideal length for a vacation is between eight and eleven days, with eight days being the true sweet spot. Per research published in the Journal of Happiness Studies, it takes most people a few days to settle in and shrug off their worries before the joy and relaxation kick in around day two. Following that, the average traveller’s health and wellness peaks on the eighth day of vacation.
Most people love travelling. I am one of them, always dreaming of travelling more, new destinations, and new places. I love blending in with the locals and eating food from their culture. You will never catch me at a chain restaurant or store in another country.
My husband and I love adventure travelling and have been on many trips, especially biking trips. Our first was in Austria in September 2017, biking along the Danube with our friends. We had to pack up every morning, and a van would deliver our luggage to the next destination. We did about 40-60 km a day. We stayed at six places. At first, it was fun and exciting, but it got tiring by the end. We saw so much that we wished we could have stayed longer in some little towns. And that’s what we did on our next biking trip two years later, in September 2019, on the North Coast of Spain with the same group. For two of the towns, we requested a second night. A little better.
Then last year, in August 2022, we did a luxury 7-day bike tour on the West Coast of Ireland. We started in Galway. This time we were two couples. We stayed at six beautiful five-star castles. Each room was amazing. We biked an average of 50 to 60 km a day. Three of us got e-bikes on the second day; it was a little hilly. We spent a day in Dingle, a small village southwest of the biking trip, then drove about a four-hour drive to Dublin on the East coast of Ireland and spent two nights there. Ireland is a small country. Again we saw so much and did so much, and I returned exhausted and with COVID. For three days, I slept a lot.
I realized that ideally, I give myself a few days to recuperate from an adventure trip. For example, when I returned from Austria and Spain, I started working the next day, which did not allow for rest and reflection. I love remembering what we did, looking at the pictures, and making notes, especially when it’s jam-packed. There were also time differences. I found the travel each way so hard, about a five-hour difference.
My best birthday!
Last week we went to Costa Rica to celebrate my birthday! Our friends bought a three-bedroom condo in Tamarindo and invited whoever wanted to join them. Another couple of friends also accepted the invitation. We arrived in Tamarindo Friday, Feb 10, and left Friday, Feb 17. This time we wanted to relax and do two or three activities. The condo was within walking distance (three minutes) from the beach, restaurants, and grocery store. It also had a pool where we would cool off after spending the day at the beach.
On the day of my birthday, we rented a car to visit the Rio Celeste Waterfalls and river in the Tenorio Volcano National Park. The water is a beautiful turquoise colour, almost bluer than the sky. We hiked a five-km trail and had to return (a total of ten km), bypassing the beautiful falls and witnessing where two different rivers meet at the end of the trail. The mixture of minerals creates this remarkable visual divide. The blue of the river was so beautiful. We saw white-faced monkeys.
We then stopped at another park nearby and did a sloth tour, where we saw sloths, toucans, frogs, holler monkeys, and beautiful vegetation. We then drove 2.5 hours back to Tamarindo. We stopped at a pizza place and went on the condo’s rooftop for drinks and laughs. It was one of my best birthdays ever.
On this trip, I mostly disconnected from my work. However, I checked some emails to ensure all was good, which I usually do on vacation. So I would do this for a few minutes and then return to vacation mode. Sometimes stressing about something can ruin your day. In my case, being a solopreneur, I can’t zone out for too long.
Although I enjoyed the adventure trips and loved reviewing the pictures, this was a true relaxation trip. I returned home refreshed, rejuvenated, and motivated in my work. I believe that’s key; stepping away can give you a mental and spiritual break, which is why it is so important to take your vacation and to be mindful of planning before and after.
Pre and Post Vacation
Some of us work very hard the week before to prepare and, again, the week back to catch up. As a result, some prefer not to take a vacation because of the before and after stress. I highly recommend reconsidering this.
My top three benefits of taking a vacation
1. Tremendous well-being
When on vacation, I connect differently with my spouse, friends, and people. I’m in a more positive frame of mind, happier. Things don’t bother me as much as when I’m home. Everything is positive, and, for example, even with our flight delay, I could shrug it off as part of the adventure. I had this feeling of peace of mind.
2. Elevated happiness
Everything makes me happy, even the little things, like laughing and enjoying my time with my friends. We had some great moments together.
3. Rising motivation
Although I thoroughly enjoy my vacation and focus on being present, I also notice this feeling of being motivated. Some ideas are starting to come up, and I am looking forward to getting back to work. I think of the projects I’m working on, and I receive clarity on where to focus. This benefit of perspective outside of routine is an excellent reason to take a vacation.
Vacation planning and processes
I am constantly looking at improving my goal setting, careful planning, scheduling, and researching to coach my client in their job search effectively. Also, daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly reflection is essential in all we do to see where we are at and where we are going. We can review what worked and didn’t and look at automating things. With all the apps, it is so easy to automate things, and we don’t always take the time to do them.
Travel preparation tips
I discovered that careful planning when going on vacation can eliminate some of the before and after vacation stress. Create a Travel Process and Automation folder and review it every time you go on vacation.
Here are the things in my folder:
- Checklist of clothes, shoes, toiletry
- Instructions for the care of my pets
- Template to create an out-of-office
- Any other lists you may need
- Turn-on out-of-office notification
- Rules for email
- Ask someone to be the point of contact in case of emergency
I’m finding that the checklists are handy when it is time to travel. Upon returning from a trip, I go over my “vacation processes and automation” to see what worked, what didn’t, and what else I can do to minimize stress before and after vacation. On this vacation, we chose to travel with a carry-on each. We are lucky that we never lost our luggage on other trips. However, a few times, it did not arrive at the same time as us, and our luggage arrived a few days later. Since the Costa Rica trip was only a week, and we usually take too much, we decided to do carry-on only. So we were allowed one in the bulkhead and one under the seat ahead of us. Planning the clothes to bring was a little challenging. However, we did it. We were allowed one one-litre bag of liquids and cream each, so we divided this between my husband and me since I had more than him.
It turned out that having less luggage was also very liberating while on vacation—less to choose from and less stuff in our bedroom and bathroom. Minimizing my “stuff” is something else I will be working on in 2023, and this week gave me a glimpse that excited me.
Next time you think you may not be taking your vacation this year, think again. From my own experience, there is a link between mental health and time off. It improves my mood, reduces my stress, and makes me feel less anxious. It is so easy to say, “I can’t take a vacation. I’m too busy.” It is so hard to wrap our heads around the idea that when we take a vacation, we will be more productive and perform better. This week I feel more focused, productive, and creative—in coming up with ideas, suggestions and different ways of doing things.
Are you using your vacation benefits?
In a survey from benefitscanada.com only 29 percent of Canadian workers used their entire vacation time in 2022.
In an article in the Globe and Mail, many Canadians also work extra hours before holidays.
- Look forward to vacationing
- Plan well and adjust as needed
- Take time to reflect
Let me know
Have you been on vacation recently? What steps do you take to minimize your stress when you go on vacation? Comment below on your experience.
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Until next week,
I remain your sounding board.