“Man, I need a vacation.” You’ve said those exact words to yourself hundreds of times. You have mumbled it under your breath after a work meeting that left you with an extra-long to-do list. Perhaps you’ve typed it in an email or sent it in a text to your best friend. You’ve screamed it at the top of your lungs at the height of your frustration. You’ve muttered it through tears at the end of a tough week, month, or year.
Alas, those words are almost always wishes, not plans. Unfortunately packing up and heading out is easier said than done for most Americans. Vacation days go unused all the time because of financial concerns, job security woes, or in order to honor commitments we’ve made to our family and friends. Even for those of us who can afford to take time off work and travel, one week-long vacation per year is about all we can manage.
The thing is, sometimes you really do need a vacation. Some studies even suggest getting away every now and then is necessary in order to maintain your health and happiness. Whether it’s a short trip to a nearby campground or an extravagant Caribbean cruise, the benefits of travel and leisure are proven. Removing ourselves from the repetition of day-to-day life can help reduce stress, improve mood, and strengthen relationships. Moreover, a physical journey can help us on our path to emotional healing from struggles with grief, addiction, and depression.
The three types of trip that follow are not your average vacation but keep an open mind. Each can have a positive impact on your mental health and emotional well-being. Just remember, you’ll only see results if you actually take them!
The Solo Trip
For many people, traveling alone may seem intimidating. In actuality, it is one of the most stress-free, unique vacations there is. Think about it. You plan it for a weekend you are free, without worrying about anyone else’s schedule or budget, wants or needs. Then you pick the destination, the lodging, the food, the activities (or lack thereof.) And, finally, you spend the time reconnecting with yourself and return to your normal routine relaxed and refreshed. Alone doesn’t always mean lonely, and this type of solitude can be very rewarding.
The Pet-Friendly Adventure
Just as it is with your human friends and family, an adventure with your pet can be a great opportunity to bond and
create lifelong memories. Consider taking your four-legged best friend hiking, road tripping, or just exploring a dog-friendly city like Austin, Los Angeles, or Portland. A dog’s constant companionship and unconditional love make him the perfect travel companion, especially if you’re in the middle of a stressful time in your life. Plus, hanging out with your pet releases oxytocin in your brain, which reduces stress and makes you happier.
Even if you can’t afford to set out on a cross-country trek or head to a white-sand beach, don’t let those vacation days pass you by. According to mental health experts, a staycation can provide the same benefits as long as you follow a few simple rules. First, unplug. Vow not to check email or answer work calls, just as you wouldn’t on a normal vacation. Second, plan. Make the most of your time by getting out and participating in some local activities just as you would at your destination. Visit a local museum, try out that new yoga class, or take an art class. It will feel more like a unique vacation, and you will experience more mental health benefits as well.
In short, just do it. Vacations (especially unique vacations) may seem like a luxury these days. But making time to take care of ourselves is vital to remaining healthy, productive human beings. Truthfully? We can’t afford not to take them every now and then… even if it means putting work or other responsibilities on hold.
About the Author
Henry is the co-creator of FitWellTraveler. The site blends two of his favorite subjects (travel and health) to provide readers with information about how to get the most out of both.