Some people can come home from work and just turn off all stress and work thoughts, as if they had an off switch. Other people need to make an effort to really let the holidays be a time for rest and recovery. I belong to the latter category. I have simply had to learn how to recharge my batteries and have a real vacation.
Perhaps it is partly a legacy from when I was little and all the children would quickly go out and play as soon as it was sunny - because you never know when it will be sunny again! That's how I often feel during the holidays. It's now or never, because how will I manage to do everything I want to do if I don't fit in when I'm free? You have to catch up on all the projects at home that you didn't manage to do during the winter, you have to visit family and friends, you have to send the children to sports camps, you have to have time to hang out at outdoor cafes in the sun, you have to have time to clean and organize your home as much as you can invite friends over for a planned and lovely "spontaneous dinner" and you'll have time to work on that silly (but fresh) tan that shows you've actually had time to lie still and be lazy. I get stressed just thinking about the above.
For me, vacation often means unhealthy stress BEFORE the vacation, in order to finish everything at work that has to be finished before the holiday. No matter how much you prepare, there are always late tasks that "must" be fixed before you can go on vacation, and it always feels very impossible to put it off until after the vacation. My plans to carefully unwind before the holidays, have so far never hit a lock. The result of my lack of tapering? A wonderfully throbbing migraine like a letter in the post on the first day of vacation. There are certainly many ways to start your vacation, but my way is NOT something I recommend.
Over the years, though, I've found a few keys that help me relax on vacation. Some aids to recharge energy, instead of draining it. So, here are my tips for those of you who are as much of a Duracell bunny as I am, so that the battery doesn't run out when it should be charging. It doesn't matter how fun everything is and how energetic you feel - EVERYONE needs rest sometimes.
1. Dare to rest
What do I mean now? How hard can it be to just sit down and be lazy? I say it can be almost impossible for someone like me. For many years, I could barely lie still in the shade for 10 minutes and read a book. Two pages of reading, then a walk on the beach. Two more pages of reading, then a swim. Two more pages and then take out the mobile and send messages to everything and everyone. Do you recognize yourself? So, what am I doing today? I sit down and read and when I read those two pages, I read two more. I need to make an effort to maintain concentration without thinking about work, plans or distractions. The first two days require a focus on relaxation, reading a book and turning off all push notifications on the mobile. So our vacations basically always start with either a long flight (absolute best way for me to just sit still and read and watch movies and not even fiddle with my phone) or a few days at a resort. We don't start our vacation by getting in the car and driving down to the Alps. I need to get down in laps first.
2. Dare to opt out
You won't have time to do everything on your wish list if you want to come out the other end refreshed. Thats how it is. If someone wants to meet you, maybe they can travel to you instead of you having to go to them? Maybe you won't have time to see all of Italy in 7 days, maybe Tuscany is enough? You only live once and you must be well for many more years. Life doesn't end if you don't have time for everything. There will be more trains.
3. Dare to choose what you want
Everyone in the family needs to have a say when it comes to the holidays, but don't forget yourself. What do you need? What do you really want? You probably won't be relaxed if you spend the entire vacation as one big compromise. If you need a cup of tea with honey on the brew every morning all by yourself, make sure you get it.
4. Dare to plan (appropriately)
To avoid stressing over unbooked hotels, ticket queues or full restaurants, book things that are important to you in advance. If you don't mind staying in a seedy motel in Palm Springs when all other hotels are booked, then you don't need to plan accommodations. If you can't beat the hundreds of meters of queues outside the Louvre to buy a ticket, don't book in advance. And if you don't mind eating at an all-night pizzeria at the bus station in Courmayeur because all the other restaurants are full, don't book a restaurant in advance. But if any of these very real-life examples bother you in the slightest – plan and book as much in advance as possible to keep stress levels (and blood pressure) low.
5. Dare to be on vacation
No person should have to feel indispensable at work. Not me. Not you. It is when we can help, support and back each other up that we become strong. If there's one thing you have to work on to be able to rest on vacation, it's having the confidence that a colleague can be a really great backup for you. The goal is to be able to leave work at work and come back after the holidays with energy and ideas that will last the whole year. Alone is never strong. (And you can always leave an emergency number to the colleague, so he can message you if something very urgent comes up)
6. Dare to take the easy way out
Sure, that flight with two stopovers on the way home might be a lot cheaper, but for me simplicity on the way home is important. Now that I've finally recovered from my vacation, it's not worth a few hundred bucks to risk my rested self relapsing. I'd rather get home at lunch the day before I have to start work, than slip into work straight from the plane.
That barbecue night with friends? Do you need to stand in front of the stove all day or does it not go as well with ready-made potato salad and ready-marinated pork loin? I know I don't always choose the easy way, but I usually feel it afterwards too.
7. Dare to be messy at home
The point at which I am the worst. I can't handle having the pack standing with dirty laundry in the hall for weeks. I have to get rid of the packing. Preferably on the same day I get home, otherwise I get stressed. Ending the holiday with stress is really bad. So I unpack. Washing and fixing. Until it's done. But I wished I could have just ignored the bag in the hall. It would have been best for both me and the family.
How is it for you? Can you de-stress on vacation? Can you let your next vacation ACTUALLY be a vacation?
Have you been here? What did you think of the destination?
Travel blogger, gastronaut, photographer and family adventurer with over 55 countries in his luggage. Eva loves trips that include beautiful nature, hiking boots and well-cooked food. On the travel blog Rucksack she takes you to all corners of the world with the help of her inspiring pictures and texts.