10 Tips for a Mindful Vacation
Marisa Turner, Activities Therapist, Rehabilitation
With Phil Socci, Practice Manager and Ginna Flores, Office Manager, Neurosciences
It's time for a well-deserved and long-anticipated vacation! So often, we go into trips with high expectations and pressure to have the adventure of a lifetime. This mindset can sometimes make vacations unnecessarily stressful. Here are some ways to strike a healthy balance and vacation mindfully.
1. Have an open mind
Try to free your mind of expectations and instead, open it up to new experiences. There’s nothing wrong with doing some research and planning beforehand, but try to go with the flow and also say yes to new experiences. It’s obviously your time to relax, but there is so much value in getting out of your comfort zone. Try something new!
2. Establish your vacation mode
Vacation is your time off, so it’s important to establish that before you leave. Depending on the person, that could mean setting an automated response to work e-mails, informing friends that you’ll be out of touch for a few days or just completely leaving your laptop at home. Do what you need to do to establish a vacation mode for yourself. You’ll go on your trip already feeling lighter, more relaxed, and more yourself.
3. Follow your natural rhythm
If you’re used to setting an alarm every day, eating your meals at the same times and staying on a set routine, now is the time to let it all go. Over time, your body becomes adapted to your routine, so it might feel different to tune into its natural rhythm at first. Try to go to sleep when you’re tired, skip the alarm, and eat meals when you’re hungry- not when it’s a designated “meal time.” It’ll take some getting used to, but your body will thank you for tuning into your physical mindfulness.
We spend every day scrolling, clicking, liking, re-posting, and commenting. Your vacation should really be your time to unplug and get your head away from that little bright screen that is so addictive. Choose your own boundaries based on your comfort levels, whether it’s leaving your phone in the hotel room all day, only using devices for photos or just keeping your phone on airplane mode for a few hours. Unplugging will make you so much more present, and you’ll thank yourself later.
5. Immerse yourself in the local culture
There’s no better way to really experience a city than by immersing yourself in the local culture. Obviously, I’m a big proponent of this. My favorite way to do this is through the local food scene. That could mean trying the dish that region is known for, or having a special culinary experience like a chef’s tasting at a restaurant. Wander off the beaten path and you never know what hidden gems you’ll discover. Try chatting with locals to find out what they like do. Feel free to get creative: go on a food tour, take a cooking class and attend a workshop or community gathering. Think about what you like to do in your own city and apply that to your travels.
6. Walk more, drive less
Think about it. The more you walk, the less you will be sitting in a car staring at your phone, missing the scenery. That's not the only reason to ditch the car. Even merely walking the streets of a busy downtown area observing the city structures and people passing will keep you mindful and present. Take it a step further (no pun intended) and do a free walking tour. Some have guides (that you will want to tip) and others are self-guided that you can access on your phone through an app or a download.
7. Treat yourself
Everyone knows vacations are about treating yourself, and we’re all for it. If this is the one time a year you’re willing to splurge on a deep-tissue massage or a decadent chocolate dessert, go for it! The one key when it comes to treats, however, is being mindful about the special factor in each indulgence. Instead of making your whole week a “cheat week” or mindlessly spending money on any luxury, choose your treats mindfully and acknowledge the joy you feel when you treat yourself. It’s difficult to do, but it will make the little parts of your vacation so much more special.
8. Be adventurous
Adventure is the whole reason you set out to travel in the first place, right? This doesn’t mean you have to go do something extreme like skydiving or bungee jumping (though, I have done both and can attest they are QUITE an adventure!). I think it really just means doing something out of your comfort zone because we all know that’s when things can get interesting. Go on that kayaking or snorkeling trip, or taste a new dish. Adventure looks different for everyone but the key is to avoid sitting on your phone or computer instead of going out and trying something new.
9. Be present
When you start to feel your mind racing with tasks, take a moment to be aware of your present surroundings. Use all your senses. Take a deep breath, smell, listen, and look at what's around you. Try to focus on the bigger picture and don’t fixate on one thing. Ask yourself, will this really matter three months from now?
10. Enjoy the journey, not just the destination
Family travel should be fun from the start, but can easily get derailed when a child is fearful or anxious about flying or driving in a car for long periods of time. For some children, traveling can be a thrill, and for others, it is intense, uncomfortable, and stressful. It can be helpful to discuss ahead of time the details of what to expect during the journey. Go through a visualization of the sights, sounds, and experiences that you anticipate for your trip. If your child is worried or anxious, validate their feelings and address them by coming up with a plan together. Help your child to relax either before or during travel with breathing techniques and mindfulness to help keep their body calm and relaxed.