Friday, July 24, 2015

It's no coincidence that
when we talk about going on vacation, we say want to get away. Those few
sweet days or weeks away from routine are one of the few chances to truly
leave behind the stupid stuff we usually think about all day long.
 Instead: freedom. Twenty four hours, every single day, to sleep, eat,
play and enjoy life a little bit more. "This desire to escape is one of
the fundamental motivations," says Sebastian Filep, a senior lecturer at the
University of Otago, who studies tourism and fulfillment. Scholars who study
vacation psychology know that we need these temporary jail-breaks: the
immediate impacts of vacation may be short-lived, but without escaping daily
life occasionally, people actually live shorter lives. Truly vacating on
vacation, though, is a more elusive achievement than it should be.
Psychologists who study happiness have found that planning a vacation and
remembering it afterwards provide almost as much pleasure as actually
being away, for instance. Part of the challenge is that it's not entirely
clear what we're after, and in his work, Filep has tried to answer these
questions: "What is that we seek? And why do we we re-engage in travel even
though it's stressful?" That is, why do we buy plane tickets knowing that the
flight will be long, the hotel smaller than we imagined, and the days less
perfect than we planned? Part of Filep's answer is that we're looking for a
suite of psychological benefits: positive emotions, a sense of involvement in
a new place, improvements in our relationships, meaning, and achievement.
"We're getting things that don't just have to do with moods and feelings," he
says. In other words, the best vacations aren't just about consuming
things that make you feel very good, very temporarily. With that in mind,
here are some steps, informed by the work of Filep and other researchers,
towards successfully getting away from it all. Step 1: Think about who'll
be your partner in crime. Often, we spend most of our vacation-planning
time deciding where we're going to go and forget to consider carefully who
we're going to go with.  "People make this mistake about focusing too
much on the destination," says Filep. "You need to choose your travel
companions wisely. " Maybe this is the right moment to take a growing
friendship to the next level. Maybe it's the right time to spend with your
partner. Conversely, maybe this is the year to split up—or to organize a
group adventure rather an intimate trip. Step 2. Actually leave work
behind Vacation does have measurable health benefits, likely linked to the
"removal of demands previously put on the individual's psychobiological
systems," as psychology researcher Jessica de Bloom writes in her study
of how vacations affect workers' health and wellbeing. What are those
demands? Mostly, the stress of work. Getting the benefits of vacation,
then, means actually leaving work behind. Pick a mountain house with
terrible phone reception and slow internet. Leave your laptop at home.
Travel to a country on the other side of the world, where, by dint of time
difference, you will sleep through every minor work crisis.  Do whatever
it takes to actually stop thinking about work. Related: How I Spent My
Summer Vacation: Living Alone at the End of a Fjord in a Faroe Islands Ghost
Town Step 3. Have a goal Part of a fulfilling vacation, Filep says, is
feeling a sense of accomplishment. So set a goal. It doesn't have to be
serious. "It could be about self-development and learning," says Filep. "It
could be hedonic. " Maybe you want to climb a mountain. Maybe you want to
sleep eight hours a night. Maybe you want to visit a particular national
park. Maybe you want to drink until dawn. Whatever the goal is, just make
sure it's reasonable; otherwise, you'll set yourself up for failure. If you
haven't been exercising in months, don't plan a hike that requires insane
daily milage. If you usually fall asleep at 9:30 p. m. , don't expect to stay
up all night for seven days straight. Step 4. But break ordinary patterns
of thought It's important not to be emotionally overambitious, either.
"Lying peacefully on a beach is not a good idea if your head is swirling with
thoughts of relationship problems or grappling with work issues that just
won't go away," Filep and co-author Rod Cuthbert write in Vacation Rules, a
popular guide to vacations that taps into Filep's research. That being
said, vacations often improve people's cognitive flexibility—de Bloom's
research has shown that people have a greater variety of ideas after vacation
before. So look around—what's out there in the world that you don't
normally think about or see? Step 5. Do less, enjoy more Don't escape
one over-scheduled version of life for another. Filep recommends keeping
itineraries reasonabe "rather than mindlessly trying to tick off boxes. " Some
people need to be moving at all times, but most of us are happier lingering a
while. "Rather than trying to go to Venice, Milan, and Rome, you could go to
one of those places and process things a little more," says Filep. Tons of
research has shown that, in the long term, experiences contribute more to
happiness than things, so it's worth it to try to optimize them—even if that
means scaling back initially. None of this is foolproof, of course.
There's no formula for a perfect vacation. But follow these steps and your
odds of actually making a great escape from life will be that much better.
More from Atlas Obscura:
Atlas Obscura's Guide to Islands You Never Want to Visit
Chill Out at These 9 Antarctic Outposts
The Obsessively Detailed Map of American Literature's Most Epic Road Trips
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Out, Fancy Popsicles Are In It's no coincidence that when we talk
about going on vacation, we say want to get away. Those few sweet days or
weeks away from routine are one of the few chances to truly leave behind the
stupid stuff we usually think about all day long.  Instead: freedom. Twenty
four hours, every single day, to sleep, eat, play and enjoy life a little bit
more.

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