You’ve been working hard on the job and now have some vacation days to use. Your boss was chafed when you suggested taking two weeks off so you settled for one week, which you believe is still more than enough time to unwind and relax. Wrong! Not only will a vacation not relax you, but it will create more stress than work.
The first day of your vacation is spent traveling to the destination. If you’re lucky, it will take only two hours, but odds are it will take at least six. You’re either crammed on an airplane or driving on a road full of other people who want to relax just like you. Already, tension is building.
After finally arriving at your vacation spot, things start to go wrong. The hotel room doesn’t have a good view. The wireless internet is too slow. You forgot your beach towel at home. You picked a bad area of town to stay in. You take off your shoes and try to relax, but now you’re hungry. You find a restaurant that sells you a bland pizza that is priced more than your favorite pizzeria back home. You go to sleep on a strange bed with pillows that are way too big, and then you wake up the next day with nausea and painful stomach cramps. You’re sick! And what are these itchy red marks on your ankles? Bed bugs! Only six more days to go.
Now imagine you have children. The stress will increase by a factor of ten. By the end of the first day, you need a vacation from your vacation. Things will go much harder than the work you tried to take a break from.
As your “vacation” proceeds, you feel obligated to pack in as many activities as possible. Tours. Excursions. Watersports. Sightseeing. Scooter rental. Souvenir shopping. Tower climbing. Cemetary viewing. Clubbing. Selfie taking. You must not miss out on anything, because it took time and money to get here, and you may never return.
Soon your legs get weary. You’re walking more in one day than you normally do in a week. That bed is impossible to sleep in, and you can’t seem to get the room climate right. Now you’re running a sleep deficit. There are bags under your eyes, and holy cow, the vacation is almost done. Check-out is 11am tomorrow!
The pictures and souvenirs are proof that you went on vacation, but really the vacation went on you. On the way back home, you almost drive off the road because you’re so tired, and when you do make it to your bed, you immediately crash and enjoy the best sleep you’ve had all week, and then before you know it, the alarm clock is blaring at 8am. Back to work!
Relaxation is the absence of activity, not an exchange of one set of activities for another. Reducing stress means you must reduce the stimuli that your senses receive. A vacation accomplishes the opposite. It’s merely a commercial method to part money from office workers who want to feel relaxed in a novel, exciting way, when what they should really do is vegetate at home for days as if getting over the flu.
You can’t force your body to relax. All you can do is put it in a boring, calm, and familiar environment where it has no choice but to do so. Travel is meant to see things you want to see and be stimulated by new experiences. Going on vacation to relax is like drinking a double espresso to help you nap. If you insist on a vacation that involves travel, I hope you’re staying in a cabin in the middle of nowhere, but even then, the tension of going and coming from an isolated location will nullify the couple of days you experience nothingness.
When it’s time for me to relax, I plant myself on the couch, get a beer, and watch mindless entertainment. Anything else will simply be too much.
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