Story and photos by Sahara Rose De Vore
National Plan a Vacation Day or not, unless you are a travel expert, planning a vacation can be overwhelming and intimidating. But guess what? It doesn’t have to be. Studies show that being more involved in your travel planning can actually boost your happiness hormones long before your trip begins. The world is a big place with so many remarkable destinations to visit. Where should you go? How much will it cost? Who should you go with? When is the best time to go? All of these components of Planning a Vacation can be too much for some people to manage, often resulting in people not going on a vacation at all. It’s important to shift your mindset from Travel Planning being another task on your to-do list, to it being an opportunity to improve your wellbeing.
Decades of research prove the mental and overall health benefits of travel include lowering stress and anxiety levels, boosting your self-esteem, keeping your body active and fit, boosting your immune system, improving your brain health, detoxing the body, sparking vitality, and combating burnout.
The health benefits of travel do exist, but it’s up to you as the traveler to access them. Most people go on a trip with little thought process about their mental and physical state other than they are stressed out from a hectic workload and need a getaway. In order to obtain these helpful health benefits, you need to look within.
Everyone is drawn to travel for personal reasons, reasons deeper than just to relax on a beach sipping a pina colada. The problem is that we typically don’t mold our vacations based on the personal needs that would help us feel and do better in our personal and work life. We often go on a trip to get away, keep the thought of our home or work stresses in the back of our mind, and then return from our trip in the same mindset, or maybe worse, than before.
To have the transformational experience that will all hope for, do the following when planning your next vacation:
Ask yourself why you want to get away
What are the underlying reasons for your drive to get away? Sometimes we crave an escape from our daily routine or we feel a void but aren’t sure of what. Maybe we spend so much time at work that our personal relationships lack the nurturing that they need. Maybe we are unhappy with how our lives are going at the moment and we are looking for new inspiration and motivation to change our mindset and make changes in our life.
People turn to travel for a wide variety of times in their life, whether for good or not so good. For instance, have you ever felt the urge to travel some place after you had a terrible break up or a traumatic life event like a loss in the family or the death of a pet? Have you ever felt compelled to travel because you know that your marriage needs attention or your bond with your child isn’t where you want it to be? Have you ever felt lost in life and needed to shake things up and find yourself, figure out what you want out of life, be challenged, try something new, meet new people, or find your life purpose and passions?
Identify any fear or obstacles that may be holding you back
Travel is beneficial to your wellbeing but only when you actually go. Sometimes we allow fears or other obstacles to prevent us from taking a vacation. Identify any fears that you may have that are holding you back, whether that is safety concerns, a fear of flying, financial worries, a heavy workload to complete, fear of how wanting to take a vacation will make you look to your employer, health issues, language barrier concerns, afraid of navigating a new city on your own, or the lack of confidence to be the empowered traveler that you wish you could be.
Perhaps you are thinking that working with a travel agent can take you out of your budget. Having a health issue or a physical disability can make you feel discouraged and your opportunities limited. Waiting too far in advance to request time off and not taking action on your travel plans can lead to your employer rejecting your vacation. Having an overly strict itinerary in fear of missing out on something can result in more problems when things don’t go as expected or prevent you from having a more enriching experience through spontaneous adventures and moments. Whatever is limiting you, find the resources, tools, and guidance that you need to help you shape the vacation that you want and deserve.
By recognizing what may be holding you back from taking a vacation, you can better prepare for your trip and shift your mindset by accessing any resources and support that you may need to help you overcome or better manage these fears or concerns. Talking with a travel expert such as a travel coach can help give you the boost of confidence and empowerment that you need to help you better plan your trip, improve your mindset, be more in control over your journey, and have an experience that enhances your sense of wellbeing.
Envision the type of experience that you want and need to have
Dream and dream big. What kind of vacation experience do you want or need to make you happy and satisfy your drive to get away? Branch out of your comfort zone and try new things. Do things that you always wanted to do but always talked yourself out of. Be open to talking to the locals and making new friends. Eat new foods, learn a few words or phrases in the local language, or visit a place of spirituality like a temple, mosque, or attend a traditional ceremony. Allow yourself tobe engulfed in new cultures and experiences. Think about what your ideal life, wellbeing, and work life may look like upon returning. What kind of person do you want to be? What do you want your personal relationship to look like? What kind of stories do you want to share with your friends, family, and coworkers when you get back? What perspective on the world do you want to gain or what answers do you need to find out about yourself or your life?
When you can figure out what is driving your desire for a vacation, it can help you answer the questions that help you build your travel experience. You will know if you need to go on a trip alone and spend time self-reflecting and fulfilling your personal needs, or if you need to go with someone in particular. You will know what kind of destination to go to, whether it’s warm weather, a place where you can spend time in nature, near the beach or a calming body of water, a touristy place, somewhere that is easy to meet and interact with new people, somewhere off the beaten path, or somewhere that gives you a deeper cultural experience. If you’re in need of spending time in the mountains, find a place like The Art of Living Retreat Center that is nestled in North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Mountains. Spend time in the spiritual and energetic vortex of Arizona at Canyon Ranch in Tuscon or get a healthy dose of Vitamin D to help strengthen your bones at the BodyHoliday on the Caribbean island of St. Lucia. Here are other wellness travel hot spots to have on your radar.
Doing the inner work will help you will know when to go and how long to go for. Do you need only a few days or more than a week? What types of things to do during your trip? Do you want to relax the mind and body by breathing in the salty sea air or soak in a mineral-rich body of water to ease your achy joints or muscles? Do you want to detox your body and challenge your physical abilities by hiking to a viewpoint that overlooks a jaw-dropping scene?
Use these tips on doing your own inner work so you can plan the vacation that is not only the trip of a lifetime but one that helps boost your wellbeing.
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Sahara Rose De Vore is a travel coach and founder of The Travel Coach Network. After traveling the globe to over 84 countries, she now helps educate and empower employees and business travelers to use travel as a tool to improve their overall wellbeing and thrive in both their personal and professional lives.