10 Ways to Make the Most of Your Vacation

Recently, my husband Jon and I were able to take a trip to Scotland and Ireland for a couple weeks. We hiked, swam, toured castles, and ate lots of fish ‘n’ chips. While it’s never easy to go back to work, here are some of my methods to get the most out of your vacation so that you return to work energized:

1. Exercise

This does not mean you have to do laps in the hotel pool every day. Maybe it’s as simple as walking to your dinner reservation instead of taking an Uber. Or maybe plan a day to see an outdoor exhibit. One of my favorite parts of the trip was hiking in a national park and spending a few hours climbing around the boulders of a waterfall.

Waterfall

2. Try Something New

Yes, this is rather cliche, but like exercise, it doesn’t have to be something extraordinary. For example, I tried gin-flavored ice cream when we were in Ireland.  (I know it sounds weird, but it was amazing.) We also tried out surfing on a nearby beach. Most of the time was spent wiping out on the sand, but it was an incredible experience.

3. Talk to the Locals

As Rick Steves says, this can really “carbonate” a trip. We wound up sharing a restaurant table with some women from Edinburgh as we were on our way into the city. They were able to recommend some places for us to visit, but what made that conversation so memorable was that we were able to swap opinions on world news. It was so interesting hearing their thoughts on Brexit, President Trump, Scottish nationalism, etc. I felt very lucky that they were kind enough to chat with us for as long as they did; we learned a lot.

4. Stop Dieting…but Don’t Binge.

As you know, I’m making a bigger effort this year to watch my weight more carefully.  This trip, I didn’t worry about my weight, but nor did I overeat. One of my favorite nights was when my husband and I went to an Italian restaurant, split a bottle of red wine, and spent few hours at our table. We watched the nearby street, talked about our favorite parts of the trip so far, and just enjoyed being in Europe together. You may also have the chance to try food that you never had when you’re away from home, so make sure to enjoy it without dwelling on the calories! (Note: haggis is actually quite delicious! Just don’t start thinking about what’s in it…)

5. Forget about Work

I know, easier said than done. I’m lucky enough to be in a job where I can leave it for a bit without getting a call from my supervisor while I’m lying on a beach. If you can though, turn off your phone/laptop for an afternoon so that you can be fully present in whatever activity you choose. It’s rather similar to naps: a 15-minute uninterrupted nap is far healthier than an hour-long nap that’s fraught with interruptions. If you need to work while away from home, try to carve out special time for work so that you’re not peppered with it throughout the day.

6. Find Meaningful Souvenirs 

For as much stuff as we hauled home, one of the coolest souvenirs from this trip was a perfect seashell Jon found on one of the beaches. It didn’t cost anything, and it was a reminder of a night where we just ambled along a beach, enjoying the sand between our toes and the breathtaking sunset over the ocean.

Ocean Photo

7. Write it Down

As a professional writer, perhaps this comes a bit easier to me than to others. Here’s my rationale though: pictures only remind you of so much. I try to write down details that I know we couldn’t photograph, like how amazing it felt to be standing on a surfboard for the first time or how beautiful the full moon looked over Loch Ness at one in the morning. It also helps me stay present to what’s going on around me so that I can document it later. It’s amazing how much we forget about such memorable trips, so it’s fun to look back on what was written down at the time.

8. Set Aside Quiet Time

As I already mentioned, I like to journal a lot about the trips I take, and it’s a nice way to wind down before going to bed, especially in a new place. If you’re not a journaler, consider just replaying the day in your head and re-enjoying all the wonderful things you saw, did, or ate. I also use this time to sketch out the next day and make sure we have everything we need.

9. Unplug

Just like having some time to yourself to enjoy being on vacation, try to unplug from your phone a bit. Granted, sometimes you need to veg a little, but each time we did that with our phones, I found we lost track of time and didn’t actually feel much better in the long run. This doesn’t mean you can’t check your phones; just try to keep it to a minimum.  Here’s my rationale: you have to look at a computer all day for your job, right? So, why bother staring at another screen during your vacation time?

10. Schedule a Recovery Day

Have a rest day when you come back. Even if you’re not recovering from jet lag, it helps to have a day before heading back to work to sleep in, unpack, do laundry, and just enjoy sleeping in your own bed again.

So, those are some of my thoughts. Do you have any tips for making the most of your vacation?

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