Samantha Hamilton was well-prepared for her two-week solo trip to Thailand. She purposefully packed her schedule to the brim with everything she wanted to do, including an ethical elephant encounter and snorkelling in the clear turquoise waters of a Buddhist temple.
She realised halfway through her trip that she wasn’t enjoying her itinerary and was operating on autopilot. “I was completely drained, mentally and physically,” she said. That day, she had plans to go on a hike and snorkel, but felt like she wouldn’t even enjoy those activities because of how tired she was.
As a result, she took the day off and did nothing but sleep in her hotel room.
When she reflected on her trip, she said that day off “saved” it. “I know it sounds ridiculous, but that one day of rest completely recharged my batteries,” she explained. She awoke the next day feeling revitalised and ready to embark on her journey.
It can feel strange to take a vacation from your vacation, and Hamilton admitted she sometimes feels “a pang of guilt” when she doesn’t leave her hotel for a day. “I believe that there is so much pressure to see and do everything while travelling that many people forget that we also need time to rest. That’s what a vacation is for, right?”
According to Ellie Borden, a psychotherapist in Canada, taking a rest day during your vacation may seem counterintuitive, but it may actually help your vacation – and mental health – in the long run.
“It is critical to remember why you are taking a vacation. Most of us lead hectic lives with little free time “She told USA TODAY about it.
Vacations, according to Borden, are the ideal time to be fully present and engage in self-care activities such as unwinding, recentering, and gratitude, which can leave you feeling recharged for when you return to daily life. That could mean going on adventures, but it could also mean taking the day off to do nothing but relax, such as ordering room service or napping with a movie on.
The cost of a trip may put pressure on you to make the most of it.
It’s easier said than done, as Hamilton discovered, to sit back and relax while on vacation. For many Americans, vacation is valuable, and sitting out a day can feel like a waste. About two out of three Americans said they feel “too much pressure during their vacation to actually enjoy it,” according to a survey by Club Wyndham.
Americans aren’t particularly good at taking vacations. To begin with, most Americans have limited paid time off. After one year of work, one-third of private-sector workers received 10 to 14 days off per year in 2021. According to Expedia’s 2022 report, Americans also take fewer vacation days than the rest of the world.
Remote working has given some people more flexibility in where they can work as a result of the pandemic, but many people have experienced serious burnout as the line between work and home became blurred during the pandemic.
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Going on vacation is also becoming more expensive due to inflation and rising costs. Because not everyone has the luxury of travelling more than once a year or for extended periods of time, “giving up” a day or two can be unsettling.
On vacation, Faith Hansen and her family used to feel this way.
“As low-budget family travellers, we are always concerned about the cost of a trip,” she explained. “And with that cost awareness comes the dreaded mentality of ‘getting the most out of every single day of travel.'”
On a trip to Copenhagen with her 11-year-old, the family felt obligated to take a canal cruise because everyone said it was a must-do and it was included in their city pass. So the family dragged their tired child onto the boat for what turned out to be “a wonderfully awful afternoon.”
Now that the family is on vacation, they can say no to “amazing” activities if they feel compelled to go.
People should redefine vacation not just to include exploring the destination but having “down time” too, according to Anita Astley, a Chicago-based psychologist.
“Your most valuable commodity is time, so spend it wisely,” Astley told USA TODAY. “Downtime is and should be a part of every vacation.” (For what it’s worth, Astley considers a staycation or taking time off and unplugging at home to be downtime.)