Chances are the past few years have discouraged you from going anywhere for your vacations. If concerns over Covid didn’t keep you home, perhaps you participated in The Great Resignation, and avoided spending money while between jobs. More recently, the rising costs of travel might have caused you to opt for the “staycation.”
As governments and businesses around the world are beginning to relax the restrictions borne of Covid, travel is again on the table. Still, you might be thinking about staying local for a number of reasons. But is that really a good idea?
1. The psychology of your surroundings matters.
One of the realities we ran into during Covid was the challenge of getting away from work. For years, sleep professionals have warned against using the bedroom, for example, as a place to do ANY work — it sends subtle signals to your brain that this place isn’t for relaxing. Hopefully you at least had another room to work in, but even if you opted for the living room, dining room, or a home office, you’ve still been “living” with your work for a long time.
Circumstances have shattered the sanctity of the home for family time, alone time, and refuge from the stresses of the world. With vacation time coming up, it’s more important than ever to change your surroundings so you can enjoy a true reset. Behavioral scientists are noting the benefits of not just leaving your current surroundings, but indulging new ones, including stress reduction, deeper self-awareness, and other benefits.
“Okay, but I can get that up the road in the city,” might be your response. And sure, technically this is a change of location. The problem is you know you aren’t far from home and, psychologically speaking, your stresses aren’t far away, either.
The act of travel that takes hours provides a context that removes you from your cares both physically and psychologically. That doesn’t mean you need to go halfway around the world. But four or five hours in the car can prove to be both budget-friendly and give you the distance your brain needs to feel less under the thumb of your stress.
2. You need to be good to yourself.
If anyone has ever said the words “it’s okay to be selfish sometimes,” to you, I want you to clear them from your mind right now. “Selfish” is a loaded word that has some serious negative connotations. Prioritizing your mental health and ensuring you get some relaxation is not selfish. These things are no more selfish than brushing your teeth or getting some exercise; they are basic to keeping yourself healthy. And they’re hard to do when you stay at or near home, where you can easily be drawn into the demands of your daily life.
Being good to yourself includes being good to your family or significant others. Treating them to a trip to experience new people and surroundings will benefit your interactions with them, and build new memories and shared experiences you’ll reference for years to come. Not unlike the example of not using your bedroom for work, it’s important that you not always see your loved ones in the context of daily stress. Enjoying time away together will help you associate each other with pleasant memories.
3. Chances are, you’ve exhausted your locality’s possibilities.
“Wait,” you say, “I live in/near <insert large city here,> and could never do everything available if I wanted to!”
Probably true. But how much of that do you want to do? We all have interests, and while it’s always good to try new things, you won’t relax if you force yourself to do something you don’t want to do. For many people, their knowledge of their geographic area is fairly complete inasmuch as they are aware of the restaurants, activities and locations that most interest them, and have already visited. If art museums aren’t your bag, you shouldn’t feel obligated to visit the local one on your vacation just because everyone else insists you should see it. Your vacation needs to be about what’s restorative to you.
Of course, you have an argument if your city or area still offers plenty that you really want to see or do, but then we come back to the issue of being physically and psychologically close to home. Besides, you can do those things on any weekend or day off, right? Why blow a vacation on them?
4. It’s time to get a new perspective on things.
Our brains make some weird and wonderful connections. The more information they have to draw on, the more creative these connections can be. Yes, you can learn new things at home, but your physical surroundings anchor you in a variable that doesn't change. When you travel far away from home, you experience both new and familiar things in a new context, helping you not only to understand them in new ways, but also to think about them differently. This opens up creative pathways for you that can make you more effective and engaged both in your personal and work lives.
Perhaps the most profound perspective you can get during a vacation in a distant place is on yourself. Finding yourself in a new place helps you to better recognize your own thoughts, habits, and reactions to the world around you, because you’re experiencing them in the context of new stimuli. This can lead to some fairly profound self-realizations, and is why people so often return from vacations resolved to make some kind of major life change.
5. Everyone else is forced to back off.
When you aren’t nearby, the people who surround you in your day-to-day life have to get on without you. That should include work, so avoid staying connected by silencing the phone and leaving the laptop at home. This keeps you from being pulled into others’ stressful situations, and leaves you the time you desperately need to recharge.
If there is someone you hesitate to leave behind, make it part of your vacation prep to make arrangements for that person, whether it’s a family member or friend who needs regular assistance or a workmate who depends on your input. Make sure they understand you need this down time and won’t be available while you’re gone, and you won’t spend unnecessary moments stressing about what you might not be doing. This falls partly under self-care; preempting potential stressors while you’re on vacation will let you enjoy yourself more freely.
You might already know Americans take less vacation than nearly any other developed nation (and we’re second only to Micronesia for fewest paid vacation days on average). So what we do and where we go with the short time we have really matters. A staycation might have been necessary for the past few years, but now it’s time to get out there and enjoy all the world has to offer again. You need it.
And when you get back, start thinking about ways to reduce your stress by rethinking how things get done. For Botkeeper, that means automation, which can relieve you of the annoying, repetitive work you do manually on a daily basis. Our partners see some amazing things happen when they automate their clients’ bookkeeping with Botkeeper: better efficiency, more accuracy, and yes — happier employees.
Ready to continue your stress-reduction when you get home from that amazing vacation?