2 Simple Strategies to Help Enhance Your Next Travel Experience
You look at your calendar. You notice summer will be here in a few months and you think: time to start planning my next vacation? Sounds about right! And you start to daydream: where to next? Open Google: start typing “dream beach vacations” and “summer travel adventure” in search for a place that will satisfy your desire for a magical destination that can make you forget work, home, traffic, stress, responsibilities, and even shoes. Google and Instagram get us all excited about the options that are out there, and we allow ourselves to dream for a little while. We hop on a white, fluffy cloud and travel away. The air is so fresh up there. We breathe more deeply. Until…, we check our bank accounts…! Well, okay. Our two feet get back on the ground really quickly and the cloud flies away in the distance. Breath is now shallow again. We come back to the room and look around us. And, for real this time:where to next?
We look forward to our vacation so we can get away for a while from the hustle and bustle of our everyday lives. We get so excited when the time is coming as we imagine how happy we will be once we are far away. Oh, travel! How we need it, how we want it. However, traveling represents a bit of stress in and of itself for many: planning, paying bills, getting work done before we take off, packing, passports, shopping for vacation clothes, working on our beach bods, anyone?, getting to the airport on time, thinking, rushing, more thinking, doing. Phew! I’m tired just writing about it. Can you relate?
The good news is: you are not alone here. All the travel arrangements can be pretty stressful. What is more, the actual trip itself can be stressful as well. So, wait, why is it that we look forward to that vacation time so much?! Oh, yeah, because we get to get away and “relax”. Well, so we think, or try. We dream, too. When we travel, especially if we travel with company (family or friends), and have specific plans for our trip, it can get us stressed out. So, by now, pre-trip and during– trip can both be stressful –not to mention after. That does not sound right, does it? Vacation time should be relaxing and fun. So that is where I come in. I want to help you be able to make that time as smooth as possible. Ready to find out how to enhance your travel experience?
Overhead announcement: Calling all the groups who are flying to a whole new travel experience. Grab your boarding pass to hop on the plane to relax-ville! Fasten your seatbelts. Here we go!
1- CULTIVATE FLEXIBILITY
When we travel, we make a long list of plans for our trip. We like to have everything absolutely prepared so that our trip can go exactly as we had imagined it would go: a day-by-day detailed guide of how each of our days will go. Not everyone does this to that level of detail, but most of us do at least some research about the place we will be visiting. Then, we start to make decisions about places to visit, monuments to see, foods to try, trails to walk, etc., etc. –can I have another piece of paper for my list, please? We have a specific idea in our minds of how we want our trip to go, and this is good, of course. Some of us like to plan, right? Planning ahead allows us to make sure we get to see some of the most famous and interesting places at our destination. It also allows us to get more excited about the things we will be doing and seeing. We would all like to have an unforgettable time in which we experience everything we have imagined that place to be.
Okay, that is all good. However, the problem we run into is that too much planning adds stress to our list of things to do as well –Item #111 on to-do list: stress out. Why, you ask? Well, attempting to stick to a plan with a group of people in a place that you do not know –maybe in a different country/continent, with a different language, within different circumstances can easily get out of hand. Things could go ‘not as planned’ is what I am trying to say. And, how does that make you feel? Do you like it when things don’t go your way? I know. No one does.
We have an idea in our minds of how a vacation should go, how everyone should feel during the vacation, and how much fun should be had. Talk about expectations! Unknowingly, we set all these expectations about our vacation which put a lot of pressure on ourselves and our travel companions –and even on the place we are visiting for that matter. So, what do we do? How can we feel better about the whole travel experience? In order to reduce our stress, it is important to learn to be flexible. You mean: take a yoga class? No, no. Not exactly. Although, that is actually a great idea, but I am talking about mental flexibility here –although that is what yoga is about, too, actually! Yikes. Okay. Take a yoga class before and during your trip if you are interested, but do not stop there with the flexibility. Keep on reading so I can explain better.
We walk around with all these expectations about how people should behave, how things should go, how much life should give us, etc., etc. Expectations are one of the reasons for unhappiness in human beings. When we have a very specific idea about how things should be and it does not happen that way, we feel disappointed, discouraged, upset, disempowered. Does this mean we need to have no expectations at all about anything or anyone? No. That is really hard, actually. It would be ideal, for it would certainly make things easier for us, but it is something really difficult to accomplish. So, what do we do to help us feel better? We learn to be more flexible.
LEARN TO BE FLEXIBLE
Many people who are just hearing about yoga or come to yoga for the first time will say something like: “but I am not flexible”. Well, it is a common misconception about yoga. You may be surprised –or not- to learn that yoga is actually about stretching your mind, not your body. We learn to cultivate flexibility of the mind, first. And this is my invitation today: work on your mental flexibility. Why? Because it makes things smoother for you, and for everyone around you –talk about win-win. When you let go of your rigid idea of how things should be, how people should behave, and start to be more open and accepting of differences, of unexpected circumstances, of change in general, you begin to feel more at peace with anything that life may have to offer.
Flexibility is of the mind. That is where it all begins, which may make it a bit more difficult, right? We tend to be very set on our ways, and it can be challenging to open our minds to new ways. It is only human to feel this way. So, how do we deal with this and start to change? I am not saying you have to be okay with anything and everything that happens. That is not human, I know. This is simply an invitation to learn to bend your mind and let go of a bit of the mental rigidity many of us have. Welcome and accept gray areas in your life. There is not just one way to do things. There are several, and being open to this perspective will bring more peace into your life.
So if you are planning a vacation, it may be time to learn to stretch your mind. Why? Because it is good for your peace of mind. Allowing external circumstances to determine the amount of peace and happiness you can enjoy creates a very conditional –and difficult- life. This is one of the problems we have when we travel, especially when we travel with company. Consider this: everyone has a different perspective on things, everyone has a different way to (re)act, everyone has a different opinion, everyone has different expectations, everyone wants different things. What can you expect from a group of people traveling together? Being a little more open to choices, opinions, opportunities may save you some of the stress.
Here are a few suggestions:
- Make a list of things you absolutely would love to do/see during your vacation and share the list with your travel companions. Allow them to choose whether they want to join or not.
- Allow for one or two days during your trip when there are no plans, so that everyone can enjoy the activity they most prefer –even if on their own. Everyone gets to be happy.
- Come up with a strategy you can use as a group to make decisions during the trip in case last-minute circumstances demand it.
- Be willing not to sweat the small, or even the big stuff. Be willing to laugh at the unexpected changes. Be willing to not let anything ruin your vacation time.
We so badly want our vacation to be perfect. We want unforgettable experiences. We want memories for a lifetime. We want joy. We want meaningful interactions. We want, we want, we want. –Poor vacation is feeling all the pressure right about now. I think you get my point. One way to make sure you can enjoy your vacation is take off some of the pressure you put on it to be absolutely perfect –and everyone involved in it.
Things happen. People happen. The best experiences may not come from the planned activities, but from the unexpected events and surprises along your trip. Life may
have a better plan in store for you than the one you so carefully drafted! –wink, wink.
2- CULTIVATE BALANCE
So we gained the flexibility we needed to enjoy our vacation more. We had a much better time on our trip. That is wonderful. However, we are now back to normal life and we are feeling some remorse about the choices we made during our trip. Another one of the problems we tend to have on vacation is choosing extremes. Because we so look forward to the one time of the year when we get to get away, be whoever we want to be, and do everything we do not get to do when we are at home, we end up going down a road of extremes when it comes to eating, drinking, sunbathing, and so on.
The all-you-can-eat buffet at the all-inclusive hotel you booked and the unlimited bar may look very appealing as you try to enjoy every single perk offered to the max –did anyone say Margaritas?!, but they are definitely not your best friends during your trip. Indulging may be part of your plan, and you may have even made a list of all the desserts you want to try, the cocktails you want to have, the hours you will spend under the sun and the shade of red you want your skin to reach –yeah, we love planning, I know. Many of us tend to overindulge and this is based on how we tend to ‘see’ vacation. Vacation represents for many a time off from who we are –a vacation from ourselves of sorts. However, it is a good idea to look at that perspective and analyze where it may come from, as it may not have been your own (conscious) decision.
Many perspectives we have in life are adopted from others, usually from those very close to us. It may stem from your own personal experiences as a child, or you may have seen this behavior from people close to you and assumed this is what vacation must be about. Hearing other people’s stories about their travel experiences will put an image in your mind, give you a specific sense of what it means to go on vacation, and thus make you want to recreate such time when it is your turn.
This may also stem from a very basic human need to belong. A sense of belonging is one of the most primitive needs we have. So, you hear all your friends taking about their vacation: turns out they all indulged and incurred in excess during their trips. Not only that, but they tell their stories as super funny, unforgettable experiences. They laugh. They joke. They love talking about it because it makes them feel good. What do you think that causes in you? Here is what may happen:
- You want in on the fun. If it was so fun for them, it will surely be as fun for me. “I want me some of that!” you say to yourself. That seems like the one way to have a fun vacation.
- They all do it. You do not want to be the odd man out. Doing something different from what your group of friends does may make you feel different and no one likes that –or, almost no one. It is risky to be different. It is not well accepted. You want to belong.
- You crave for acceptance. Coming back from your trip with stories that your friends can and will appreciate because it is the kind of fun they enjoy, too, will make you “popular”, liked, understood, embraced, heard. Having good receptivity from those closest to you is very important to us.
So, take some time to analyze:
- Where does your perception of vacation come from?
- Is it yours or someone else’s?
- Would you like to keep it or change it?
Think about it: you are now free to design your own concept of ‘vacation’ and it can be anything that truly represents pleasure in a healthy, balanced way for you.
We tend to “overdo it” when we travel. For many people vacation means: vacation from healthy choices. We have been making reference to this point because it affects our choices very much. Many times this means: excess drinking, excess eating, very little-to-no exercise. You may come back from your trip feeling worse about yourself, ready to go into detox, hit the gym hard, or consider going keto for a little while to regain balance, and it is all due to your choices. Have you experienced this feeling? Physically you may feel bloated, tired, with some brain fog, etc. And this happens because your choices were not balanced during your days away. If you are looking for a better travel experience overall, keeping a balance is something you need to consider.
Find food choices that allow you to keep a balance. Sure, the restaurant at your all-inclusive hotel may be pretty enticing. The endless options of new street foods to try at your destination may be calling your name day and night. So many delicious choices that appear in front of you every hour that goes by, and you only have so much –or little?– willpower to come to the rescue. What to do? Good question! Remember the goal is to keep the balance. The goal is not to avoid all the new foods. No need to feel deprived during your vacation. Once again, it is about finding a balance. Here is what you can do:
- Make a plan –you enjoy planning, right? Alright, here we go! Decide how much you will allow yourself to indulge ahead of time. So you say: “We just talked about ‘flexibility’ and now you are telling to make a meal plan?!” Okay, okay, hang on. You do not need to be absolutely strict with yourself, or maybe even stick to the plan 100% of the time, but it is a good idea to be prepared. Instead of going in deep head first into the meal situation with a vacation-mode mind of overindulging, be conscious of your choices. That is all. Make a plan of how much dessert you would allow yourself to have, how many drinks you would like to have, how many (not-so-healthy) treats you may go for. It is all about planning for the unhealthy things so you are not caught up in the moment. Plan on the indulgence so you can do it smartly.
2. You may try every single food choice available, but watch portions. It is okay to have the foods you would really like to have –yes, even the unhealthy ones. Just try to avoid piling your plate up with unhealthy choices and ending up uncomfortably full. Keep the balance on your plate: go for the salad and the veggies just as well. They will fill you up and may prevent you from falling into excess.
3. Team-up with your travel peeps. Work as a team so that you keep an eye on and encourage each other to watch choices. Make sure to be kind, of course –flexibility, remember? It is just about supporting each other so that you all feel fantastic during and after your trip. You can decide who tries which foods, and then each person gives feedback on it. That way you can make a well-informed decision about whether to try that food or not, instead of putting every single item on your plate from the start. It is all about balance, remember.
Vacation does not need to be a time to overindulge and fall into extremes. Think about how all that makes you feel later. Decide how you want to feel first, and then use that to make your decisions about what to indulge in and how much. Take power of your decisions. Choose wisely. Focus on how you want to feel and allow that to drive your choices. Cultivate balance.
Vacation time is a well-deserved experienced that should be absolutely memorable time. Many of us put so much pressure into what it needs to be that it ends up being more like hell. Well, it does not have to. You can choose heaven. Now you have some tools to help you plan your next trip differently and guarantee that your next vacation be one that leaves you feeling filled with joy and looking forward to the next! Here is to flexibility and balance from now on!
Thinking about visiting Costa Rica on your next vacation? Would love some help planning your next trip? Contact Blue Osa Travels for help with a smooth process: https://blueosatravels.com/