Can’t Travel? Relax!
If vacation is your path to rejuvenation, here are some pandemic safer alternatives
Pandemic travel is not the same
Can we agree that things are NOT THE SAME during the pandemic, and that goes for vacations too? Is your vacation the way you manage stress? If so, I imagine this year has been a difficult one. Stress and pandemic anxiety are over the top and leisure travel is not as relaxing and rejuvenating as it once was.
In the 2020 Year of Stress you know you need a break to rejuvenate and revitalize. I’ll review and rate four different ways to take time out to rest and rejuvenate.
Stay-cation Stress Reduction
“Taking PTO (paid time off) during the pandemic is essential to overall wellness, even if it means not being able to travel or use it in a normal way” according to psychiatrist Dr. Yolanda Graham (source: American Institute of Stress, 7/16/20). This year, our household is stay-cationing.
The rejuvenation power of a stay-cation depends in part on whether you’ve been working from home, with or without school children, or putting in long masked hours at your workplace. If you have been home, and you’re staying at home, you must change your routines to succeed. Turn off the computer and TV, get out of your home, and put a little extra effort into going to safe places for a change of scenery. If you have not been at home, some quiet time to relax and sleep late in your own home might be perfect. Be clear about your expectations; with no hotel wait staff and housekeeping at home, you’ll have a few more responsibilities than you might on a travel vacation.
Our household has been at home, so we did a lot of research and planning to safely get out of the house. The week didn’t turn out as planned, but there were some pleasant surprises.
Rating: Good but not amazing
Best benefit: more leisure, less rushing, and perhaps more sleep
Worst disadvantage: surrounded by home and family responsibilities, including our dog who still wants to get up early.
Insider tips: Take a walk somewhere new, enjoy nurturing time with friends and family who are safe and enjoyable to be with, and check before you go on daytrips to see what’s open and closed, including restrooms.
Planning leisure travel is usually great fun. Just the thought of being away can start the endorphins flowing and the stress disappearing. The thing is, how do you pick travel dates? How many of you have had plans postponed, postponed again, and then cancelled? As one nurse told me, “I might have to fight to get my deposit back.” That’s no fun.
Rating: Fun but not rejuvenating
Best benefit: a relaxing diversion from thinking about work
Worst disadvantage: disheartening, as we know we cannot take this trip now
Insider tips: Make a scrap book BEFORE your trip. Use it to learn more about your destinations and enrich your eventual travel experience.
Just GO – travel (and stress) during a pandemic
The stress thing about vacations is that they meet our hard-wired need to run away when the going gets tough. Remember learning about the fight or flight response? The problem during a pandemic is that your usual flight destination may be off-limits, closed, require a two week quarantine, or even be a career limiting move. One of my upwardly mobile young friends traveled to Florida for a week vacation, only to learn on his return home that he had to quarantine without pay for two weeks before being allowed back to work. That vacation won’t be remembered for its rejuvenating benefits! Still, people have managed to travel during these crazy days.
Rating: Opinions vary. Generally, pandemic travel is less rejuvenating than usual but might be better than not going at all
Best benefit: Serves as a release for your fight or flight syndrome experience.
Worst disadvantage: Travel limitations and last minute changes in pandemic policies
Insider tips: Consider returning to familiar places you trust, know the pandemic rules for your destination and for returning home, learn what’s open and closed at your destination, and expect travel delays. Finally, take a moment to seriously consider if your vacation will indeed be rejuvenating this year. If your answer is “yes” then go! If not, find something else to do.
One nurse who has been isolated by working from home and exhausted by working long hours suggests a trendy name for another vacation option. Hybrid has become a buzz word this year! She uses it to describe a combination of stay-cation and a short regional get-a-way. She carefully planned a New England foliage get-away weekend, then her manager reminded her she needed to use or lose a vacation week. She took a few days off at home, then traveled 2 nights to see the mountains, then had a few days of stay-cation to enjoy when she returned home.
Rating: According to this nurse, surprisingly good
Best benefits: Sleeping in before travelling, and after the vigilance of travelling during a pandemic, enjoying some leisure time at home
Worst disadvantage: A few days away can’t compete with exotic travel or a week on an island.
Insider tips: Travel mid-week or slightly off season for easier social distancing. Rent a room with a kitchenette or at least a refrigerator for BYO picnics. If you eat out, do so at lunch time when it’s warmer outside and less crowded at restaurants.
Treat yourself to some time off
My household is being extra safe due to significant risk factors for severe Covid 19 complications. We’ve had our own share of stress, including open heart surgery, job loss, business downturns, and the isolation of being super safe. Even though we’d love to run away on vacation we agree it’s not a good idea. So far, we’ve enjoyed two stay-cations this year. Our summer stay-cation was rejuvenating, as we enjoyed days and evenings at our neighbor’s lake front home. The autumn stay-cation was just ok, as inclement weather and pandemic closures interfered in the daytrips we planned. Even so, both vacations were relaxing, energizing, and a welcome change of routine.
Without a doubt, you need time away from your usual responsibilities for your well-being and for your relationships! In fact, you really, really deserve a break! Unfortunately, this year typical travel vacations are not necessarily the stress reducing experiences they may have been before the pandemic. Take some time to consider what will be relaxing, rejuvenating, and revitalizing for you. Find a balance between your needs and the inherent challenges of pandemic vacationing, then treat yourself to some time off. You’re worth it!
In peace, Gale
Photo credits: Microsoft Office, modified, and collage by Gale & her husband
Vacations for family caregivers
Ways to change up your routines during a stay-cation