A number of years ago I was horribly ill all by myself in a national park in China, where I didn’t see a single other foreigner for three days and couldn’t communicate with anyone. NOT fun! Am I the only one who gets myself into this sort of mess? I was taking to a friend recently who did not enjoy his vacation and was feeling like the only person in the world who doesn’t have fabulous holidays. Just as most human beings live under the illusion that everyone else is more emotionally secure, well-organized and has a better love life, similarly we tend to assume that others also have better vacations. For anyone who is feeling dissatisfied in this area, or who has ever felt that way in the past, this month’s article is for you. Have you ever wondered why vacations sometimes suck? Sure, we can blame it on the mosquitos or the lousy hotel or the protests that shut down the airport, but those little details are not the real issue. As with many things in life, some holidays may SEEM like a really good idea, but the rules for making a good vacation choice are basically the same standards that apply for making any other decision. Here are top three things to consider when planing your next trip. 1. Would the vacation help to meet your mental, physical, emotional or spiritual needs? If you work eighty hours a week, don’t get enough sleep and don’t eat properly, any vacation where you can rest and eat healthy food will seem like heaven. Likewise, if you adore your family but don’t get to see your children very much, any holiday where you get to spend time with them will be satisfying. On the other hand, if your life is already pretty balanced it may not be immediately obvious what kind of trip would meet your needs. (The plus side of this, of course, is that your life is awesome.)
2. Are the planned activities aligned with your values? I realize that vacation and values do not often appear in the same sentence, but I’m not referring to right and wrong, black and white morality. I am talking about what is important to you. If your top values are adventure, self-sufficiency and nature you may want to go camping by yourself in Colorado or climb Mount Everest. Whereas if your top values are human connection, making a difference and learning you might want to build a house with Habitat for Humanity or teach refugees. This may seem super obvious, but how many times have you or someone you know gone on a vacation that that wasn’t a fit for their personality? You go and lay on the beach when your personality yearns for adventure, or you spend lots of time in museums when you don’t really care about art or history.
3. Are you likely to have the quality and quantity of human connection that you desire? Have you ever traveled with someone who drove you nuts or bored you silly? Have you ever taken a trip alone in a place where everyone else was in couples or on family vacations? Both are good recipes for having a lousy time. Of course this is the trickiest criteria. No matter how well you plan, there is no guarantee that you will meet people you will like, or that the friend you have known for years won’t drive you batty once you stuck together 24/7. That said, there are ways to travel that increase your likelihood of meeting like-minded people, for example, doing activities that you enjoy. (This sounds like dating advice, doesn’t it, but the same principle applies.) Also, if you go to places that cater to people like you, families, couples, singles, long-term travelers, etc. you will be more likely to make friends.
The nice thing about a holiday, even a lousy one, is that you do come back with a new perspective; you understand yourself and your world better. And if all else fails you can just show your friends your beautiful pictures and make them jealous. :-)