lying in a hammock photoAll too often we come back from vacations more stressed out than when we left.  We head off on some tour where our schedules are tight and we have to get up at 7am to meet a bus and then go here and go there and get on and get off and be here and be there with never a moment to relax.  Or we make our own schedules and are riding planes long distances, which makes our backs sore and brings jet lag fatigue and blurry vision the first few days.  Local customs and requirements are taxing and local peddlers are annoying.  Local beds are local beds and hotel clerks pretend to be friendly while overcharging us for luggage storage.  We come back exhausted and it takes us days, weeks, sometimes months to recover.

Vacations aren’t supposed to be like this.  Vacations are supposed to be times of relaxation, regeneration, or chocolate pie for the soul.  But all too often we take vacations that have “status” and are expensive, rather than vacations that are nurturing.

Below is a list of vacations that are both nurturing and inexpensive.

  1. Stay Home. Lounge around the house or apartment in your underwear. Read a book.  Do a puzzle.  Go fishing in a local river or snorkeling in a local lake.  Paint the bathroom in polka dots.  Hang new curtains in the kitchen.  Rent funny old movies and laugh your head off.  Go to local events (wine-tasting, free concerts, craft fairs, etc.).  Have a party and invite all the friends you have been too busy to see for a while and recapture the spirit of your youth (even if you are still a youth).   No rush, no bother; do anything you want to do but haven’t had time to do.
  2. Visit a Friend. Pay your respects to a friend or relative who lives in the woods, the mountains, near a lake or by the ocean. Maybe a distance has grown between you since college or high school but that can be quickly overcome.  A few weeks of connectedness with these old chums will be much more nurturing than a thousand trips to Rome or Madagascar.  Sit out on the deck and talk about old times, play Monopoly, or drink Mint Julips.  Go to a nearby beach and lie in the sun.  Explore the scenic  mountains .  Relax and enjoy.
  3. Go Camping. You can usually reserve a camping site for two weeks and at a very moderate price. All you need is a tent and a cot or two and you’re all set.  You can go to exotic places, such as Cape Cod or the Grand Canyon , where hotels are over-priced, stay in a state park and explore the nearby sights with the money you’ve saved by camping.  The people at camp sites are usually friendly and there is a community spirit you won’t find in a city vacation.  This is a hassle-free vacation where you can smell he roses (and the wild-flowers and minty leaves) and see the stars at night.
  4. Finish that Project. We all have projects that, month after month, year after year, beg us to finish them.   Now is the time!  Build that shed or garage.  Complete that series of paintings.   Write that novel.  Make that movie.   Create that website.  Write some songs and upload them to Youtube.  Or help somebody else do these things.  Yes, it is work, but it’s the kind of work that will make you sigh with relief and beam with pride when you finally do it, and you’ll return to work feeling proud and nurtured.
  5. Help People in Need. “It’s better to give than to receive,” goes the old saying.  So if you really want to nurture your soul, do something completely different this vacation.  Volunteer in a soup kitchen, a hospital, or an old folks home; go to a third world country that needs your expertise; or take a quick jaunt to a country that was just hit by a disaster.  Go any place where they need help, Nepal, Yemen, Haiti, or Outer Mongolia.  Some organizations that will fund such a trip.  Spend two, three, even four weeks doing for others, and you’ll return feeling better about yourself and the world.
  6. Explore Your Neighborhood. Often people live in New York but have never gone to the top of the Empire State Building. Once when I visited Niagara Falls I asked a local young person how it felt to live in Niagara Falls and was told, “Boring.”  When it is right there and you see it every day it can become boring.  But there are a lot of things you can do and see right in your own neighborhood, your own state, or in adjacent states, that might have seemed boring, but only because you never really took a good look.   Once you look at the local sights through the eyes of a visitor instead of a through the jaded eyes of a local, things will feel different.
  7. Go to a Yoga Retreat. There are yoga retreats everywhere and they are often fairly inexpensive. For example, California has a Yoga Life Internship Program that combines a yoga and work exchange program and only costs $500 for one month.   Young people might especially welcome such a vacation but all ages are welcome.  There is generally simple vegetarian fare and a room included in the package.  Most retreats are off somewhere in nature and offer classes in yoga, diet, and other things, and they have friendly atmospheres that foster good experiences with like-minded individuals.

These vacations are not necessarily the kind you would want to write home about, but they’re the kind that will truly rejuvenate you.  They are psychologically healthy, not stressful vacations.  A good vacation, like good wine, leaves a warm glow inside your body, not knots in your stomach.

 

 

Photos by Corey Ann, Living in Monrovia,