On the weekend we returned from our first real vacation in over a year. Spending time on the relaxed island of St. Kitts was just what we needed to gain a new perspective about life. Until we took the vacation, neither of us realized how vacations can restore the soul and renew energy levels. This is especially true for Canadians who are now settling in to the winter season with dropping temperatures, fewer daylight hours, and less sunshine to lift the spirit.
During the past year we had to cancel two vacations due to my mobility challenges following hip replacement surgery. This travel was possible only because I was ready to face the long corridors of airports and the line-ups for multiple security clearances once again. The distances I walked to get through four airports en route stretched my capacity (no direct flights to St. Kitts from Toronto except from January to March) but I was pleased that I managed without too much discomfort or pain. Walking the distances gave a great sense of accomplishment. Buoyed with confidence, my mind was open to enjoy all the benefits of a vacation in the Caribbean.
During our time on the island the days were filled with the usual vacation activities: time on the beach, time in the ocean, time at the pool, time exploring local sites, great dining experiences, and lots of rest. Routines were set aside. My mind wondered and I enjoyed every minute away.
Since returning I have been reflecting on the benefits of a vacation and why even the postworksavvy person who is no longer subjected to work related stress feels happier both during the vacation and after returning home.
Benefits of Vacations
No matter where you go on vacation, the major benefit is that you have a changed perspective when you return home. If the vacation has been a wonderful experience you have beautiful memories that keep bringing smiles to your face. I will always remember the wonderful feeling of those soft night breezes on my face as we watched the full moon on the Atlantic during the evening before our departure. Even if the vacation has left you feeling dissatisfied, returning home makes you look at your environment differently.
Vacations renew energy levels. No matter how long or how short a vacation may be, I always experience a surge of energy after returning home. Suddenly mundane tasks like catching up on emails, taking care of the laundry, completing house hold tasks and doing errands involve less effort. The time away from daily routines obviously provides refreshment as I find that my step is lighter and I am humming my favourite tunes as I go through the day.
Vacations allow time to review and re-evaluate where you are on your life’s journey. As the world goes by without the usual daily frustrations, there is time to think about projects you have undertaken and new goals you might pursue. I found myself evaluating my retirement lifestyle and decided to tweak some of my routines. This informal review also affirmed many of the postworksavvy choices that I have made since retiring including focusing on physical health, rest, nutrition, hobbies and relationships that satisfy my soul.
Vacation time can also strengthen couple relationships. Sharing experiences, laughing together and taking time to have the conversations that matter are great by-products of those endless hours beside the ocean. It is sad to watch vacationing couples who are going through the motions of togetherness; I am grateful that my husband and I continue to enjoy our couple vacations — that we have time to dance, to eat and to celebrate our relationship.
Overall Happiness Grows
Although research questions whether the benefits of vacations are long-lasting, there is no question that vacations do make you happier — at least in the short term. Travel to a country with a different culture and a different cuisine has left me ready to try some new things in my life. When my creative juices are stimulated by new experiences, I am happier.
The renewed energy and a change in perspective have enhanced my overall well-being. Returning from a third world country, I find myself more appreciative of small things that I take for granted — smooth roads, street lights, reliable electrical connections, abundant supplies of food. It may be colder in Canada but our lifestyle is one that many people in the world envy. Gratitude increases my happiness.
I feel less stress. I am rested. I have a stronger connection with my inner world which enhances my overall mental health. The mundane problems of daily living don’t grate on my nerves. My optimism is greater and I am more hopeful about the world in general.
In short, my happiness level is improved following our brief holiday on St. Kitts. The abundant sunshine and the lush tropical vegetation at the beautiful resort contributed. But my conclusion is that the overall vacation experience is what makes me happier — and my resolve is to carry this happy feeling in my heart during the next few hectic days of the holiday season.