By LA Jamison
Our expectations and hopes are never as high as when we are planning vacations. As matter of fact, research shows that our level of excitement and stress is much higher in the planning stage than the vacation itself. Oddly enough, we are happiest planning than the reality of the vacation itself. That says something! A lot of this has to do with the ideal fantasy we can hold about what we want our vacation to be like. Our imagination works overtime and often that vacation hotspot markets itself to us in a way that feeds into that fantasy. In ways, yes, these fantasies can and are fulfilled, but in other ways not so much. Despite some brilliant sales tactics, somethings do fall short than we had hoped. So what do you do? Just like anything else in life, fantasies often shatter in the light of certain realities and if you aren't careful those realities can shatter your vacation. Many of a vacation have been ruined that way. A plane delayed, a last minute mis-hap, forgotten items or a screw up in your reservations. There are several things that can happen. For instance, on my most recent vacation, the car keys got locked in our vehicle and triple A had to be called. After verbally saying to everyone "things can only get better from here," tongue in cheek, my parked vehicle was hit by a neighbors car only moments later. Then upon arriving at the resort/campground in the dead of night, we got stuck in the tent lot, at a dead end, unable to turn the RV around with the narrow road and vehicles....AFTER hitting a tree and nearly hitting a parked vehicle in our attempts to turn the big sucker around. We had to spend the first night there right in the road until morning. If we had let it, we had plenty of reasons to chalk up the vacation to the status of a disaster and pout our way to the end of it.
So, here are 4 ways to guard against yourself from ruining your own vacation and ensure you have a vacation that is out of this world!
1. Keep a Throw-Away Mentality
There's a song by Taylor Swift called "Shake It Off". You need to think of that song. Commit to throwing off any and all stresses that aren't life threatening for the span of this trip. My car getting hit and us getting stuck at dead end provided more than few stressful moments. But what helped significantly is that none of us held onto these moments by evenings end. There is going to be at least one moment that is stressful or negative and you have to decide beforehand to be focused on having fun and a non-stressful time. This means you don't act the same as you might at work or in your everyday life if you are worrisome or a detail orientated task master. It will be a particular challenge for you if you have that type of personality--I know because I tend to worry AND I've seen detailed orientated task masters ruin their own vacations by spreading their misery over details falling through the cracks. You have to determine at some point that your goal is to enjoy yourself and unless it is life or death, everything else get's thrown to the side that hinders a good time. No if's and's or buts about it, it's time for a break-up....
It is time you had break up with stress even if it is just for this vacation. Vacations often only come for most of us once a year, if that. Some are easy-breezy as a tropical breeze and others can be littered with problems like the Rocky Mountains. In either case, you really need to toss your cares away and it may take repeated tosses. If it is a bad day, throw it out as a bad day and determine that the next day will be better. If others around you aren't able to let go of it, find ways to interject humor in order to lighten the mood. If that isn't doable for you then promote this idea of being focused on making the best of it since your time is short and money has been spent. Most people can relate to the money aspect and will put the effort in. Make a commitment now that anything stressful or negative isn't to rule your vacation. You can come back to stressful things later.
2. Do Something(s) You Don't Normally Do
Wherever you go, you will probably get some sort of itinerary on the options of things you can do. There may be things that you normally do and the big ticket events. Maybe when you are by the pool, you typically have a drink or read a book. Or if you go to a dance bar, you may always stay with the people you came with. Perhaps when you shop for items, you always shop for yourself or you always shop more for others. I encourage you to do something different as much as possible to make this a real memorable out- of- this-world vacation. If you usually buy for yourself, buy something for someone else or even buy a drink for the person behind you. If you usually buy for others, buy yourself something memorable. Instead of putting your nose in a book the whole time by the pool, get in the pool or Jacuzzi when others are in there and strike up a conversation. Take a ride down that water slide and be like a big kid. Try that zip line or scuba excursion. Instead of just dancing or drinking with your same base of friends, go up to someone don't know even for just a little and dance with them. Stretch yourself. You will never meet these people again so make the best of it. You never know what that might do for yourself or someone else. If you always swim in the daytime, try a nighttime swim. If you always swim in a swimsuit and have the ability to, skinny dip instead! Splurge on an expensive dinner or a massage if you don't usually do so. The exhilaration alone from trying something new is worth the reward alone. It doesn't have to be something pricey. It can be as simple as taking a hike or walk somewhere that intrigues you. Keep your expectations low and just try some new things. More often than not, these stretches will be some of the highlights of your vacation. Try to do one stretch a day, even something little. It will make your vacation to an out of this world experience that you weren't expecting.
3. Talk to People You Don't Know--There was a guy on my vacation that still sticks out in my mind. While at this resort, there were chances to be social like at the pool or dancing or eating in the diner. This guy always stuck to himself and pretty much had an perpetual frown for the four days we were there. He stuck to reading and looking at his cell phone most anywhere I saw him. It is a challenge to be social especially when you go on a trip alone or are shy. Would if the person isn't responsive and you are rejected?
It is important to understand that people are much more friendlier and have their guards down on vacation. It was a stretch for me to reach out to people I didn't know. I didn't want to do it but I also didn't want to be miserable either swimming alone at the pool or alone on the dance floor. Your chances that someone won't want to engage in social conversation with you are low unless they are already engaged in a conversation with others. For example, when I went to a diner by myself one morning, I didn't really want to eat by myself so I just went up to another guy and explained I don't like to eat alone and he welcomed me to sit down. It turned out that we knew some of same of the people at the resort, and had many similar life experiences. Now we are connected on Facebook. I met two incredible people this way who are now FB friends just from this one trip. Of course, familiarize yourself with your resort's surroundings and you can judge who might also be alone or open to socializing. You can feel that out with short quips about the weather or asking where they are from. If they stick around, the person is usually open for more conversation.
You may be on vacation to get away from people and that's fine. Everyone is different. However, even just saying hello or sharing common experiences that you are having with others while passing by really makes your vacation far more enjoyable than if your lips are clammed shut with a frown that drives people away from you. This is particularly true in resort or hotel settings with people who you are spending a few days or longer with. Light banter and even deeper conversations can make a sense of temporary community and in some cases friendships or networking that could last a lifetime.
4. Go Off the Beaten Path
This one is similar to #3. We usually like creating some sort of plan on what we will do or events we want to go to on our vacation. At any amusement park, for example, we pick the path and the rides we MUST go on. By and large, your choice is everyone else's which can make for long lines. Often my family went the re-verse route after living near Orlando theme parks for years and we hit the "Biggies" later. New-bies to the parks didn't know this. Many jokes have been made about waiting Disney World/Land lines. Our off the beaten path always brought us to rides, shops and sights we wouldn't have noticed before. It made the bigger events much more enjoyable and more manageable crowd wise.
Are you driving or flying with a big lay over? If you have the time, take some time to stop and check out a path you wouldn't normal stop to see. During your vacation, besides all the usual hot spots which are fun too, can you take a moonlit walk or see parts of the resort that intrigue you? Don't be beholden to a strict schedule that feels like a school or work schedule where you can't take a detour or have time to yourself because there is just so much to do that you don't have time to stop. This is the time to take the long way or "the scenic route" even if it is just to give yourself a chance to reflect on what is going on around you. Breath it in. Check out all that is around you, not just the main events. You might miss out on a real special moment with yourself or your loved one. It could be as simple as a special cafe or store you might not have seen if you just stayed on a rush to the big events.
Here's some inspirational quotes to that effect:
"Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail." Ralph Waldo Emerson.
"I see my path, but I don't know where it leads. Not knowing where I'm going is what inspires me to travel it." Rosalia de Castro
To wrap this up, make your vacation truly out of this world and not let it get sabotaged, do the following;
1. Keep a Throw-Away Mentality regarding stresses that come up.
2. Do something you wouldn't normally do or go see something you wouldn't see.
3. Talk with people where you are staying that you wouldn't normally talk to.
4. Take some time, breath things in, and go off the beaten path for sights unseen.