Earl Wilson: A vacation is what you take when you can no longer take what you’ve been taking.
Do you have events on your calendar that are months away? Not just someone’s birthday on a recurring date, but something you really are looking forward to. A play, a reading by your favorite author, dinner with a long-time friend, weekend vacation…things like that.
We’ve discovered how much we like cruising. We took a seven-day cruise this past January (the year before, we “only” took a six-day cruise) and we’ve been wanting to book a cruise for 2018. And we did that just yesterday! We’re booked on the same cruise we took in January to Mexico for a week. The minute we made the deposit, I felt relief. Almost a sense of calm.
I am by no means under immense stress right now. Life is pretty good. But the thought of being away from everything for seven days (albeit, it’s 277 days from now) is incredibly calming.
My countdown calendar shows me significant upcoming dates and they are all 215 or more days away. But the one that stands out is the damned cruise. I need to set some goals before then (i.e., save some money, lose some weight), and I’m already working on a plan.
When we imagine the most blissful part of our vacation, we picture ourselves sipping coconut cocktails at a barefoot bar or stumbling across a beautiful waterfall. But the happiest part of your vacation actually happens way before you ever step foot at your destination. According to a 2010 study, planning or anticipating your trip can make you happier than actually taking it.
While all vacationers enjoy pre-trip happiness, the study found that people only experienced a boost in happiness returning from vacation if their trip was relaxing. If their vacation was deemed stressful, their post-trip happiness levels were comparable to those who hadn’t taken a vacation at all. Pre-trip happiness is entirely different. All vacationers experienced a significant boost in happiness during the planning stages of their trip because, as the researchers suggest, the vacationers were looking forward to the good times ahead. The study’s author states: “The practical lesson for an individual is that you derive most of your happiness from anticipating the trip.”
It’s perhaps not surprising that 69 percent of Americans plan vacations during work hours, adding some much needed escapism to their daily routines. And you should actually take that vacation. A recent HuffPost/YouGov poll revealed that 32 percent of Americans used zero vacation days in 2015. Another study suggested that Americans are too stressed to take time off. Just remember: vacation is healthy and more Americans need to be both planning one and taking one.
To maximize the pre-trip happiness boost by fully indulging in the excitement of planning, talk to people about your plans, brag about them on social media, and revel in both the anticipation and FOMO you’re causing. I probably won’t start bragging until that 277-days-away number lessens a bit.