Take a quick scroll through social media on any given day and you’re likely to be met with image after image of beautiful people in gorgeous far off locales. Italy… Greece… Spain… France… sunning themselves under a tropical sun or zipping along a winding road in Europe. The images are beautiful and aspirational… and enough to make even the most resolute among us come down with a serious case of FOMO, especially if you’re scrolling during your lunch break from the “comfort” of your cubicle.
Yes, summer offers the ideal time to get away, and yes, it can be difficult to look at those beautiful images on your phone if an extravagant vacation just isn’t in the cards for you. Gone are the days when being subjected to someone else’s vacation photos meant a slideshow in their game room while munching on cheese and crackers (you know, if you couldn’t think of an adequate excuse to bow out). These days, those vacation photos are perfectly-lit, seemingly styled by fashion’s elite, and splashed all over Instagram for you and the world to see. No shade to the #adventurers and #wanderlust-ers among us, but a pricey vacay isn’t the only path to an epic summer adventure.
Whether you’re staying put due to financial reasons (hey, vacations are expensive) or because you live in a state that’s too pretty to leave when the weather gets nice (looking at you, New England), there are plenty of ways to enjoy all the benefits of a vacation without actually shelling out all that dough or leaving incredible weather behind.
But just what are the benefits of time off? Besides the obvious (sleep, enjoying time with family), the benefits of a vacation are well documented and far reaching.
If you always seem to sleep like a baby when you’re enjoying your time off, you’re not alone. When our regular schedules are interrupted by vacation time, often the bad habits and stressful thoughts that go with them are disrupted too. This helps quell the cycle of restless nights spent tossing and turning as you obsess over work and, well, life. A relaxing vacation could be just what you need to reset your sleep schedule and get some quality shut eye. Bonus: more and better sleep often leads to better productivity at work!
This one shouldn’t come as much of a surprise to anyone, but vacation time = less stress. In much the same way as they improve our sleep, the American Psychological Association determined that vacations support stress reduction by literally removing us from the environments that cause that stress to begin with. As in, the office and our busy home lives. By clocking out of work and checking in to some time off, you’re giving both body and mind some much-needed rest.
Have you ever taken a vacation – or even an intentional work-free weekend – and noticed a boost of productivity and focus upon returning to work? That’s no coincidence! Taking time off could actually improve your performance and overall satisfaction at your job, potentially thanks to the boost in happiness you get from simply taking those hard-earned vacation days. This is good news for you — and your employer!
Despite all the positive findings — and envy-inducing IG pics from the vacation-positive population out there — most US employees only take about half their granted vacation time. That’s akin to tossing out half your summer weekends! It’s understandable, though. Many people see those two weeks off and lead themselves to believe they have to go all out — and feel discouraged as a result. But really, all the benefits of taking time off can be reaped much closer to home — even in a day.
If a big vacation is out of reach, or you’re simply looking for a change of scenery, a simple day trip to a new locale could be your ticket to relaxation. That’s right, a day trip. Something that can be accomplished on a weekend, but for ultimate “vacation mode” benefits, should be enjoyed as a real, live vacation day. With all the pressure to plan something big and IG-worthy, many of us forget what exists in our own backyards – or we may not have even discovered it yet! How often have you or someone you know expressed regret at not having seen a local landmark or experienced a popular destination despite the fact that it’s just a hop, skip and jump away? Make this summer the summer of day trips and start checking those bucket list items off the list.
Planning the Perfect Day Trip
If you’re having trouble even plotting out a simple excursion in the next town over, there are plenty of apps and resources to help you out. This author also highly recommends the strategy of simply getting off the highway and driving! A few to consider:
For the Adventure Seeker
All Trails (a crowd-sourced trail finder) is ideal for the outdoors-obsessed among us. Discover trails, parks and other natural wonders within your region and beyond. With an easy-to-follow ratings system and reviews and info provided by members, there’s a trail for just about everybody.
For the Lover of (Super) Weird Landmarks
From a scale model of the solar system spaced out across the state of Maine to a statue of a horse in a hazmat suit in Arvada, Colorado, Roadside America helps users discover weird and wonderful hidden gems across the U.S. Search your state or the next state over and pick a destination, the landmark is simply a guide – you fill in the rest!
For the All-inclusive Expert
If you’d rather not leave anything up to chance, Roadtrippers allows you to plot your entire drive – whether it’s a short day trip or a trip across the country – and view lodging, food & drink, attractions and more all in one place. With plenty of lists available, Roadtrippers is also an excellent resource for vacation day inspiration!
Many are quick to write off day trips as not vacation-worthy, but really, just as a trip abroad can open your mind to different cultures and ways of living, hopping in the car and seeing something new on a local level could potentially make an even larger impact. You may pass by farms you weren’t aware of on your way to a new-to-you museum (grab some goodies at the farm stand to make a picnic!), or learn of a famous local dish at a greasy spoon diner. You’ll see how others live and work in your general area, and by dining and shopping at locally-owned small businesses while on your trip, you’ll be supporting the health of your local economy. It’s a win-win-win!
When that big, beautiful vacation finally does roll around, you may discover you’re all the more prepared for it thanks to your new-found love of day tripping!
Do you have a day trip planned this summer? Share your destinations with us by tagging us with @AvocadoMattress or #AvocadoGreenMagazine on social!
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