Sunday, April 05, 2009

The Stress-Free Zone

Last week, while vacationing on the Caribbean island of St. John, I experienced what may have been the most relaxing day of my life; I guess you could say I was in a stress-free zone. What factors contributed to this state of bliss?

- The mental clarity achieved hiking to the beach

- The meditating lull of the sea

- The beauty of the blue sky

- Nothing more taxing to do than watch the palms of the palm trees sway in the wind

- The poetry of the novel I was reading; The Blind Assassinwhich is Margaret Atwood at her best

- The ability to finally shut off the nagging voice that’s constantly reminding me of all the things I need to do

As my vacation came to a close, I couldn’t help but contemplate why it took ‘til day five of my vacation to achieve this stress-free zone. Here are a few things I could have done differently to help my vacation get off on a stress free note:

- Don’t over-promise. We were scheduled to spend our first night of travel in Chicago. I had promised my husband I'd leave work early, so we could get an early start, knowing my boss always keeps me ‘til the last possible minute the day before I leave for vacation. Sure enough, I was given a last minute project that kept me working much later than anticipated. This set the tone for an impatient husband, a hurried exit and several forgotten last minute items.

- Don't multi-task. The night before our vacation, I packed my bags while talking on the phone. Can you see what's coming – yes, more forgotten items. I recently read that multitasking never works. I think this is a true statement; at least it never seems to work for me.

- Take advantage of technology. Before leaving, I had decided not to add cell phone coverage for the Virgin Islands to my cell phone plan; I was unhappy with the projected extra fees and roaming charges. This was a mistake. Pay phones don't really exist anymore and if they do they are in disrepair. This caused all sorts of complications with our car rental company, our villa caretaker and our airline. We returned home to find messages from all parties on our home phone providing valuable information about flight changes and meeting arrangements. I'm sure the parties above assumed they were leaving messages on our cell phone. Also, it would have been easier to book excursions and make restaurant reservations with a cell phone rather than having to rush back to our villa for confirmation messages.

- Simplify your routine. After a full day of travel, arrange for an easy meal the night of arrival; either eat in or go to a restaurant within walking distance. Also, on what was the most relaxing day of my life we had planned a late afternoon hike, but not wanting to leave the beach decided to forego it. We had finally learned if we wanted to truly relax we had to simplify our routine.

- Be more organized. Make a list of items that need to be packed and then actually use the list. Once home, add any forgotten or neglected items to the list. Save the list to use when packing for the next vacation.

- Vacation at a familiar destination. I never used to understand why someone would want to vacation at the same place every year. Now I get it. It took us two full days to become acclimated with St. John. If you are truly looking for relaxation, familiarity is a key factor. Also, we discovered many ways we could cut costs if we were to return to St. John. If you travel to the same destination each year, you are more likely to pack the right items and are less likely to encounter unforeseen surprises.


  1. These are great tips! I specifically like the point you make about why people travel to the same destinations over and over again, I often wondered about that but now it makes sense after your insight.

  2. These are really great tips. I wish I would have read this post sooner so I could have enjoyed my own vacation a little better.

    thanks for linking up for #FlashbackFriday