The Art of Doing Nothing: Tips for Truly Unwinding on Your Next Getaway

Post originally Published January 3, 2024 || Last Updated January 4, 2024

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The Art of Doing Nothing: Tips for Truly Unwinding on Your Next Getaway - Put Down the Itinerary

The Art of Doing Nothing: Tips for Truly Unwinding on Your Next Getaway

For many travelers, vacation planning starts months in advance. We browse Pinterest for destination inspiration, scan blogs for expert tips, and craft ambitious itineraries covering every "must-see" attraction. But once we finally arrive at our long-awaited destination, we're often too exhausted from our daily grind to keep up with our own rigorous schedules. Instead of returning home refreshed, we need a vacation from our vacation.

If this sounds familiar, it's time to try a different approach - one that prioritizes rest over running around. Put down the itinerary and give yourself permission to slow down. You'll be amazed by how relaxing and restorative a little aimless wandering can be.
When touring major cities like Rome or Tokyo, skipping the schedule allows you to get lost on winding cobblestone streets and hidden alleyways most tourists never discover. Ditching a rigid plan opens up space for serendipitous discoveries - like stumbling upon a lively street festival or a cozy hole-in-the-wall restaurant mentioned in no guidebook. Exploring with no set agenda leaves ample time for people watching in lively public squares, a pastime that reveals much about local culture.
Those beach vacations can also benefit from a blank itinerary. Lounging on the sand all day with a good book is underrated. Splash around in the waves when the mood strikes. Wander down the shoreline to see what you may find. Grab a snack at a seaside shack that catches your eye. Schedule in plenty of time to simply sit back and soak up the soothing sounds of the sea.

National parks too are best experienced without an overly packed schedule. Ditch the checklist focused on viewing the main attractions, and instead allow time to discover hidden gems at your own pace. Linger along scenic trails and spend more time in areas that call to you. Go slow and appreciate the small delights - a herd of grazing elk, a canyon's unique geology, the sweet scent of wildflowers blooming.

What else is in this post?

  1. The Art of Doing Nothing: Tips for Truly Unwinding on Your Next Getaway - Put Down the Itinerary
  2. The Art of Doing Nothing: Tips for Truly Unwinding on Your Next Getaway - Silence Your Phone
  3. The Art of Doing Nothing: Tips for Truly Unwinding on Your Next Getaway - Sit Back and People Watch
  4. The Art of Doing Nothing: Tips for Truly Unwinding on Your Next Getaway - Wander Aimlessly
  5. The Art of Doing Nothing: Tips for Truly Unwinding on Your Next Getaway - Indulge in Long Meals
  6. The Art of Doing Nothing: Tips for Truly Unwinding on Your Next Getaway - Lounge by the Pool or Beach
  7. The Art of Doing Nothing: Tips for Truly Unwinding on Your Next Getaway - Treat Yourself to a Spa Treatment
  8. The Art of Doing Nothing: Tips for Truly Unwinding on Your Next Getaway - Do Absolutely Nothing

The Art of Doing Nothing: Tips for Truly Unwinding on Your Next Getaway - Silence Your Phone

We live in an always-on era, where many of us feel compelled to constantly check email, scroll social media, and respond to texts, calls, and notifications. The impulse to stay digitally connected even follows us on vacation. But allowing your devices to dominate downtime defeats the purpose of getting away. For true rest and relaxation, silence your phone.

Resist the urge to document every moment for the 'gram. Decline constant work emails pulling your focus. Temporarily mute group chats and notifications that can wait until you get home. Disconnecting digitally helps you reconnect with yourself and your surroundings. Soon you'll wonder how you ever managed to enjoy travel while attached to your phone.
Janet, a working mom of two, found herself more distracted than relaxed while at a Bahamas resort. "I spent so much time posting photos and responding to work emails, I wasn't fully present for my family," she recalls. "The next trip, I left my phone locked in the hotel safe all day. It forced me to focus on my kids and enjoy the beach. I came home much less stressed."

For Mitch, an avid hiker, the constant ping of his phone shattered the serenity while trekking through Yosemite. "I like taking photos of wildlife and scenery, but I spent more time staring at my screen than taking in the grandeur around me. Now I switch my phone to airplane mode when hiking so I can immerse myself in nature without interruption," he says.

Vacations are precious opportunities to hit pause on the daily demands that drain our mental energy. Constant smartphone use eats away at relaxation. Scientific studies back this up, linking excessive phone use to increased stress and reduced focus. Simply seeing a notification is enough to divert our attention and trigger chemical changes in the brain.
Build in tech-free time blocks to let your mind wander freely without interruption. Leave your phone behind for a leisurely neighborhood stroll, or stash it in your bag during a museum visit. Dining out? Place your device face down on the table to enjoy the ambiance and conversation. Savor moments fully present instead of viewing life through your camera lens.

Those beautiful beach sunrises are still stunning without an Instagram filter. You'll remember amazing cultural experiences long after social media feeds refresh. Disconnecting brings calm while strengthening bonds with travel companions. You may even pick up your device less often when you return home.

The Art of Doing Nothing: Tips for Truly Unwinding on Your Next Getaway - Sit Back and People Watch

Sitting back and observing the theater of life unfold around you may seem like a waste of precious vacation time. But this simple act of people watching has benefits that transform it into time well spent. Tuning into the human drama surrounding you creates space for serendipity, curiosity, and connection.
When touring fast-paced global cities, people watching allows you to slow down. Parks, public squares, and bustling markets offer prime spots to sit and take it all in. Watch skateboarders practicing new tricks, dog walkers chatting, and vendors hawking their wares. Study how locals interact, take note of popular activities, and immerse yourself in the kinetic energy. You never know what delightful scenes you may witness.
Hannah, who often explores solo, discovered people watching made her less lonely. “I'd go to a cafe in Paris, sip coffee, and take in the passersby, imagining where they were headed. Observing happy couples strolling by the Seine made me smile.” She adds, "It gave me insight into French culture I'd have missed rushing around to sights."

People watching can even lead to pleasant social interactions when you stay open. Sophia met a new friend while posted up at a Shanghai food market. “I was snacking on baozi while people watching streams of workers on lunch break when a local striker up a conversation about the food,” she recalls. “We ended up walking to a nearby temple together!”

Beyond fostering new relationships, people watching hones your observational skills, satisfaction, and empathy. Watching a smiling child eat ice cream may spark joy. Observing a woman assist an elderly stranger with groceries may rekindle your faith in humanity. Tuning into others' stories, expressions, and body language fosters awareness and connection.

This practice can be entertaining anywhere from airports to amusement parks. Follow a chatty tour group to eavesdrop on their adventures. Make up humorous backstories about customers in kitschy souvenir shops. Smile as toddlers gleefully chase pigeons in the park.

The Art of Doing Nothing: Tips for Truly Unwinding on Your Next Getaway - Wander Aimlessly

Wandering with no destination allows you to discover hidden gems and local secrets you’d miss rushing between tourist traps. Ditching the map opens you up to chance encounters and unexpected delights that become treasured travel memories.

Trevor, an avid photographer, found aimless rambling let him capture his best shots. “I was wandering the backstreets of Prague just soaking in the atmosphere when I stumbled on a tiny bookshop crammed floor to ceiling with books. It was perfect for capturing that old world charm.”

For Laura, wandering lead to her most memorable travel moments. “I was lost in the winding alleys of old town Dubrovnik when I smelled something delicious wafting from an open window and tracked it to an amazing hole-in-the-wall bakery only locals knew about. Their breads and pastries were incredible!”

Wandering works especially well in dense global cities like London, Delhi, and Shanghai where narrowly winding side streets and alleyways hold hidden gems. Let your curiosity steer your route, pausing to poke your head in welcoming shops and cafes. Follow whatever draws your eye - maybe it’s a flowering vine trailing up an ancient building or tantalizing street food sizzling at a cart.
Small towns and villages also reveal their charms when explored aimlessly by foot. Wind down country lanes lined with stone walls and grazing livestock. Stop to chat with an elderly man whittling on his porch or a farmer planting rows in her field. Wave to kids playing soccer in the village square.
Nature too enthralls when you ramble slowly with wide open senses. Follow a bubbling brook to see where it leads. Pause often to enjoy meadow wildflowers dancing in the breeze. Inhale the tangy scent of saltwater as you wander a deserted beach. Watch clouds drift lazily overhead as you meander down a country road.

The Art of Doing Nothing: Tips for Truly Unwinding on Your Next Getaway - Indulge in Long Meals

One of the simplest yet most nourishing ways to unwind on vacation is to indulge in long, leisurely meals. In our rushed regular life, sitting down to savor food is often seen as a luxury. But on getaways, surrender to the pleasure of dining slowly - this act alone can relax and rejuvenate you.

Long meals awaken and indulge all your senses. The tantalizing aroma of expertly seasoned dishes tickles your nose. Admire the visual feast laid out before you, appreciating the care given to food presentation. Delight in new exotic flavors and textures as you thoughtfully chew each bite. Enjoy the melody created by lively conversations and clinking glasses in a buzzing restaurant. Feel the satisfaction of sharing and connecting over food.
When there’s no rush, a meal becomes an immersive cultural experience versus just refueling. Laura always carves out time to sample regional specialties at cozy cafes and bistros when in France. “Sitting outside in the Parisian sun while slowly savoring buttery croissants, crusty baguettes and local cheeses with my husband is my favorite way to unwind,” she shares. “We don’t even have an agenda other than indulging in incredible French food and pretending we live there!”

Indulging in long meals also promotes mindfulness, helping you become fully present. The act of slowly tasting and savoring each flavorful bite forces you to tune into the present moment. Between bites, sit back and soak in the convivial atmosphere surrounding you. Appreciate the passion of the chef who prepared your meal. Observe happy patrons laughing with friends and family.
When you stop rushing through meals to cram more activities in, you open up space to process experiences, daydream, and just be. As Janet discovers, “Long leisurely lunches on vacation turn into therapy sessions where I reflect on how I want to live my life. It’s hard to do that when I’m rushing through a quick lunch at my desk during busy work weeks.”

So next vacation, schedule lengthy meals at inviting restaurants and cafes you can linger in without feeling rushed. Savor every bite of perfectly ripe tomato bruschetta and creamy burrata atop crispy crostini while admiring an Italian piazza view. Enjoy fragrant Vietnamese pho noodles in an alley cafe while motorbikes zoom by. Feast on tender ropa vieja shredded beef with fried plantains and black beans in an open-air Havana paladar as classic cars roll pastel colored buildings on lively streets.
If dining alone, bring a good book or journal to occupy yourself between courses without distraction. Let your thoughts wander freely. Scribble musings about your experiences thus far. Jot down sensations - the refreshing mist from ocean waves, the scent of night blooming jasmine. Capture your travel adventures through evocative details to cement the memories.

The Art of Doing Nothing: Tips for Truly Unwinding on Your Next Getaway - Lounge by the Pool or Beach

Lounging by the pool or beach is an indulgence that's worth scheduling ample time for on vacation. In our busy everyday lives, taking time to simply relax or leisurely sunbathe seems frivolous. But this is precisely why it's so restorative for the soul.

While sightseeing and checking items off your bucket list makes for an exciting trip, it can also leave you feeling drained and needing another holiday after all that rushing around. Building in pool and beach time forces you to slow down and do nothing more than simply be. Athletic types may balk at this suggestion - shouldn't vacation be filled with hiking, biking, and adventure activities? But just because lounging feels indulgent doesn't mean it lacks value.

In fact, embracing leisure is vital for your health and happiness. A landmark study on longevity conducted by Harvard researchers found relaxing - defined as "zero activity" - is a crucial factor in living longer. People who carved out time for lounging everyday, whether by the pool, napping, or reading, were significantly less stressed and lived longer on average than their busier counterparts.
Just ask Sofia, who has made lounging a priority since that trip where she never stopped sightseeing. "By day three, my feet ached so badly I could barely walk and I almost burst into tears from sheer exhaustion," she admits. "Now I always build in lazy afternoons at the pool or beach to unwind - it makes the trip so much more enjoyable."

You needn't spend the entire day unmoving to reap benefits. Even short spells of 15-30 minutes lounging in the sun significantly boosts mood and focus while decreasing anxiety and depression. Simply sitting still and doing absolutely nothing is harder than it sounds. But training your brain to tolerate idle time pays off through increased creativity, mental clarity and emotional resilience.

Lounging is especially restorative beside water, whether at the beach or poolside. The sound of waves crashing or water cascading calms the nervous system. The smell of fresh saltwater or the sensation of cool water on your skin as you float releases feel-good hormones. Gazing at the water's hypnotic, ever-changing surface quiets the mind's incessant chatter.

Sunshine boosts your vital vitamin D, which lifts your mood. Letting your mind wander without agenda or itinerary while soaking up the sun's rays sparks inspiration. Observing happy children play and splash about fills you with joy. Time simply being beside water washes your cares away.
Even reading by the pool or beach differs from your daily routine. The soundtrack of lapping waves and rustling palm fronds replaces city noise or your neighbor's lawnmower. Your book's pages flutter in the gentle sea breeze. Your focus is unbroken in the absence of nagging chores or work. No clock ticks down the minutes until your next obligation. Transporting novels or self-help books enjoyed unrushed take on new life against this serene backdrop.

The Art of Doing Nothing: Tips for Truly Unwinding on Your Next Getaway - Treat Yourself to a Spa Treatment

Indulging in a luxurious spa treatment is the ultimate way to nourish both body and mind on vacation. In our daily grind, self-care like massages are often viewed as unnecessary indulgences. But restoring this ritual rejuvenates you physically and mentally to help you return from holiday truly renewed.
Sinking into a massage after days of sightseeing dissolves muscular knots built up from hours of walking and transporting luggage. Tension melts away under the therapist's expert touch as tight shoulders and stiff necks become supple once more. Sore feet find relief in a soothing foot massage and exfoliating scrub. Just a 30 minute express massage makes a remarkable difference versus tackling your vacation run ragged and exhausted.
Rebecca admits she initially balked at her husband's suggestion they book massages in Hawaii. "An hour-long massage costs what - like half a luau show for the family? But I'm a total convert now. That massage was pure bliss and worth every penny. I was as loose and relaxed as after a strong cocktail - but could still function!"

Look beyond massages to treatments tailored to care for skin nourished by long days under the sun, salty sea air, and chlorinated pools. A brightening facial leaves your complexion as glowing as your renewed spirit. Body scrubs exfoliate away dull surface skin so you literally emerge renewed. Gentle wraps hydrate sun-parched skin while you drift into a meditative state. Reflexology foot treatments push reset for tired soles.
Spa days also offer sanctuary from the stimulation of non-stop sightseeing. The ideal reset button when feeling overwhelmed, time spent cocooned in the hushed relaxation room sipping herbal tea untethers you from reality. Here you finally slow down, letting the soft notes of meditative music still your mind's ceaseless chatter as you daydream from the comfort of a cozy robe.
Mindfully savoring every step of your spa ritual further elevates this into soul-nourishing self-care. Inhale the soothing aromas of essential oils and minerals during your soak or scrub. Notice every sensation during your massage or facial - the peaceful coolness of the sheet beneath you, the therapist's confident yet gentle touch. Appreciate the care taken to create this oasis just for you.

Terri explains that her spa days birth realizations she misses in daily hustle. "During my massage I suddenly thought, 'Why do I put so much pressure on myself at home when I'm so content right now doing nothing?' That set me on a journey to slow down more in daily life."

The Art of Doing Nothing: Tips for Truly Unwinding on Your Next Getaway - Do Absolutely Nothing

Doing absolutely nothing on vacation goes against everything we're conditioned to believe about travel. Shouldn't every moment be optimally seized rushing between bucket list sights or partaking in cultural experiences that broaden our horizons? But the expectation that we must fill vacation time actively can itself become exhausting. That's why scheduling intervals where you deliberately do nothing is essential for true rejuvenation.

Trevor used to pack his itineraries covering top attractions from dawn to dusk. "I'd stumble back to the hotel at midnight ready to collapse, then drag myself out at the crack of dawn to do it all again," he recalls. But after a string of vacations that left him needing a holiday from his holiday, he now schedules in free days with no agenda. "Waking up and realizing I have nowhere I need to be and nothing I need to do is the best feeling!"

Allowing yourself a day of indulgent laziness to recover from jet lag upon arrival is a great way to ease into vacation mode. Ditto for a recuperative pause mid-trip when you're facing temple or museum fatigue. But reconceptualizing downtime not as a necessary evil but an activity unto itself is powerful. Give yourself permission to laze in bed all day reading trashy novels, binge watching movies, or staring out the window. Lace up your sneakers and take a meandering stroll with no destination other than where your whims lead. Wander the hotel grounds exploring verdant gardens, lounging in hammocks, or dipping your toes in the pool.

Sandra used to obsess over maximizing every vacation moment. "I'd research top-rated restaurants months in advance, then was too exhausted after sightseeing all day to enjoy the elaborate meals I'd planned!" she laughs. Now she happily skips fancy dinners some nights for room service and bad reality TV.

Reframing laziness as luxury allows you to sink into it fully. Jennifer admits, "I'd sometimes skip hotel amenities I was paying for to cram in more sightseeing. Now I'll happily spend all day at the spa guilt-free. It costs the same whether I use it or not!"

Resisting constant stimulation trains your mind to tolerate stillness and silence. Muscles release when they finally stop contracting. Ideas blossom in the vacancy left by a blank itinerary. Life's small joys - watching a sunset, listening to music, giggling over inside jokes - are savored richer without competing obligations.

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