By Laura Pattara
September 15, 2020 | 6 minute read
It turns out that the key to improving our wellbeing isn’t travelling longer but travelling more often! Yah for the long weekend !
As a long-term traveller, or ‘modern nomad’, I understand why people hit the road for months, if not years at a time. It’s heavenly, yet when it comes to our wellbeing and specifically our mental health, the message is clear - don't travel longer, travel more often.
For the last few decades researchers have been trying to figure out what the most beneficial approach to travelling is. And taking a longer holiday less often is not nearly as good for our wellbeing as taking weekend breaks more frequently. If your idea of travelling is about stress-free relaxation, unplugging from technology and recharging your drained batteries, then a longer vacation is not necessarily the solution.
While everyone in my life thinks I am on an extended holiday, the reality is that I still need to balance work and relaxation. I plan for weekends away to maintain my sanity and keep my stress levels low. My routine may well look different to yours yet it's routine nonetheless! So if you want to improve your wellbeing, the message is clear - enjoy regular weekends away. And if you need more convincing here are six additional reasons why!
You will enjoy the post-holiday boost more often
Dutch health psychologist Jessica de Bloom claims that everyone floats on a little cloud of happiness for about two weeks after they enjoy a relaxing break away. The amazing aspect of this finding is that it seems to hold true whether we head away for the weekend or on a 3-month holiday. This means that, if we go away every second weekend, we'll be floating on a high all year long!
Of course the reality is not quite so clear cut as it seems we enjoy the biggest post-travel boost during the first week back and then by the end of the second week our levels of happiness return to their pre-holiday levels, whatever they were. But, the basic idea is still clear, travel more often and you’ll be happier, longer.
Weekend trips are less stressful to plan (and enjoy) than longer holidays
When we add up the time we spend planning accommodation, travel schedules, time off work, budgeting and sightseeing, organising a longer holiday involves a lot more time (and pain) than the average weekend away. Who’s going to water the plants and feed the fish?
More importantly, in my experience, the planning never really ends when the longer holiday starts, as unexpected events require us to alter our plans and there are always the smaller decisions to make along the way. In contrast, once your weekend away is planned and booked, you can usually relax. The packing is easier, the arrangements less complicated and the smaller decisions easier to manage. This means weekends away deliver a bigger bang for your buck: a wellbeing boost for less time (and money) than a long holiday. It’s a win-win!
A weekend away can make you more productive, and happier, in the workplace
According to Hays Recruitment, Australians are working smarter today than we ever have in the past, taking advantage of more flexible working options, working from home where possible and even taking slight pay cuts in order to enjoy long weekends more often. Some employers have also realised that if they give people more time to enjoy leisure activities, they’ll be more productive.
Yet Australia still ranks higher than Europe and North America when it comes to weekly working hours (check out this interesting international comparison), so although we’re working fewer hours than we did in the past, we are still among the hardest working peeps around. Yes, we get four weeks off a year (which many others around the world do not) and many of us seek more flexible working schedules, but we're not necessarily taking advantage to unwind. If we relax more on weekends, we'll not only improve our wellbeing we'll also be happier and more productive during the week.
You can unplug on a weekend but not on a longer trip
You don’t need to be a 20-year-old insta-fanatic to feel a little twinge of anxiety at the thought of unplugging from modern technology. Whilst it becomes almost impossible to do so for any extended period of time, switching the phone off for just two or three days is actually doable and much easier than you think. Make it a goal on your next weekend away or head somewhere that's off the grid. As long as you don’t have to worry about work or home emergencies, you'll find it makes for a very sweet holiday indeed!
Weekends away can do wonders for your relationship
Whether it’s with your significant other, your family or good friends, weekends away can keep your relationships in order and feeling nurtured. Spending time with important people in our life gives us time to re-connect, relax and have fun in each other's company. While we may not be able to travel around Europe with our friends or family, a weekend is often the perfect amount of time to be together. So do your friendships and relationships a favour: take some glorious time-out together to enjoy each other’s company.
A weekend will feel much longer if you do new things – science says so!
It’s crazy but true: fill your weekends with new activities in new places and a three-day vacation can feel like a month off! Stay home and do what you usually do, and you can feel like you missed having a weekend all together. This is because new sensory inputs and experiences have the effect of slowing down time, in a super cool phenomenon scientists call “time’s subjective expansion”. You can read more about this, right here
Incidentally, I rate this as the single biggest benefit of being a modern nomad – my partner and I may travel at a snail-pace but our movement is constant, our backyard changes every couple of days and that makes us feel like we’re literally living a longer life than we would if we were to stay put in one spot.
So, while heading away for the weekend may seem indulgent at first glance, truth is, it’s actually a much-needed boost to our wellbeing, our productivity, our relationships and our sense of time. What have we got to lose?
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