Take a look down my itinerary list for vacation and sometimes it looks like a long grocery list. A grocery list that would take 2-3 hours at the store to complete! Have you ever experienced this scenario? How can I balance seeing everything that I would want to see, with relaxing a bit? It is a vacation, right? This is your time away from work, you’re supposed to get your mind right and recharge your body. Are we able to balance the sightseeing with relaxation?
I am going to be honest, I struggle constantly with this scenario when I sit down to create an itinerary for a vacation. I love to see and do things on vacation. Spending my time learning about the history of the location that we are at, the food to indulge in and the top sites that make it a popular destination. I inherited this mindset from my grandfather. I remember as a kid, my grandpa would be the one taking me around the zoo in my stroller. He would have rolled me through the entire zoo before the rest of my family had even made it to the middle. Camera at the ready for fantastic photos, he was ready to conquer that place! This was the scene for many vacations as we toured the United States each summer.
My first trip to Europe was a blur. I would love to say it was my partners fault, but that would be a lie. I decided that if this was our first trip to Europe, we were going to fit everything possible. I continued to challenge myself every time that I looked at our itinerary, is this enough? I would go back to my lists of top things to do in an area and say, you know what, maybe I can fit a couple more things on this list? Maybe, we can reduce our time eating…nah let’s not do that! Maybe, travel from one place to the next won’t be bad? Or maybe we can just cruise through this museum…the Louvre in an hour anyone?
I feel like I had some sense knocked into me, while we were boarding our plane back to London from Amsterdam. It was our final day before heading back to the United States. I was speaking to an elderly English lady and we were reviewing our itineraries. She was heading to Canada for a month and it was pretty limited in the amount of items planned. I went through our list as her jaw dropped. “You fit all of that into 17 days?!” “Typical American!” What did she mean typical American? Was this something that I didn’t know was embedded into our very genetics as Americans? I thought I just took after my grandfather!
As we moved past our first trip to Europe, we’ve tamed down the itinerary a bit. Our second trip had us going through Italy and then to Greece. We toured Venice, Florence and Rome. Then made our way over to Athens and Santorini. Tamed down? I know what you’re thinking…maybe still not as tame as it could have been! In the back of my mind, I was still struggling with the idea that we might never be back. I also loved the fact of touring some of the greatest ancient civilizations back to back (which I would highly recommend by the way). Ancient Rome to ancient Greece had us finding so many similarities. It helped that the history was fresh in our mind on the trip. Italy was honestly a little rushed, but we learned to settle down a bit in Greece. More than likely, the rain helped with this, but nonetheless we slowed down.
Finally, our third trip to Europe was Germany. I decided that if we are going to have some slow down time, I am going to have to plan it in the itinerary. So there in the middle of two of our cities within the country we visited, I planned slow down time! We even had one day where we went to Baden Baden (literally translated to bath, bath) for a full day of just going to the spa. The trip felt much more balanced and we actually felt a bit more relaxed after the trip when we got back home to the US.
You can’t see everything on a vacation, nor should you. Each city you go to has so much to offer you for sites and local cuisine. You have to limit yourself to what’s most important on your trip. It might feel like a little blank space on your itinerary when you plan relaxing days. Whether you plan a spa day or even just walking around the city people watching, it can be well worth it for you. That little blank space might be all you need to make your trip into something that recharges your body. I’ve also found that those days where you have little planned and you just walk through a foreign city, are the times that you truly get the experience of the culture. As you make that itinerary of places to go (after this wonderful pandemic has taken course) remember that a vacation or holiday is supposed to be a form of relaxation. You’ll never see me spending a week in Hawaii sipping Mai Tai’s, but you might just catch me on the beach for a day of my trip. Relaxing the soul, as I dream about how I can fit more into my next day of travel. All because I took a day of relaxation!
Hey, I’m not perfect! One day I’ll get this relaxation thing down.