Why you must absolutely take a vacation | What to do when you can’t | 5 ideas for a staycation

Zen quote; inspirational quote; three monks
Photo by Nishant Aneja from Pexels. Graphic by desipostcards

It’s summer and if you haven’t been on a holiday already, you’re probably planning one. You’re thinking beach, hills or countryside. You’re craving for punctuation to the relentless run and complicated syntax of life. And that’s what vacations are. They’re like commas. Maybe like full-stops. What I’m saying is, done right, they help us to make sense of our narratives.

It means that, for most of us, holidays mean a pause or a turn. It could be a reckless adventure where we’re rafting, rappelling, racing. It could be a retreat where we’re breathing alternately through each nostril, listening to the river, and chanting at twilight.

Whatever our holidays look like, they have a meaning in, and impact on, our lives outside the Insta stories we can tell. Taking off from the humming drum of our daily routine is not a luxury but a necessity. Why? Because they’re opportunities to halt the stress cycle.

When we’re chilling, and in our element, our bodies produce lower amounts of cortisol. What’s cortisol? It’s biochemical stress. Why is it public enemy number 1? For the following reasons: it counteracts insulin, reduces bone and collagen formation, and slows the healing process.

So what happens when we fail to get out of the zone of stress? And our bodies continue to make cortisol like China does electronics. What happens when we fail to jump off the hamster wheels? According to Psychology Today, “Your sleep will suffer, you won’t digest your food as well, and even the genetic material in the cells of your body may start to become altered in a bad way. Mentally, not only do you become more irritable, depressed, and anxious, but your memory will become worse and you’ll make poorer decisions. You’ll also be less fun to be with, causing you to become more isolated, lonely, and depressed.”

Rishikesh, 2018: Magical sunrise

In fact, taking time off, whether to go on a pilgrimage or a party destination, a road trip or a resort chill, is so important that British researcher Scott McCabe of the University of Nottingham “recommends that families be given some form of financial assistance if they are unable to afford vacations on their own.”  These are some reasons why we absolutely must take vacations!

But sometimes a hamster’s got to wheel right? There are times when no matter how much we might need a break, we can’t have one.

Don’t worry. In that case the solution is to just plan a vacation. Mark calendar dates on the phone, think about the places to visit during the season, google hotels or search Airbnb, and scan property galleries, check AccuWeather, browse recommendations on things to do, and imagine yourself doing them. Maybe, being extra, we can also think outfits and add them to our online carts. Possibly even create a what to pack list.

You might think it would make one feel worse. All that FOMO. Quite the contrary, Science argues, vacation planning can channel amazingly positive emotions. Robert Kwortnik (Cornell University) and William Ross (Penn State) found that human beings start to feel amazing when they just plan experiences. And experimental psychologists Leaf Van Boven, from University of Colorado Boulder, and Laurence Ashworth from the Smith School of Business, asked undergraduates to rate their emotions as they pictured a ski vacation. The students reported feeling more intensely about the imagined vacation than the remembered one.  It’s called the ‘pre-trip high’ or the ‘rosy view’.

Also, this planning is way more fun when our imagined vacation is closely aligned to how we see ourselves. If you fancy yourself an adventurer, plan that ski vacation. If you’re an amateur historian, set yourself up to explore Mohenjo-Daro. If you’re a zen monk in the making, consider that Shoganji Zen retreat. The mind will swoosh right off that wheel, and out that cage.

One more thing to do pre-vacation (which should accurately describe our lives, either on vacation or about to be) is talk about it. According to a happiness researcher Prof. Elizabeth Dunn, an associate professor of psychology at the University of British Columbia, people bond more by talking about experiences than things. So, it is easier to connect with other people by talking about wanting to drive all the way to a shack in the hills for a sweet cup of milky tea than by flaunting the first-flush boxes bought from Darjeeling.

relaxation, chilling
( Experiences > Things – good rule for life)

Another option is to do a staycation. It might sound boring or pointless. But with staycations we can save money and travel time, and they’re easier to organise. That opens up the possibility of change. It works if we switch over from your daily routine and circadian rhythms, and do things we don’t get to do otherwise – like seeing a familiar city as a tourist or going swimming or marathon Netflix and chill (although moving about is recommended for that endorphin hum).

Here are 5 ideas for a staycation:

Staycation, 2018

  • Buy a slender volume of the history of your city. Go exploring major spots.
  • Take a picnic with friends and dog. (Dog attendance compulsory).
  • Spend time volunteering for a cause that delights you.
  • Check in to a hotel and spa your body, mind and soul.
  • Go for a heritage walk with a group of strangers. Arm yourself with snacks, shades, and camera.
  • So, yes get that vacation. Fire some new synapses in your brain, lower that cortisol, and breathe. If you can’t, don’t worry, plan a new trip. Or a staycation. And live the good life.

    4 Essential oils you must carry on your travels | And how to use them

    Browsing essential oils and perfumes in Pushkar, Rajasthan
    Browsing essential oils and perfumes in Pushkar, Rajasthan

    While essential oils might seem to you very much a new-age experiment, a vegan passion, or a quirk of the flower-children, they have been around for a long time.

    The ancient Egyptians, for instance, used oils to mummify. That means Egyptian mummies were using the oils when they traveled from this world to the next. And if it works when you change this world for another, it’s worth a try when you’re merely changing cities, right?

    Closer to the present day, the gifts that the wise men bought sweet baby Jesus? They included myrrh and balsam. Great present for someone who was on the move a lot.

    Fragrances, whether they come from plants or resins, have therefore had a significant role in various cultures. They’re valued for their spiritual, physical, and emotional benefits. And today, one of the easiest ways to use fragrances for health is through essential oils.

    First though, you might want to know how essential oils work. They are said to effectively stimulate the limbic system. You can use them externally after carrying out a patch test for sensitivity. Please do not ingest them.

    Packing a few when you travel, along with medicines and other aid necessary, is a great idea. They can help you address everything from travel anxiety to motion sickness. And carrying 10 – 20 ml bottles adds no weight at all, they’re so easy to carry. After a few years, I feel that essential oils are must-haves for travel.

    So, here are 4 basic oils (with options) that make great travel companions.

    1. Lavender essential oil

    Earthy & floral, lavender is a staple ingredient in the majority of beauty & bath products. Bath salts, shampoos, teas, soaps, creams & mists – lavender’s a popular ingredient everywhere.
    With good reason. It is antiseptic, anti-inflammatory, and anti-bacterial.
    Stress of travel getting to you? Skin drying because of long flights and sudden change in weather? Unable to sleep in a bed other than your own? Lavender can help you ease out all these struggles. It’s a grounding and clearing oil.

    Suggested uses: Rub a few drops, with carrier oil, on scalps and soles before bedtime. You will enjoy wonderful sleep. Few drops in water for a relaxing bath. Use with cream or oil to massage face.

    Alternatives: Sandalwood, Clary Sage, Cedarwood

    2. Eucalyptus essential oil

    A useful weapon against headaches, seasonal allergies, and coughs, eucalyptus oil belongs in every backpack. It’s basically a great friend for your immune system and during those trips to the mountains (because mountains over beaches, right?). Your sinuses will clear like the skies after rains. And it gets the blood circulating.

    Suggested use: Apply a few drops to your chest and the back of your neck to decongest. Alternatively, put a few drops in hot water and inhale (with a towel over your head). For headaches, put a few drops on cotton balls and rub your temples.

    Alternatives: Thyme, Peppermint

    3. Tea tree essential oil

    God, the uses of this oil. Just ask the cosmetic companies which are making a huge profit from it. Tea tree is antibacterial, anti-fungal, antiviral, and anti-inflammatory.
    Stress, change in weather, and exposure to different micro-organisms during travel can affect the quality of your skin and hair tremendously, and tea tree is beautifully effective in those cases. If you have insect bites, or scratches, or wounds – you need tea tree oil. Research says it’s also useful to fight head lice. Well, I’ve never had to find out for myself. If you do, let me know.

    Suggested uses: A few drops in your bath water for keeping skin and scalp clean. You can also use it on a clean cotton pad to dab your post-wash face.
    Apply topically on insect bites, scratches and burns. Of course, be careful.

    Alternatives: Geranium, Camphor, Lavender (not on open bites/wounds)

    4. Lemon essential oil:

    I mean it could be any citrus oil. Mainly because they’re very uplifting.
    We don’t always travel for leisure, often it’s work, or other circumstances. Maybe we feel alone, overwhelmed or stifled in a foreign place or culture. In those situations, citrus oils are great mood lifters. The smell of oranges makes me feel . . . zesty (sorry). Also, if you’re feeling nauseous, whether on a flight or elsewhere – sniffing a whiff can help. It also helps relieve constipation if used consistently over a period of time. Used before sleep, it helps brighten skin. (Citrus oils are photosensitive so don’t use on exposed skin before stepping out in the sun).

    Suggested uses: Mix with coconut oil and rub on the back of your neck, wrists, stomach for improving mood. Inhale directly from the bottle for relieving symptoms of nausea. You can also add a few drops to your massage oil.

    Alternatives: Mentioned above.

    Now, as a proper person with functional grey cells, I expect that you will not drown yourself in these oils, drink them, or use them in place of medicines. Because, mate, you shouldn’t. Diffuse them in the room, squeeze a few drops in your bath water, massage them as advised.

    So, are you going to stay well away from this vegan voodoo, or, are you ready to pack your personal essential oil kit?