Vacation time

Going on vacation, tourism, the majority of people moving for this purpose is a typical feature of post-industrial societies and has made tourism one of the most important industries in the world.

The tourist activity, and therefore the generic “going on vacation”, represents a moment of detachment for people and, theoretically, allows them to better deal with everyday life once they return.  This improvement in daily life post-vacation should then also reflect on society in general since it should be composed of less stressed and therefore more productive, if not happier, individuals.

But to how many of us happened to plan and wait for this moment and then be disappointed, discovering that nothing, or almost nothing was as expected? Or that the long-awaited journey had turned into a source of stress rather than relaxation?

Holidays and travels do not always represent a happy time. Negative events can turn a moment that should be of happy relax into a time of stress and unhappiness.

First of all, health problems. For example, there is evidence of health emergencies during holiday periods, such as: ” Individuals with a known vulnerability for MI [myocardial infarction ed] May therefore benefit from minimizing physical and emotional challenges specifically related to vacation travel” [1] So, if you already suffer from illnesses  diseases, the vacation should be carefully planned.

We should also remember that the positive effects of the holiday period, of course if this has not been marred by adverse events, have a limited duration. For example, for those with burnout-related problems, although these decrease during the holiday period, they then tend to return to the initial level in a period of time (from 3 days to 3 weeks according to the study of Westman and Eden), [2] so the idea that the holiday allows to better deal with daily life post-holiday is, and remains, only a theoretical assumption that has not been reflected in practice.

We should always remember that the anticipation, waiting for an event that we know will be pleasant, already represents a moment of happiness. We can see this increase in happiness at the time of waiting also from the point of view of the “comparison theory” in the sense that there is a social comparison between those who know that they will go on holiday compared to those who will not, making the former happier. This comparison happens continuously. Who has not been asked, even months before the summer period: “Where are you going on holiday?” A phrase that is not said so much for a real interest in the happiness of the other party person, as to be able to trigger a comparison especially if the other responds: “This year I’m staying at home.”  It is clear that once the holiday is over those who have gone and those who have stayed at home will return to equal levels of happiness since the reason for the comparison, and its positive effects for those who ‘won’ the comparison, have ended (Nawijn et al.2010)

As for the expected event, in this case the vacation, this can be disappointing compared to what we expected and this may also depend on the level of stress with which we started and the stress levels we experienced during the holiday.

But how do you make your holiday a happy holiday?

Maybe everything is not perfect and it is not what you dreamed of, but try to make the best of what is available, so now you are there and the holiday will go on regardless, so better try to make the most of what is there: spending the holiday grumbling and brooding will only make it worse.

Your fellow travelers can often be another sore point. Maybe you were comfortable with them in the city, but you didn’t live in close contact 24 hours a day. It’s one thing to have an aperitif or dinner together, but it’s another thing to spend a holiday together: the flaws come out as well as the things that might annoy you. Again, the best thing is to try to see the qualities more than the flaws. No one is perfect and probably as you find certain habits of your fellow travelers annoying, also they find annoying some of yours. Tolerance and understanding should be the guidelines to follow.

Also, learn to say, “No.”

Have your travel companions decided to do an activity that you don’t like or even stresses you out? Don’t do it and dedicate yourself to what you really like. In other words: fill your days with pleasant things and activities.

Are you on holiday abroad and your relatives or friends have asked you for a souvenir?

Do not stress in the search for the perfect souvenir, which will end up collecting dust once gifted; if doing your normal activities, you see something that can fit and inspires you, buy it, but coming back empty-handed is also fine.

And when you get home?

Do not immediately throw yourself into routine activities, life goes on even if you do not do the laundry. Take time to relive the happy moments you have spent, maybe looking at the photos and, if possible, see your friends and spend time telling them about your experiences.

In short, it is true that the happiness the holiday has given you will end sooner or later but try to make it last as long as possible.

Dr. Patrizia Pietropaolo

[1] Willem J Kop, Ad Vingerhoets, Gert-Jan Kruithof, John S Gottdiener “Risk Factors for Myocardial Infarction During Vacation Travel” Psychosom Med. May-Jun 2003;65(3):396-401

[2] M Westman , D Eden “Effects of a Respite From Work on Burnout: Vacation Relief and Fade-Out” J Appl Psychol. 1997 Aug;82(4):516-27.

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