Salt, sugar and fat are the most important ingredients for making food delicious to humans. You can make a very complicated dish but if you mess up those three, it will be a failure. Cardboard-flavored "health food" is proof of this point. Vacations also have key ingredients to make them successful. Nobody wants a cardboard-flavored vacation.
Salt - The Planning
You can overdo salt and planning, but without either you loose the ability to enjoy anything else. A dish without salt will be disappointing, even anxiety producing because the smells will raise your expectations only to be severely disappointed when you actually eat. The right amount of planning will give you a trip where everything works together and brings you joy. Your vacation will function logistically, decreasing the anxiety about not getting your basic needs met. For best results start planning well in advance. A Harvard Business Review and Institute of Applied Positive Research study of 414 travelers, showed that 90% of those interviewed who reported a good trip, had finished planning more then a month in advance. Most of us find that some vacations need more planning then others. Parents would not come home refreshed from a vacation that lacked planning for the health and safety of their children.
Sugar - The Experience
The sweetness in life is in our experiences with the people and places around us. This will be true on your travels as well. The study mentioned above found that the biggest stressors were "managing travel details, not feeling safe, and lack of knowledge of the location." To mitigate these stressors 77% of the satisfied travelers "met with a local host or had a knowledgeable friend" (maybe I should add knowledgeable travel friend to my LinkedIn profile).
Don't dismiss the idea of a guided tour vacation. Although they often get scorned by pretentious independent travelers, ask yourself if you want to come home rejuvenated by your travels or stressed out by them. In my experience, having done both tours and independent travel, it depends on how much time you have. But even when I had weeks of time in some countries, I still took a few guided tours when I was backpacking around the world. It is impossible, without living in a location, to figure some of that stuff out on your own.
Fat - Go Somewhere Far Far Away
Fulfilling vacations are found further from home. An average vacation has neither positive nor negative effects on your happiness or stress levels when you return. So don't be average! To achieve the reduced stress and increased happiness be creative and get on a plane. A Twitter study found that the further a user is from their home the happier their tweets are. In the study mentioned above, 84% of the best vacations were outside of the travelers home country. Get inspired and pack your bags. If you were considering a "stay-cation," know that 94% found that going away was more meaningful.
So, put together your vacation with the right ingredients. Plan ahead, know your location or find someone who does and don't sell yourself short by staying too close to home. If you need help, it is available.
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