February 17, 2012

Vacation! And How Not To F--ck It Up. Hopefully.

Postcard found at: Mademoiselle B

So next week I'm heading off for a vacation to the Big Island of Hawaii with the Lobster and her up-for-anything 86-year old mother.

Whoopee!  There should be lots of opportunity for fun and adventure and relaxation. Hiking! Sight-seeing! Snorkeling! Snoozing! Boozing! Snacking! Reading! Frolicking!

And yet travel being what it is, there will also be plenty of chances for delays, stress, inconvenience, disappointment, compromises, and dumb-ass mistakes.

So, what's it gonna be...An exciting escapade? A tranquil retreat? Or a chance to get as crabby and petulant as a two-year old on an apple-juice-and-oreo high who missed her nap time?

(One of whom will no doubt be behind me on the flight, screaming and kicking the back of my seat, if history is any guide...)

 Yeah, flying sucks, kid. Deal with it.
Photo: wallcoo.net

Well, I may not have control over all the actual events that will transpire, but there are a few things I could keep in mind to make the "happy holiday" scenario a lot more likely.

And of course it's always fun to write an advice post on something you're about to do, so that whole tricky "practice what you preach" notion doesn't even have to enter into it!

So here are some hypothetical tips on How Not to F--ck up Your Vacation.

1. Pack for the Vacation You're Actually Going On

It's very easy to take a look at the pretty and adventurous people on the travel posters and figure you'll need to pack for a lot of dressy outfits for fancy restaurants, hiking boots for the 20 mile treks you're going to do, safari hats and snorkels and binoculars and mountain gear and... wait, did you forget to bring your favorite comfy pair of jeans and enough clean underwear? And where is that special kind of tea you love that would have spared you the stale cheapo hotel offering that tastes like old cigarettes?

Be realistic about what you like to do and have around. If your vacation suddenly transforms you into an entirely different person... that's what charge cards are for.

2. Anticipate Problems and Plan Ahead

Airport shuttles sometimes arrive late; favorite restaurants book up; people get sick; weather changes... leaving extra time, and having a few backup plans in mind can turn a total vacation-spoiling event into a "funny story" you will tell later when you can speak about it at cocktail parties without pulling out your hair or spewing obscenities.

3. But then Stop With the Freakin' Worrying

I've always been really, really talented at anticipating problems. In fact, the mere hint that something could conceivably go wrong (does that taxi driver have alcohol on his breath or is it just his cheap cologne?) can put me on the express train to imagined death and dismemberment faster than you can say "missed the scenic and uneventful drive from the airport."

But thanks to recent self-improvement efforts (which you will be hearing about later in tedious detail, don't worry) I'm actually getting much better about this! If you are a worrier, remind yourself:

  • Go ahead and take sensible evasive action if you can avoid problems, but if you can't, worrying isn't going to help.
  • Remind yourself of your incredibly crappy track record at predicting actual outcomes when worried. Don't keep going back to the ONE time you knew something bad was going to happen and it did, while conveniently ignoring the 97,312 times you knew something bad was going to happen and it didn't.
  • Stop thinking so much about the future, and realize you're perfectly fine right now. Have a snack, give yourself a foot massage, ask your charming and  knowledgeable sweetie a question about something, watch people passing by and critique their outfits, or whatever you can do to enjoy the moment you're in now.
  • Deep breaths. Literally, not just metaphorically.  Exhale for longer than you inhale, close your eyes (if you're not driving), give it a few minutes, and let your parasympathetic nervous system kick in and help you relax.  (And yes, some of these tips are thanks to my geek-crush Rick Hanson who is helping me rewire my brain).

4. Adjust Your Expectations

Two common unconscious vacation fantasies: Everything will be different than it is at home! And: Everything will be exactly the same as it is at home!

Neither of these two things will be true. If you are expecting that you will be 1000% happier than you are at home due to a different climate and some new activities to pursue, but don't take into account that you and your companions are all the same people with the same flaws and limitations, and that all people worldwide are capable of carelessness, rudeness, and orneriness, then you may be headed for disappointment. Your temperamental toddler is just as likely to have a code-red nuclear meltdown in Disneyland as he is in the grocery store, and your easily-distracted husband may still tune out half your conversation in an elegant French restaurant the same way he does at the local taco stand.

Also, if you have your own perfect and favorite routines... you may have to let go of them for a while.  Your carefully crafted workouts, healthy meals, comfy mattress, temperature and lighting preferences, expectations about noise, smells, traffic... well, some of these just ain't gonna happen the same way they do at home.

Does it really help you feel better to keep saying to yourself "what's wrong with these people, this shouldn't be this way?" Yet it's such an easy path to go down!  Concentrate instead on enjoying the novelty of fire alarms that go off at 2am, the unplanned experiments in Intermittent Fasting you get to conduct when hotel restaurants close way before their posted hours, and even the lively domestic drama you get to enjoy from the adjacent hotel room that makes reality tv totally unnecessary!

5. Get Flexible and ... yes, meet New People and try New Things

This is the happy flip side of not being able to go on autopilot straight to your favorite daily destinations.  What's different about where you are and how can you take advantage of it?  A little bit of courage may introduce you to fun new people from different cultures with a refreshing perspective, alternative forms of exercise, exotic regional cuisine, art, dances, and other hobbies and activities you'd never think of trying at home.  Then when you return, you may find that some of these have been there too, all along, in some form or another... but you never never thought to seek them out.  The old expression "travel is broadening" is not actually referring to all-you-can-eat buffets.

6. Allow Enough Chill Time

Are you the sort who gets ambitious and plans activities for every second of your holiday, then get home exhausted and need a vacation from your vacation?

Make sure you get some lovely little islands of time where there is Absolutely Nothing You Have to Do. And if you're traveling with others, no matter how companionable they are, make sure you don't have to feel "on" all the time. Get the hell away from everyone else and you may meet the most exotic person of all... the relaxed and happy "you" that you hardly ever get to hang out with.

So, wish me luck! I'll try to post photos or something. But there's no internet in our condo, so if there's a bit of silence over the next week or so, don't be like me and assume the plane must have gone down.

Anyone else have any vacation tips, horrid or wonderful experiences to relate, or thoughts about anything, relevant or not?

Note: Due to a recent onslaught of viagra spam, and my reluctance to use word verification, comments are now closed for this particular post.  But don't go away... most Cranky Fitness posts are still open for comments and they always make me happy! 


  1. Excellent advice, Crabby. If I may, always take something warm to wear. We didn't think we'd need it in Guatemala, but our hotel in Nebaj was among the coldest places on Earth (NB I am Canadian. I know cold.) Three cats on the bed would have been a good start. We had taken something fuzzy to wear for the cool evenings, and rain jackets. I slept in the fuzzy.
    That said, I agree with everything you've said.
    Have a wonderful time on your vacation, Crabby.

  2. Excellent advice Leah! Will remember to pack 3 cats in my suitcase just in case it's really cold in Hawaii. :)

    No wait, ASPCA and PETA, I was just kidding...

  3. Sounds like you have everything under control. I think you forgot my ticket though, I haven't received it yet :(

    Have a wonderful vacation!

  4. Excellent Reb, you can bring Sibu to keep us warm! Just two felines more to go...

  5. Too many to name!!

    Check out the all down-hill bike ride of the volcano on the Big Island!

    You'll be going weeeeee, as the way, lol!

  6. PS That was me, I was so working on that ^$*&% word thing that I forgot to put my name in :-)

  7. I loved Hawaii when I went. We stayed at the new Disney Resort Aulani...fabulous. We did so much, I actually lost weight on vacation, who the hell loses weight on vacation?

    Have a blast. I'm so jealous!

  8. Good luck, Bon Voyage, and your tips work even when your vacation is to the very same condo every year.

  9. Hey thanks Dr. J & Starving Bitch & Messymimi!

    You guys all have great advice! Now if I could just get you to pack my suitcase for me... can't figure out what to bring plus it's hard to fit anything around the damn cats Leah told me to bring.

  10. Nice post and have a great trip. One rule I always have when on vacation - unplug your gadgets. Don't pack that laptop, turn off the smart phone, iPad, etc. I do this on every vacation, and I much more relaxed, able to enjoy things, connect with my family in way that we normally don't do while at home.

  11. Thanks JP, though unplugging... gulp. Actually think I might HAVE to with no internet but yikes!

  12. I swear, everyone is on heavenly vacations but me! Enjoy.

    So true:

    "Remind yourself of your incredibly crappy track record at predicting actual outcomes when worried."

    Why didn't I think of that?

    Oh, have fun!

  13. My FAV place to go - that island!!! Pls pack me away with you.. I am close - I will drive down & jump in your suitcase!!!

    No way to have a bad vacation there!

    Great advice in the post though!:-)

    PS: I hate the new "prove yourself" words on all blogs like this. Not your fault but I can't read half of them! ;-)

  14. One thing I learned not only about vacations, but life in general: the higher your expectations, the easier they are to disappoint.

    If you visit Rome and the evening before watched "Roman Holiday" to get into the mood, you are in for one big disappointment.

    Therefore, have a rough outline of what you want to do, don't be a slave to it and make the best of things as they are.

    Have a great vacation, Crabby! :)

  15. Have FUN!I just got back from Oahu and loved it. We staid at a local's house and basically lived as locals while we there. That is something I try to do on every vacation - BE THE LOCAL, NOT THE TOURIST. This always allows me to take a piece of that place home with me in my heart, not just brain.

  16. Thanks you guys! More great vacation insights. The Lobster lived in Hawaii for 11 years and while still a hoale, she helps me translate the local pidgin and gives me insight into the local culture.

    And Jody, I've been totally freaking out over the blogger word verification changes. I can't figure out how to opt out and not make people use it to comment!

  17. OK, I am glad it is not just me failing on the word verification...over and over and over.

    I was actually stunned to see my comment show up at all!

  18. Have a fabulous time!
    (I could bring my cat....)

    And I am so glad to hear I'm not alone having trouble proving I'm not a robot. Can't read half of them.

  19. Bring protein bars? :)

    have fun!

  20. All excellent advice, some of which I have even followed from time to time. (Especially not worrying; I have many worriers in my family, and I grew up letting them do it.)

    Do they really think astigmatic bifocal-wearers can read the word verification? Next time I might try the audio.

    Mary Anne in Kentucky

  21. Just had to check out the word verification thing.


    failed once

  22. Good ideas. I've learned how easily plans can fall through, so lately I tend to try and have alternates and then enjoy myself whatever comes up. I'm not very picky so I generally enjoy myself. My partner is very...um...uncertain while travelling, shall we say, so I try and find out ahead of time all the things that he needs to be happy on holiday and then we are generally good to go. :)

  23. Great advice. I love Hawaii! Please send 2 tickets!

  24. Is it too late to send a happy comment? I hope you had a great time. My #1 best tip for a vacation is to take the habits that keep me on track at home with me on my trip. If a read a daily meditation book it goes with me. If I use a certain shampoo for a reason, it goes with me. If I do not eat certain things at home, that behavior goes with me. Otherwise I will be making only crazy memories and miss out on the experience of truly enjoying my vacation.

  25. And if you hate people (er, are an introvert), allow for time away from them! No bus tours with 40 people, group tours of historic sites, etc. or at least none of that without an intentional stop in a library (no one bothers you in a library) or a break in the hotel room on the patio.

  26. That is a really good set of tips for truly enjoying one's vacation. I sometimes find it hard to disconnect from my normal life and my martial arts school which I run. That's why I opt to not use the Internet while I'm away on vacation, especially if I'm going somewhere really special. Thanks for sharing!