There are a few things everyone seems to tell you to do when you take a trip, however long it is – they want you to see all the most famous sights, they want you to make sure to explore the beautiful local countryside, they want you to check out all the museums, and of course, they want you to eat the food.
Well, I’ve done a fair amount of all of the above, and you know what? It’s fine. It’s plenty fun. Most of the sights are more impressive in photos. The museums are cool and difficult to write about. It’s all great.
It leaves me very tired.
One of the goals I had in doing some very extended traveling was to figure out what my baseline energy levels looked like when I wasn’t spending all my time in an environment that took a constant toll on my mental health. That means that, while like any traveler I want to take advantage of my settings, I also want to make sure I use this trip to, you know. Unwind. And having all the extra time and energy has allowed me to do something I never could before, at least not with any regularity.
The people I talk to most often can attest that the vast majority of my time and enthusiasm lately is spent thinking about food. I cook every day now. I’ll eat dinner fantasizing about things to bake when I get back to the states. I spend my days out pondering over what I’m going to make when I get back in. It turns out that cooking for yourself is one of the most relaxing things you can do while you travel.
Of course I eat out plenty too (hang out in Berlin and not take advantage of coworking spaces, or the local vegan scene? Scandal). But there’s something perfect and soothing about knowing that whatever happens today—whatever you do or don’t do, wherever you go or don’t go, however irresponsibly much money you might spend—at the end of it, you’re going to hang out in a warm room, make something exactly the way you like it, and not need to worry about whether you’re holding up the line or if there’s any free space to sit or how much money you’re spending on it. It’s this little private assurance, a promise to yourself, that after all the things you’re doing today because you have to (or feel like you have to), you’ll get to spend an hour doing something that really is entirely for you.
Now, I’m sure this seems like a no-brainer in my case (after all, I’m traveling for a year; if I ate out every day, the spending would cut my trip in half) but I can’t emphasize enough how much I feel like this applies to vacations too. Especially with how some folks vacation—I know some of you don’t feel like you’re making the most of your time off unless every moment is planned out! It’s easy to come back from a holiday feeling like, for all you may have had three or seven or ten days away from regular life, you didn’t actually get any rest.
I’m not suggesting home cooking as an antidote to this issue, especially for the friends who like to jam-pack their vacations like an overstuffed teddy bear. But I will say, finding a way to squeeze a little space and attention for yourself into the end of the day? Giving yourself a bit of an emotional anchor point after a high-energy day? It might well be the deciding factor that keeps that bear huggable instead of splitting at the seams.
It’s a form of self-care, and with how much day there is in a day when you travel, that counts for everything.