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Spending at Least One Vacation Day Doing Absolutely Nothing Is Peak Relaxation

Put down the snorkel and disembark from the jet ski, sir

Sure, I understand you want to make every moment count on vacation, especially since you spent the last nine months carving “I need a break” into the side of your cubicle. So you booked every possible excursion, including a guided meditation in the janitor’s closet and an interactive tour of the local McDonald’s PlayPlace. The result is a vacation that feels extremely rushed and provides little in the way of actual relaxation.

This is exactly why I — and many others — believe every vacation should have at least one do-nothing day, where you can fall asleep on the beach, or better yet, watch reality TV in the hotel room for 24 hours straight, outside be damned.

Some might say this is a waste of precious vacation time, but I say a day spent doing nothing is the pinnacle of a day well spent. As my colleague Tracy Moore previously explained, the popular Dutch lifestyle trend of doing nothing is a vital precursor to doing something (i.e., being more productive). What’s the point of going away to relax and recharge if you run around more than you do at work? Plus, considering how plane travel (and pretty much all forms of travel) can turn you into an exhausted raisin, a nice dose of nothing would certainly seem like a good way to regroup before spending the rest of your vacation diving headfirst into everything the nearby area has to offer.  

The weathered travelers of Reddit know the importance of do-nothing days. “Sometimes you need a break,” klymene writes (sic). “I traveled solo for a few months, and my best friend came to meet me for two weeks. She wanted to see as much as possible. I tried to tell her that six cities in two weeks is a recipe for burnout, but I let her take control of the planning because it was a big vacation for her and a small part of my overall travel. By the end, we were so exhausted that we skipped out on one of our stops and stayed in one place for an extra two days. After she went home, I did nothing for a week and a half. I found a good book, a cute hostel and only went out a handful of times. It was the reset I needed after all that city hopping. If you don’t get that rest, you simply won’t enjoy the rest of your travels.”

Not to mention that doing too much can easily consist of lengthy rides to local hotspots that feel more or less like your normal morning commute. “It’s common for people, Americans specifically, to over-plan their trips, so they don’t get time to actually relax,” says Devin Feldman, who recently spent a year traveling around Southeast Asia. “You’d run into an American couple, and they’d be traveling for a month, but they’d be trying to see, like, six countries or something crazy like that. They’d spend half the time on a bus or plane — four hours on a bus is basically a whole day. The rest of the time, they’d be on some kind of tour, expedition or bouncing around from place to place. They don’t enjoy the places they visit. I definitely support quality over quantity, and a lot of that is relaxing.”

Finances are also worth considering. The average vacation costs $1,145 per person, and activities can easily make up a good chunk of that. Spending one day taking advantage of the bottomless margaritas at your all-inclusive resort means you can spend that money on something else later down the road, even if that means balling out on a helicopter volcano tour the very next day.

Also, if anyone tries to judge you for “doing nothing” on vacation, once again, take solace in the fact that the vacationers of Reddit have your back. “The trick is to own it,” RandyHoward writes (sic). “When someone asks me if I have plans, I respond with, ‘Hell no, I’m going to relax on my days off.’ If they give me shit about it, I tell them that they’re welcome to spend their free time however they want, and so am I.” Speak the truth, my man.

I know, I know, the thought of skipping that guided meditation so you can chill out on the beach instead has you feeling extremely anxious about how well you’re spending your cherished vacation days. You can overcome it, though. “Anxiety is about focusing on the future, so the best way to relax is to focus on the here and now,” explains psychologist Jeanette Raymond. “Be fully aware of your immediate environment, hopefully in natural surroundings, then tune into your body so that you stay in the present. Turn your attention to sounds and smells — use your senses to ground you in the moment, and your brain will disengage with the future and the anxiety that comes with it.”

And that, folks, is exactly what a do-nothing day is all about.