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Sometimes you just need to get away. Whether that means you're running away from something (read: a sun-soaked respite from your cubicle) or toward something (read: probably still somewhere sun soaked), is up to you.
In fact, going on vacation is critical to your health and satisfaction with your own life. In a survey of 1.3 million people across 51 countries, a team of economists at the University of Warwick found that people report a measurable decline in happiness, starting in their 30s and continuing until around age 50, when they typically started to feel satisfied again. Fortunately, more research suggests that taking time off from work, or whatever the daily grind looks like for you, can help you destress, improve your productvitiy and boost your overall mood.
Though Americans are notoriously bad at taking time off, there are just some types of vacations in which you absolutely must indulge at least by the time you're 40, just to avert any looming crises. These are six vacations you need to check off your life's bucket list.
Everyone should travel solo at some point in their lives — and it's more than likely that you'll have the opportunity to when you find yourself waiting on a friend to agree to tag along. The thing is: If you rely on friends or family to come with you, you'll take on their excuses as your own. They can't get off work, so you can't go. They can't find a babysitter, so you can't go. They never got their passport, so you can't go. Conflicting schedules, dissimilar interests and different priorities mean that your travel plans may never come to fruition. But going solo isn't so bad — in fact, many people prefer solo travel to traveling with friends or family. When you travel alone, you're not restricted by anyone elses' inabilities or apprehensions, nor are you confined to their itineraries. Rather, you can do whatever you want whenever you want wherever you want, and everyone deserves that kind of liberation.
Nothing quite revives a childlike sense of wonder like being in a place where you have only the most rudimentary sense of things — where, perhaps, you can't necessarily speak the language, the foods are foreign to you and even crossing the street in a cyclone of traffic that's driving on the opposite side of the road feels like a feat. What's more, however, is putting yourself in those situations with a group of your girls. Going on a girls' getaway to a new place (particularly a rather culture shock-inducing new place) is like stepping back in time. It's like reliving your childhood days of going on playdates, except as grown adults. Of course, you don't need go too far to enjoy traveling with friends. You can just rent a house, book a hotel or set up camp somewhere nearby — like the closest beach or campground — and unwind together. After all, studies show that, during stressful times especially, being around a best friend decreases levels of the hormone cortisol to help you destress.
Families should set the time to vacation together. In fact, a wealth of research suggests that getting away in a stress-free environment that's conducive to prime bonding time is healthy for everyone involved. A team led by Purdue University's Xinran Lehto actually found that time spent together isolated from ordinary everyday activities (read: school, work, extracurriculars) promote what the researchers called a "crescive bond" (or a "shared experience") by fostering growing and enduring connections.
Maybe you don't have the financial means to go on an extravagant vacation, or maybe you simply just don't feel like traveling. It is important, however, that you take some time off for some self-care. At some point in your life, taking the time to just do nothing is necessary. Take off of work to just hang out, catch up on your favorite television series, read a book or two or seven, spend time with your family or one of many other staycation ideas.
Research from McKendree University in Illinois actually found that people with higher levels of adrenaline are more likely to find people more attractive. What gives you more adrenaline than traveling and engaging in new, exciting and novel activities? At some point, if you decide to enter a relationship, your partner and you should absolutely take a trip together. Of course, traveling together introduces you to those kinds of activities, which also leave lasting memories.
There are tons of travel groups out there that cater to friends, families and solo travelers alike. It's not uncommon for women to travel with groups that prepare activity itineraries for a destination, prepare meals, book accomodations, schedule ground transportation and may even book airfare. The number of women traveling with REI Adventures, for example, has grown 60 percent since 2010 — last year, women made up 58 percent of their guests. REI offers women's adventures ranging from safari tours in South Africa to hikes up Machu Picchu in Peru that range from $750 to $8,500 depending on locations and itineraries. Likewise, Intrepid Travel, which isn’t designed particularly for women but does attract a large number of solo women, offers trips from Morocco to India. Other women's travel companies include WHOA Travel, Wanderful and AdventureWomen.
AnnaMarie Houlis is a multimedia journalist and an adventure aficionado with a keen cultural curiosity and an affinity for solo travel. She's an editor by day and a travel blogger at HerReport.org by night.
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