Is It Possible For An Active Traveler To Truly Relax?

Dead Sea Jordan

There are few things that I enjoy more than travel planning. Some may find it tedious, but I truly love figuring out the details of flights, hotels and activities in new destinations. That’s why when I started planning our big trip to Asia it was a delight. The intricacies of connecting flights and finding well-located hotels made me giddy, until I hit a bump in the road. At the request of my partner, I’ve promised to include a fair amount of leisure time; it is our vacation after all. The problem is, I’m not sure if I can really do that.

When I first started traveling extensively, I never mindfully intended to be active. I do however have a profound sense of curiosity and whenever I visit a new place, I do so with the mentality that I may never return. I also firmly believe that life and travel are all about the experiences. At the end of the day, it’s all we have and profound travel experiences have the power to not just resonate, but to transform. With this weighty, and a bit too philosophical, set of standards, it only makes sense that over time my trips have escalated into feats of tourism endurance.

Top of volcano in St Kitts

I personally don’t mind the frenetic pace, although intellectually I recognize that slow travel is ultimately more pleasurable. But as a gainfully employed professional, I just don’t have the time to travel slowly, and so I don’t. But this style is not for everyone, and my partner definitely doesn’t enjoy the crazed schedule we maintain. It’s become a longstanding joke that given the opportunity, I’ll include a line in the schedule for ‘spontaneous fun time.’ Surely a sign of mental disease if I ever saw one.

Understanding that our trip to Asia is a long one (for us) and that it will be our only true time off from work this year, I really want to make sure we have plenty of time to do nothing. I even booked us into a hotel in Laos known for its calming views and relaxing pool area. The problem is, as we approach the travel dates, I’m getting anxious about doing nothing.

Staring at the empty schedule I feel like we’re wasting our time by doing nothing. What if I never return to Laos, how can I visit without seeing the [INSERT FAMOUS SITE HERE] ? And that’s part of the problem. It’s not as if I’ve spent a lifetime pining about a trip to Laos, it just sounds like a nice destination. Rather than go with the flow, my first instinct is to over-research, over-plan and overdo. So this time I promise I won’t.

Uluru

I’ll ignore that gnawing sense of anxiety forming in the pit of my stomach and resist the urge to reread the Lonely Planet Laos edition for the third time. This time I will just relax and maybe even re-energize those spent batteries. Maybe this will be the first time I’ll return home from a trip without feeling exhausted.

We’ll see, but I’m not so sure. I’m an active traveler, that’s just who I am. I can’t sit on a beach, in a hot tub or in a spa for more than an hour without going out in search of something, anything to do. The world is just too interesting for me to lay back and ignore it.

What do you think? Is it possible for an active traveler to really relax?

By: Matt Long

Matt has a true passion for travel. As someone who has a bad case of the travel bug, Matt travels the world in order to share tips on where to go, what to see and how to experience the best the world has to offer.

16 thoughts on “Is It Possible For An Active Traveler To Truly Relax?”

  1. I am a chronic overplanner, that is why I almost always travel alone. I couldn’t find anyone who is crazy enough to want to be up before sunrise to take pictures of it, then sightsee like crazy during the day until well after the sun has set.

    I’m lucky my wife knows me well enough to know I need to travel. Even when we do try and take a short ‘relaxing’ vacation, I still get up and do my sunrise thing, and I also usually do stuff while waiting for her to get ready. The way I’ve always seen it is- I have a limited amount of vacation time, I am going to use every minute of it I can. i’ll find rest elsewhere.

  2. I completely agree! I’m such a planner and always feel like lounging on a beach for an extended period of time or even sleeping in and having a slow morning is an utter waste of time while abroad. But that mentality certainly isn’t for everyone. Kudos for making a concession on this trip & giving leisure-time a try!

  3. I have this same issue. And it gets even tougher when travelling with (very young) kids when you are the kind of traveler you are.
    For me, I have to keep reminding myself that whats important is having unique experiences and try to tailor the (now limited) activities to maximize those sorts of experiences.
    For times that I cant go somewhere/see something/do something etc, I try to focus on things that allow me to interact with locals (in whatever capacity) and those have proved to be most memorable and (to a very large extent) negated the inability to do whatever else I might have done otherwise.

  4. Good to know someone else really loves the details, too. I hope you enjoy your more relaxed trip — my wife and I still stay pretty busy while traveling, but generally don’t plan much until we get to a new destination. Works for us!

  5. I just got back from a week in Aruba. Although the beach time and relaxation was really nice, my all-day ATV tour was the highlight of my trip. It was on this trip that I realized I am an active traveler and that my form of unwinding is actually keeping busy.

  6. OMG. Story of my life. I try to plan relaxing destinations, then exhaust myself when I get there. Even when I force myself to sit still (2-3 hours tops) I starting making mental schedules to ensure I see maximum sights or experiences.

  7. Great article and a fun read. When you go to Molokai, you have no option than to relax. Sure, there are hotels with Internet but many remote places do not have any cell phone signals. Breathe it in. It feels good to do it! Good luck.

  8. I don’t feel any need for relaxing while travelling but I often need a break from writing about travelling. It is also important to me to walk around a place without thinking about what could I write or tell about this place.

  9. I can totally relate to this! Have you been on this trip yet? Could you resist the temptation to cram every last sightseeing opportunity into your itinerary?

  10. Great post, which made me think about how I struggle with this! On my recent trip to Indonesia, I got sick twice. And both times, I was forced to ‘relax.’ I sat around a lot and actually got some reading done (as in, a couple books), which was nice. Then, I ended up in a tourist trap in South Bali, which had certain amenities. Like Western food and cheap massages. Wasn’t much to do but that. Was nice for a few days; but then I got restless. (I felt the ‘clock was ticking’ and I was missing out on something else.)

    It wasn’t until my final few days of the trip, when I ended up on a tiny island that was truly idyllic, that I relaxed on a deeper level–as in, doing nothing except looking at or hanging out in water. And liking it. Perhaps it was easy there because a) it looked so gorgeous and b) there really was nothing to do.

    Was this, the relaxation, hard for me? Yes, sort of. But I hope to attempt more of it in the future….

    I think a good way for people like us, who struggle, is to only build in this sort of time after a couple of hectic days. Then it’s easier to appreciate it.

    1. I totally agree. I’ve been forced to ‘relax’ while traveling a few times lately and I still have mixed opinions. I love the fact I can’t check email, that I can just take it easy but 1) I’m constantly worrying about what I’m missing. I guess it’s just a personality quirk!

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