Vacation From Your Vacation: Excess and Balance While Traveling

Circled: me in the middle of my vacation, regretting everything

Circled: me in the middle of my vacation, regretting pretty much everything

The pre-vacation rush is always a huge source of anxiety for me, particularly when going overseas. You’re probably familiar with it: The packing list that always manages to not reflect one or two essentials. The last-minute scrambling. The passport fumble. The 10,000 errands and to-do list items that need to happen prior to takeoff so your life doesn’t totally melt down while you’re gone. Once you get to TSA, you’re already exhausted. Then you are herded through various detectors with the shoeless, frustrated masses. You fight for an overhead bin because you didn’t want to endure yet another line to check your baggage. Add a time zone change and you’re a certified zombie by the time you reach your destination. I know for me the excitement of finally being there is  a bit dampened by all I had to go through to finally arrive.

But you are there. So you nap on the beach or in the hotel. You have a drink. Then you drink a little more. You take a social media-friendly pic with the drink on the beach. At dinner you order everything you wouldn’t dream of ordering back home and you order it all at once. You have more wine. Then you have dessert. This is vacation! This is what you worked hard for. This is what it’s all about.

But is it? The truth about every vacation I’ve gone on is that I’ve come home sick. Sometimes those sicknesses were extreme, but I’ve since developed an action plan to reduce the likelihood of that. When I say sick I mean more of a general sense of malaise. I get off the plane and feel anything but refreshed. My skin is usually broken out. My digestion is off for a few days. I distinctly feel like I need to detox and it’s because I’ve wrecked my system with overindulgence.

So the question is why are we so prone to excess on vacation? Why is overindulgence the reward?

Ok, I know. It feels good in the moment. And I totally agree that there’s a place for indulgent, instant gratification cheats while on vacation. But if you’re starting to feel like your vacation-life is turning into something out of the ancient Bacchanalia, you’re going to spend 3-4 weeks after you return in an uncomfortable state of detox and recovery. And didn’t we actually go on vacation to recover in the first place?

Overindulgence, by its very definition, takes us out of the state of balance that our bodies need to thrive.  So here are three simple steps I’m taking to enjoy my next vacation without sacrificing my health:

Alcohol or dessert: not both

We all know that neither sugar or alcohol are particularly good for you. In a perfect world, I would avoid both.  They burden the liver, spike your blood sugar and can even disrupt your hormonal balance. In addition, how wise are your choices after a couple of glasses of wine? If we sip a bit past our tolerance level our decision-making skills (and subsequent food choices) suffer–creating even more of a burden on our bodies.

We all agree that vacation is not the time for perfection. But if I don’t have both dessert and alcohol in one day, am I really missing out? Spread across a trip that lasts a week or more, there are plenty of opportunities  to enjoy both without a double-onslaught of calories and extreme blood sugar spikes every single day.

So be mindful when looking at a restaurant menu. Is there a dessert you’re aching to try? Go for it. But in that case, skip the wine or cocktail. You can have one tomorrow.

Be smart when it comes to alcohol

There’s a massive difference between a glass of red wine at dinner and a fruity, sugary cocktail. We’re talking 100-400 more calories and anywhere from 20-60 or more grams of sugar. I mean, there’s the dessert we talked about above. Or maybe even two!

So choose wisely. The relaxing or euphoric effect you might be seeking is not going to vary so much if you’re sipping a glass of wine vs a Long Island Iced Tea. But the Long Island Iced Tea will have an extremely different effect on your body at almost quadruple the calories and 60+ more grams of sugar.  Putting your body through that daily for a week or more is just not worth it.

Stay connected, but not hyperconnected

I’m not saying I won’t post any vacation photos. But I do think chronicling, tagging and captioning has robbed me of moments I could have benefited from savoring. Mindfulness goes out the window when you are feeling the pressure to craft a moment to photo perfection or condense it to a headline rather than simply experience it. It creates a stress we may not even be conscious of, pulls us out of the moment and back to exactly what we were trying to take a break from when we left home.

When we’re fully present, food tastes a little better. We notice the nuance in our sensory experiences. We’re aware of our bodies. We’re more aware of the difference between feeling hungry, thirsty and full. We might notice we’re full sooner than we thought. We might even notice that something we’re eating just isn’t jiving with us. So much of that self-awareness goes out the window if we’re munching and on our phones.

I enjoy sharing moments I love with friends. But this time they will be curated and shared after I’ve lived them thoroughly, with all of my senses.



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