Cattle walk along the beach of Lago Nicaragua in Granada, Nicaragua © CLO
Strengths of trip lengths
A few thoughts on the therapeutic effects of travel depending on how many days you have available to you:
Sometimes a long day trip or an overnighter can provide a splash of fresh perspective by just being someplace different. The downside is that it goes by super quick, you never really get decompression time, and it can tap into your regular weekend refueling routine.
I'm a big fan of long holiday weekends. They provide great bursts of energy, don't have to cost vacation days, give you something to look forward to while breaking up the seasons, and you'd be amazed at how much you can explore and/or decompress in that timeframe. There are surprising deals to be had that give you just enough time to get away without altering your natural rhythms.
This length of trip can be deceptive. You may think that you're extending a long weekend, but in fact, you are easing yourself into vacation mode. The time away can feel fantastic, but the transition returning to your home base can shock your system. Just as your body is slowing down and adjusting to the alternative pace of being away, you jolt it back to its old ways. It's not uncommon for me to feel out of sorts with increased irritability and frustration for several days after my return when my trip is of this length. However, if my time away was to do absolutely nothing in a peaceful and nurturing environment, then that can be enough time for me to feel ready to be active again.
It typically takes a full week away for the body to feel a complete sense of detoxification. Up until the one-week mark, I'm often surprised by the number of intense dreams about my "real life" that float to the surface and force me to reflect on my life differently. While I've never studied psychology, my guess is that it's how my subconsciousness catches up with my consciousness. I'm often taken aback when realizing that what I thought I was okay with and found to be acceptable, wasn't yet completely the case. But on day seven or eight, I love the moment when I wake up feeling a remarkably deep sense of peace.
This length of time is the sweet spot for full-time workers. It provides a complete detoxification AND it's possible to schedule two vacations a year instead of just one (especially when scheduling them to include holidays). With this length, you get a complete week to detox plus a few days to feel relaxed and open with a fresh perspective.
When the destination calls for it, and you have the money and time to do it, take it when you can get it! I love this length of trip, but it can be tough to schedule with a full-time job if it swallows up all of your vacation time for the year.
4 weeks or longer:
These trips are great opportunities for when you're life is in transition, typically around college, graduate school or between jobs. If you're someone who can travel like this more frequently - kudos to you! Just know that while it may feel like you have a load of time, there will almost always be more you want to see and do beyond however many days you have available. The trick is to know your limits and be sensitive to them. Make your decisions as to where you go and what you do based on the depths of your gut, not based on what a book, travel information center or others familiar with the place tell you that you should do. Remember that if you fall in love with a place, you can always go back. And most of all, schedule days off for yourself, otherwise your body will knock you out and schedule them for you.