How To (Truly) Enjoy a Vacation

When you’re a self-conscious, anxious twenty-something on vacation, it can be hard to have a good time when you’re constantly worrying over people taking photos, what you’re eating, where you’re going, and whether or not you look like an idiot to the locals. I’m sure that most people don’t think of all of those things, but we all have had that one vacation photo that makes us look like a complete derp that a beloved relative posts for all the world to see.

Worrying is not going to help you enjoy your vacation though. And, for the most part, the locals don’t care what the tourists are doing because they’re tourists. The whole point of a vacation is to take a break from work, school, chores, diets, and worries so avoiding delicious food that one could not get a home simply to lose some weight doesn’t make sense to me. Taking and being in photos is important because one day, when we’re old and don’t give many shits, those photos are all we may have to remember that one vacation. If you’re worried about danger in local areas (which is a very relevant fear in today’s political and social climate) then keep an eye out, pay attention, and know how to reach emergency services as needed. Being prepared for disaster doesn’t mean that you can’t enjoy the good moments.

Until somewhat recently, I’ve had some troubles with all of the things listed above. I tend to avoid photos because of my body image issues and the negativity I associate them with, but on vacations I put on a smile, do my best pose, and go along with it. Why? I’m on vacation, having fun with people I love, and I want to remember it. I want to remember going to beaches in a swimsuit and whatever memories I have there rather than the way I felt in said swimsuit. When you hold back because you’re worried about how you look you hold back overall.

I’ve been yo-yo dieting for many years now, but I always go off diet for vacations for one reason—when am I going to eat this food again? I can have a salad anywhere in the world, but there are only so many places to get hot meat pies in America. And forget about fasting. I like to call my vacations ‘eating holidays’ because the point is to try new things, eat locally, but not to gorge and binge on food. You want to enjoy what you’re eating, mindfully, but not overdo it.

Danger seems to be around every corner these days—and it can seem even more so when you’re in a foreign country, or a woman, or when you’re unfamiliar with the geography. The best thing I can recommend to abate some of those anxieties is that the chances are relatively small of anything happening (depending on where you’re traveling) and to breathe through the things that make your chest tight. So, no, your plane is not going to crash or go missing. The airport is not going to be attacked. You’re not going to be abducted or get lost. Keep aware, be cautious, but don’t let it hold you back from enjoying holiday. Be prepared, but not panicky.

What I have the most trouble with—even still—is social anxiety in unfamiliar territory. It seems that, especially in foreign countries, I’m very aware of my American status, my accent, the way I speak, how wrong I sound in comparison to everyone else. Then I also worry over doing things that aren’t status quo. I also worry over perpetuating the fat American stereotype. Still, a holiday spent in silence isn’t one enjoyed so I try to engage in conversation, to involve myself in the world around me instead of withdrawing, and to not worry if I look like a tourist—because I am! By putting aside the worry over how I’m perceived I’m able to enjoy every moment.

Enjoying a vacation can be hard work when there are worries that threaten to ruin the peace, but thinking of affirmations, putting aside negativity for the length of a holiday, and letting yourself be in the moment can help. A vacation is not a place for bad body image, restrictive diets, fear, or worries. It’s for good memories and fun.

So sit back, relax, and enjoy.