SPY’S Where To Go On Your Very Needed Christmas Vacation

Howik---Christmas-VacationsLet’s face it, you hate that person who comes back into the office after a vacation with a sunny smile and a deep tan. They feel rejuvenated, refreshed, reborn, but you just wish they would return to their cubicle and be quiet. But, before you go resenting them and their new lease on life, they may be onto something.

Research has discovered what we knew all along- we NEED a Christmas vacation. Ho Ho Ho.

christmas-spainMore and more experts are urging everyone in a stressful environment to take full advantage of their Christmas holiday vacation ideas to skip the malls, leave the tree in the garage pack up the kids and the gifts and go someplace new for a change. Just think of it, you can lie on a beach, read a book and do absolutely nothing- and not feel bad about it! Turns out, there’s some reasoning behind rediscovering the pleasure of napping in a hammock, swimming in the ocean and walking through the woods or enjoying Christmas the old fashion way when someone else did all the work. These holiday breaks from our everyday life have shown to be profoundly healing to our physiological and physical selves.

Chistmas Vacations, whatever form they take, can be a chance to unwind, regroup and take a step back to examine your life from a new place with a new perspective. Traveling, especially abroad or to a place we have never been before, allows us to temporarily leave our old life behind and adopt new customs, new ways of thinking and looking at the world that can crossover into our everyday lives.

Many people need the time and space away from what they experience every day in order to recognize harmful or self-destructive patterns in their life. Taking time to get away and visit a new place can highlight distinct lifestyle choices; when you are able to directly compare your life choices with others, you can come to a better understanding of your beliefs, practices and actions. By adding this perspective, you can see what you do like, and what, perhaps, you should change.

Another benefit to vacations is forcing yourself out of the daily rut that you have likely gotten into. Going to a new place can wake you up and shake up your sights, smells, tastes, and feelings. Experiencing all these new senses can help you to better appreciate the surroundings in your day to day life. Vacations can also help prevent burnout at home; by regularly taking time to relax, you can prevent that overworked, under-rested feeling you know too well.

christmas-vacation-packages-europeAnd what better way to experience these new senses than to simply let them wash over you as you sit back, relax and do absolutely nothing. When you do go on a vacation, take a break. Being idle is good for the mind, body and spirit. It is restorative, rejuvenating and, much like taking a long sleep, invigorates you to return to your life fully charged. A good vacation can help us to reconnect with ourselves, operating as a vehicle for self-discovery and helping us get back to feeling our best. This means no blackberrys, no Internet and no working! You can’t take a break from work if you bring it with you.

Aside from your physiological well-being, your physical state can benefit from a few days off as well.

Research has uncovered a link between stress at work and overall wellbeing – and it’s not pretty! Trouble at work can lead to headaches, fatigue, irritability, anxiety, depression, high blood pressure, insomnia, and can even cause a stroke.

The best way to combat these symptoms is to slow down the pace and take some time away from work. Vacations can help keep us healthy by lowering our stress levels that can lead to other problems.  The effects of a good get-away can last for weeks, as some research has found that after just three days of vacation, subjects had less physical complaints, slept better and were in an overall better mood than before the vacation. These effects were still present up to five weeks later!

If you can’t block out a whole week or two, try to take a weekend to unplug, rent a cabin in the woods and go fishing, rent a boat on a lake, or pitch a tent in a quiet park area- anything to get out of your own head.

If you can’t make it out of your house this Christmas, here are a few ways to make your Holiday stay-cation an oasis:

Turn off your phone/ computer/ T.V.– the world can wait, if only for a few hours.

Get outside– take a walk, ride your bike, play with your kids, do everything you’re too tired to do during the work week.

Don’t knit pick– put down the vacuum cleaner and back away from the sponge, the dust will still be there tomorrow.

Hang out with me, myself and I– spend a day by yourself, doing exactly what makes you happy, whether that’s sleeping till noon, doing the crossword or reading a book- do it all in peace and quiet.

Learn something– do something you’ve never done before, the new experience can shake up your routine and maybe even give you a new hobby.

How about seeing a girl on a donkey leads a candle-carrying procession past San Miguel de Allende’s shops festooned with piñatas and poinsettias. When they stop before a Spanish-colonial building and break into song, you realize you’re witnessing the reenactment of Joseph and Mary’s search for shelter that takes place in the days leading up to Christmas.

Whether your winter holiday trip enhances your yuletide nostalgia with traditions, sparkly lights, and nippy air or makes a radical break from it—by, say, taking you to warmer climes or a quiet, far-flung hideaway—breaking the habit of staying home will always reward you with a Christmas you’ll never forget. With that goal in mind, we’ve rounded up diverse, exceptional places to get you in the spirit of taking off.

Quebec City is one of SPY’s favorite historic destinations for the holidays. The narrow cobblestoned streets and stone architecture of the walled city, founded in 1608 by French explorer Samuel de Champlain, make it as romantic and European as it gets on this side of the pond. Add to that a proclivity for snowfall and an abundance of top-notch bars and restaurants, and you may wish the New Year could be postponed.

But the appeal of warming up over the holidays is undeniable, too. For the die-hard contrarian, Kaikoura, New Zealand, ought to do the trick. It’s the height of summer there at Christmas, a holiday most often celebrated outdoors with backyard barbecues. But it’s also a great time to be hiking the rainforest of the Kaikoura mountain range or on the waters of Kaikoura Bay, one of the most biodiverse marine environments on the planet. It’s the summer home of sperm whales, fur seals, dusky dolphins, and pilot whales, and all it takes to commune with them is a boat and a bit of perseverance.

South America has weathered the global recession better than most regions, and it’s not hard to see why. Brazil in particular is peppered with off-the-beaten-track gems that offer a true escape, like the coastal Portuguese colonial town of Paraty, about 140 miles south of Rio. Its friendly locals, cerulean waters, exceptional beaches, and exotic-bird-filled jungles may make you forget what holiday it is altogether. Like we said: unforgettable.

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