I recently spent one night in a hotel in upstate New York with my oldest daughter. “I’m taking Molly back to school this weekend,” I said to my friends and family. I was kind of dreading the long drive and nowhere in my mind did I view the trip as a vacation. It was just a chore, really. Or so I thought. As it turns out, I thought wrong.
From the minute we got in the car to tackle that long drive, I knew this wouldn’t be a chore at all; rather, it was the (quick) vacation we both needed! We sang, we danced, we laughed and we cried during that long car drive. We talked about anything and everything from politics to philosophy to memories of younger years. We swam in the pool and sweat in the sauna. We stayed up until 1 a.m. and we ate so much good food without any guilt. Sure, it was quick. And yes, it wasn’t expensive or luxurious. But vacations don’t have to be. I now know that it isn’t a beach or a nice cocktail or a fancy resort that makes a vacation. It isn’t about how many nights you are away or how far you travel. Vacation, as I am learning, is a spiritual experience that takes place when you can escape your usual responsibilities and become fully present in whatever it is that you are doing.
This little revelation led me to ask around: what was the best vacation you ever took and why? I heard so many wonderful stories, full of inspiration and great advice. Here are a few of my favorites:
“In 2015, I was going through a divorce and decided to splurge on a vacation to the Dominican Republic. I am an aerialist and booked a 7-day Circus Retreat. It turned out to be the most memorable trip I've been on. I connected with so many amazing women, challenged my body, ate incredible food, tried new aspects of circus, learned how to salsa, and danced in a twerk off ... it was truly the 'fill up my cup' trip that I needed.” — Kristjana, 32, South Dakota
“Nine months post breast cancer surgery, I took my first international trip to Las Catalinas, Costa Rica. It was the first time that I felt that my physical and emotional state were in synergy. I was able to downshift into the stress-free lifestyle of this pedestrian-friendly town, surrounded by nature in all its beauty. I felt strong and optimistic — on any given day I could try a new activity, push myself to go further on trails, or just relax and appreciate the natural surroundings. I let go of a lot of my cancer-related fear, and instead, appreciated that I was able to travel to and experience a place like this. That’s the great thing about travel — it opens your mind to new places while freeing you from what’s holding you back.” — Katherine, 54, Colorado
“I wasn't eating very healthy and my body was dragging. Raising two babies and running a business were taking a toll on me. I knew I needed a break, even just for a few days. I booked myself a getaway at Hilton Head Health, a wellness resort where all day long you exercise, meditate, spa, kayak, walk on the beach, and eat healthy. It's my version of heaven: no kids, limited distractions, everyone is there to focus on themselves. It's the ultimate reset button. I took a wellness vacation before that became the trendy thing to do. I literally dream about that vacation every week. My girls are older now, 6 and 7, and I keep trying to find the time to take another 'me' vacation. I've got another milestone birthday coming up; maybe 2023 will be the year.” — Taryn, 39, South Carolina
"As my 50th birthday approached, 2020 unleashed one blow after another: a flood in January that displaced me from my home for three months; the start of a pandemic that got me thinking about my mortality; a lackluster retail job I’d held for 18 years and never enjoyed; and my partner of seven years suddenly leaving me for someone else. Oof! My response? I quit my job and began planning the journey of a lifetime. Honoring my desire to be eco-friendly, I set out on a year-long counterclockwise loop around the perimeter of the continental US—jaunting up into Canada in a few spots as well. This journey challenged me physically, mentally, and emotionally, but it was probably the richest spiritual experience I have had thus far. The people I met, the beautiful nature and vibrant urban areas I saw, and the thrill of traveling in unconventional, human-scaled ways has transformed me. I have now switched to doing life-coaching work remotely (to which I have recently added travel coaching!), and I plan to remain nomadic for the foreseeable future." — Maren, 50, loosely based in Portland, Oregon
"When my daughters were in middle school, we went on a five-month 'global family field trip'. While my 12-year-old daughter was thrilled to trade middle school for world school, our 14 year old blamed my husband and me for ruining her life. Despite this, we embarked on a journey that took us to 10 countries across three continents. Each flight took us farther from our suburban bubble, and we immersed ourselves in new customs, cultures, and religions. This resulted in a first-class education from economy seats. The life lessons we learned during those five months have impacted our lives more than all the years sitting in a classroom combined. Some lessons were humiliating — like surviving public nudity; some were valuable — like learning to outsmart scam artists; and others were terrifying — like being detained in a communist country. However, the best part of this story is this: When my older daughter was a high school senior, she returned to her middle school and delivered a speech to the entire student body. She shared why travel is so important and how that eighth-grade global journey changed her life." — Kellie 53, Alabama
Bon voyage, girlfriends!
To know more about the top new cruises for 2023, go here.
What's the best vacation you've ever taken? Let us know in the comments below.