I’ve been thinking a bit about vacations, partly because I’m off to England tomorrow for some research, some interviews, and a little time off with my wife.
My latest piece on Thrive Global is an argument for ignoring your children while on vacation:
Since my kids were old enough to pack their own suitcases, I’ve had one ironclad rule for family vacations: “I’m not responsible for your feeling entertained.”
What this means is, you’re old enough to be bored if you want, or not bored. You can choose to engage, or not. You’re in charge of your feelings.
I also talk about the science of vacations with University of Groningen postdoctoral fellow Jessica de Bloom on my podcast. De Bloom is a psychologist who’s looked at a number of important issues– when our happiness peaks on vacation, how long the benefits of vacations last, and what factors go into making our time on vacation seem good or bad.
I think her work is very interesting, partly because some of her findings are kind of counterintuitive, but it’s also worth using it (and all scientific research on human subjects) with a grain of salt. For example, when you measure the amount of happiness that being on vacation generates and how long those benefits last, her work indicates that shorter, more frequent vacations are better for us. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t go on long trips: for example, you can get immersed in a culture, or forge deep friendships, or have other experiences that more than make up for the extra weeks.
Travel and vacations can be complicated things, and rewarding for all kinds of reasons; and I think what’s good about this work is how it helps us think more clearly about how we balance different demands and possibilities. The science doesn’t provide fixed recommendations; it clarifies options.
Anyway, I’m off to England shortly, to put some of those ideas into practice….