Is Travel Relaxing?

Filed Under: Travel

Upfront warning: this post is more a reflection on my life than anything, so if you’re looking for useful mileage tips, stop reading. You’ve been warned. 😉

While I’ve spent a vast majority of the year so far outside the US, the time I’ve spent in the US has been mostly with my parents in Florida. Spending time with my parents in Florida really makes me reflect on life in a good way, since it’s one of the few places I actually feel like I can “relax.”

On the surface that seems pretty backwards, since I’m fortunate enough to travel to so many amazing and relaxing places (Bali, Bavaria, etc.).

Berchtesgaden, Germany

As a bit of background, I graduated from college almost four years ago (crap, time flies!), at which point I turned this hobby into a “career” (or whatever you’d like to call it). There’s not a day that goes by where I don’t pinch myself for being able to do what I love every day and make a living doing it (thanks to you guys).

When I was in college and considering pursuing a career in the industry I was emailing my friend (and now blog contributor) Travis about it, and he said the below, which I thought was pretty insightful:

When I had bad days in college, I always said I was going to go be a park ranger (my other real love is the mountains). But then a friend said, ‘where do park rangers go when they want to get away?’ Kind of made me think.

There’s no doubt a middle ground between:

  • Not wanting to pursue your passion for a living so that it remains your passion and something you can use to “escape”
  • Trying to live by the “if you do what you love, you never work another day in your life” mantra

I spend maybe an average of ~80 hours a week on this “hobby,” and I wouldn’t trade it for the world. I love what I do, though there’s also no denying I don’t have much of a life outside of it.

Bali, Indonesia

Having collectively spent about three weeks so far this year in Florida, I’ve come to the conclusion that this is probably the most relaxing place in the world for me. And that’s with me pursuing this hobby ~80 hours a week. When I’m in Florida I get a ton of work done, get caught up on sleep, get to the gym every day, eat healthy, etc.

Don’t get me wrong, that’s not necessarily a good thing. My “passion” isn’t being functional and at home, but rather my passion is always being on the road. That being said, even when I’m traveling to the most relaxing destinations in the world, it’s not actually relaxing for me. And that’s fine, because “relaxation” isn’t what makes me happy.


I guess what makes me reflect on this most immediately is that very soon I’m headed to the Maldives for about a week. Gary has told me how it’s the one place he truly disconnects, which is why he loves it so much. The fact that it’s so far away and remote is one of the things that makes it so relaxing. And I totally get that.

But reflecting on my own life, I’m already thinking about what I’ll do there. Will it be relaxing? Perhaps by day four it will be… a little bit. But when I take longhaul flights I usually have a lot of work to catch up on. Add in the tedious transfer from Male Airport to the resort (which requires an additional flight and boat ride), jetlag, potentially slow wifi, etc., and it’s not sounding all that relaxing to me. 😉

Like I said above, though, that’s not a bad thing. I don’t like “relaxing.” I don’t read books (though I made an exception for the finest piece of literature from this century — “50 Shades Of Grey”). And I can’t sit still for the life of me.

I realize everyone has different circumstances when they travel. I tend to think in corporate American people don’t get nearly enough vacation time. In Europe you often get six weeks vacation per yer, while in the US you often only get two weeks vacation per year, and many Americans still have to work while traveling.

Many studies show that the aspect of travel that makes people the happiest isn’t the actual trip, but rather the process of planning a trip, and the anticipation that comes along with it.

Queenstown, New Zealand

Which isn’t to say that travel won’t be fun, but rather that you typically won’t come back home “recharged.” Instead many people come home from vacation jetlagged, sunburned, broke, and with a really full email inbox.

What’s my point? Nothing terribly insightful, but I guess for me it’s that travel as such isn’t relaxing. It’s exhausting and draining, actually. But I love it. And often I think as humans we’re as relaxed as we can be when we’re at home and going through our day-to-day routine, even if that means working for most of the day.

I realize I might to some degree be an exception since I “do” travel for a living, but I actually think it’s not that far off from the average person’s experiences. I think it’s important to go into travel with the right expectations. Travel generally isn’t relaxing, even if you’re going to a relaxing destination. But travel is almost always enriching and ultimately beneficial, even if the greatest pleasure you get out of travel is the anticipation and then the memories.

Do you relax when you travel?

I guess I’m curious how everyone else approaches travel. Do you find travel to actually be relaxing? In other words, do you come back home actually “recharged,” or do you come home feeling happy/enriched but exhausted? Does it depend on where you go? Or am I just an exception in finding travel exhausting, given that I’m “going to work” when I’m on vacation?

  1. No relaxing for me on vacation. I plan everything down to a T as to maximize the time away. Waking up early and going to bed late does not make for a relaxing and rejuvenating trip, but it does make for a great time and lasting memories. I’m not one to just sit and relax ever either, so beach/relaxation trips are not vacations for me.

  2. I enjoy your blog very much and understand how this has become a “dream job” for you.

    But increasingly, I get the feeling of lather/rinse/repeat and can’t imagine someone with your talents being relegated to that.

    The posts, while engaging, have become a repetitive (although geographically diverse) series of the same thing.

    No offense meant; just my feedback. I understand your question. Life shouldn’t become a series of “check-boxes” once it becomes boring.

  3. I think some of the issue is nomenclature — we use “travel” “vacation” “trip” and “holiday” somewhat interchangeably and they really do have particular definitions. I “travel” for work, I “travel” to get to my vacation or holiday (which is for fun and relaxing) and I travel to go on a “trip” which is, at least in my head, more about experience and exposure.

    Like you, I use travel as a means to an end – and while I’m traveling for work or traveling during work, the connectivity is important. However, I’ve found that being disconnected is critical for really relaxing – and once I can get there, it’s totally worth it. But that really only happens on “vacation” which is once or twice a year and generally warm and gorgeous but not terribly interesting. I’ll take a bunch of trips this year, all personal travel, that won’t fall into the “vacation” category but I’ll love them just the same — Vienna tomorrow, Barcelona in May, Amalfi coast in September and a few others through the year — and have experiences and learn a lot.

    So is travel relaxing? Travel itself is almost never relaxing (but can be fun) but it’s a means to a relaxing end if that’s it’s purpose.

  4. In a word, no. It’s not relaxing but I do enjoy it. I used to be hard on myself (“relax, dammit!”) but now I’ve accepted the fact that it’s just not the way I travel. I travel to see and do things (which is why I call it traveling and not vacationing).

  5. Ha, what a great post, Ben. I love travel and get such energy and excitement from it, and especially from the travel planning process. But it isn’t, per se, relaxing. I’m not sure as a society we’re doing ourselves any favors if the “travel” bucket and the “relaxing” bucket are expected to overlap.

    Can only think of a few places where I’ve “disconnected” and felt truly relaxed. Usually involving staying in a place for more than a few days. And it’s a great feeling – but boredom sets in awfully easily. There’s a thin line between relaxation and boredom!

  6. more of an adrenalin jolt and attention focuser for me, tho the time away from daily obligations does allow for a certain freedom of thought … informed or stimulated day dreaming, time to read things other than you normally might, etc.

  7. You are using your unique talent to do something special, something that touches countless lives. You were meant to do this. The question I feel you want to ask but stopped short of doing, is do you want your trips to be more relaxing. Or more broadly: are you happy. If the answer to the latter is yes, then end of story. Business as usual. Otherwise, you owe yourself a change.

  8. I separate my travels into two different categories.
    The ones which are very relaxing for me is not very long, short getaways not involving a airport, Hawaii, & Cruises.
    All other travel is more educational and enlightening than relaxing. So for me it’s about keeping a balance between the two. When work becomes stressful I yearn to spend more time traveling in the first category. When work is relaxing then I’m more open to and actively pursue a trip from category 2.

  9. Personally, I am not really relaxed during travel unless I’m with people whom I care about. In January, I visited Hong Kong twice. The first time by myself, and the second time with my Dad. Thanks to AA’s 77W’s with wifi I was able to get about an equal amount work done across the Pacific on both of my trips. However, the trip by myself was much more stressful even though I did the same amount of work (And actually spent more time in my Hotel Room). I would suggest you spend more time traveling with people whom you care about if you would like to have less stress. (I realize that this is not necessarily the point of your post).

  10. It all comes down to how you personally define “relaxing”. For some people, it is completely disconnecting, lying on a beach or by the pool, with a margarita in hand, a good book or some music on the iPod. For others, it is getting away from the hum-drum of everyday life, and visiting some place – be it an educational trip, a ski resort, a beach, a big city, etc. The common theme, though, is getting away from the “everyday” life.

    When you come home to Florida, what you are really doing, in effect, is taking a vacation! Your travel is your work, and so visiting with Mom and Dad, staying in one place, eating well, is your way of getting away from the “everyday” life of daily travel.

    To get good balance, you have to do what is right for you. I know people who go away on vacation, and cannot “relax” until they have checked their emails, and once they have done so, can feel OK about going on with the day; conversely, there are others who turn off their electronics and say “buh-bye until I get back” and don’t give a second thought to checking their mail. For each person, that is their definition of balance.

  11. i think it all comes down to your expectations. now more than ever before, we’ve conditioned ourselves to multi-task and constantly move from one experience to the next. it can be a hard mentality to break, or at least to take a break from.

    i’m currently on holiday in asia and i have to keep reminding myself that it’s perfectly okay to sleep late, take things at my pace and just simply… do what i want to do. didn’t bother with a guide book this time, just some recommendations from close friends whose judgment i trust. my only rule on this trip is “do exactly what you want, when you want”.

    so far, so good. do i feel like i could be doing more? sure. but i really needed a week to just decompress and i think this is the only way i’ll be able to get back to new york feeling refreshed and not twice as exhausted as when i left.

  12. Just out of curiosity Lucky, would your miles earning rate, etc be enough to sustain two tickets for everywhere you go (without reducing any frequency of trips, etc)? Then you could find a nice German guy, travel with him everywhere and it would probably make your (work) trips more enjoyable and less (mentally) exhausting.

  13. 100% disagree with @colleen. Your work is what you love to do. Many opportunities to expand the business. Write a book, keep up on the blog, live the dream.

  14. yep – i now distinguish between “travel” and “vacation/r&r” trips in my head. for the latter i love puerto vallarta because there’s a cook in the villa making us breakfast and dinner, someone at the beach making me drinks and snacks, a driver to take you where you’re going, and no real events to miss out on other than amazing sunsets.

    i’m guessing that’s a lot like being at your parents place – someone is taking care of you and it’s always a good feeling to shut down the task-master part of your brain.

  15. Tbh how can the Americans relax on vacation. You only get 2 weeks a year if your lucky. Just enough time to get over the jet lag . Now Australia has it down pat, 4-5 weeks a year plus 90 extra days after 10/15 years service in the same job. Australia does it right…

  16. @Marty, aside from your snark, please let me further explain. I love reading Lucky’s blog and tried to make that clear. What I was trying to say is there’s an increasing sense of reviewing the same place, over and over. Here’s my trip to XXXXX, and my stay at the Hyatt XXXXX. And My Diamond Hyatt benefits. This is wonderful for the Hyatt Diamond followers. What I’m suggesting is that this routine may become boring for Lucky as well as his readers, especially for the non-Diamond travellers and those who don’t aspire to be,.

  17. This is going to sound crazy. But, I totally zone out on the Acela. I usually fly though on occasion I take the train and it must some combination of the seats and the sound but it totally relaxes me.

  18. Honestly, I relax most on the flights going to and from my destination. And that’s in coach! Once I’m on the ground there, I cram in as much as I can so that I can see and do it all. I took a trip with my mom and aunt last year, and it was really hard for me to travel at a slower pace than I would with my travel buddies. You’d think the slower pace would be relaxing, but I think I worried more!

  19. I was wondering for a while now – do you ever feel as the main character from ‘Up in the air’ movie?

  20. Speaking to you from the beautiful IC Berchtesgaden: I find short trips as you describe, very exhausting. We lack sleep, are moving all day, and are pretty stressed not knowing the surrounding. But they are still enjoyable as we get to get away from the responsibilities of home for a few days. Longer trips, four or more days in 1 place, are relaxing. The first couple days are as described above, after that though things really wind down and you can enjoy it.

  21. @Dimples @lucky – Egyptian guy speaking German here! Was anyone calling me?

    @lucky – In regard to your question, I like to think there are 3 travel categories. I don’t have names for them but I’ll try to explain.

    There’s the “relaxing destination” trips, in which you go to a nice (beach) destination, stay at a top-notch resort and not do much. Perhaps a massage every other day or a diving trip from the hotel but that’s just about it. You just sit on the beach and relax. (e.g. Phuket, Bali, Hawaii, Hurghada…)

    Then there’s the “experience” trips. Those are the trips where you experience something you’ve always thought of doing. (not necessarily dreaming) An easy example would be my trip in two weeks to the West Coast where I’ll be flying a Cessna 172 for the first time, visiting Paine Factory (Boeing) and trying out American Fast Food (never been to ‘murica)
    (e.g. Skydiving, trying out oriental food, running a marathon, etc..)

    Then there’s the third and my favorite type of trips, which is the cultural and historical kind of trip. Lots of museums, sightseeing etc. For example, I took a trip to Amsterdam in April 2014 as an art freak and visited 4-5 museums everyday for a week.
    (e.g. Paris, Amsterdam, London, etc..)

    Now, do you expect a museum trip to be relaxing? No.
    But should a trip to Bali be stressful? Absolutely no!
    Travel is such a wide range of activities, it wouldn’t be fair to ask this question. It’s as logical as “Is food tasty?”

  22. Hi Lucky, I think your question is best answered by saying that travel is still travel, even in First and staying at the best hotels the world has to offer. As you rightly point out, it’s the anticipation that energises the most (the thrill of chase almost). Airports and aircraft (which are just flying buses) are actually trying experiences that are just made more comfortable by First, elite status, fast tracks, lounges, etc. And a hotel is always someone else’s space, not curated by your own hand.

    I love to travel, even though the process itself is always a grind to one extent or another – that’s the dissonance of the beast. You hope for the best knowing “friction” is ever present between the dream and the reality.

    Do anything to extreme and you’ll dull the worth to you (as they say, there is a danger in making the hobbies you enjoy to the work you do). Not to say burn-out is unavoidable, just that you have to achieve a moderation so you don’t lose a passion you hold so dear.

    So saying that, perhaps you’ll be bored out of your mind at the Maldives, but that may just be the ticket to stoke your fires for yet another flight/hotel/lounge review 🙂

    It’s almost impossible for someone to be highly motivated 24/7 365 days a year. Recharge your batteries in whatever way works for you best. Safe journeys Ben, and may you never lose your fire.

  23. Many already commented on this and I will echo – travel is used too ambiguously. I am traveling right now and it isn’t relaxing (although my hour massage at the Bvlgari hotel was a slice of heaven!) but I didn’t think it would be as I had lots to see and do. Most of my travel isn’t designed to be relaxing but more to sate my wanderlust and desire to see the world. I personally find beach vacations boring. I like the beach for two days tops – and not in a row. That will probably change later but for now, when I travel, I have things to see, people to meet, and exploring to do.

  24. Upfront warning: this answer is my reflection on Ben’s reflection of his life than anything, so if you’re looking for an answer to his question, stop reading. You’ve been warned.

    I travel full time as well, I don’t know why you even call it ‘vacation’. It’s not, it’s your job, and well, some jobs are more exhausting as others, that’s normal. At least you get paid pretty well for that, so one less thing to worry about.
    In my opinion, ‘vacation’ is a change from your daily life/routine. So, if your every day looks like ‘wake up, write blog, move to place x or do sightseeing, write blog, gym, sleep’, your vacation will be something that you don’t do any of that. Well, maybe sleep. No moving to place x, no sighseeing, no blogging. Do you have any hobbies besides traveling and blogging? What about spending your time on other hobbies on vacation?
    Everybody needs rest and change of scenery from time to time. What about at least two weeks per year (USA standarts) away from your job – traveling and blogging. Plan them ahead and well, don’t work on your vacation. If you don’t like sitting and relaxing, why don’t you seek for an adventure that does not involve traveling? Get out of your comfort zone and recharge yourself, get different side of a story, if relaxing on the beach is not for you.
    Going to Maldives in this case is your job, so suck it up and do it well. Go try all the excursions the resort offers and review then. It might not be relaxing, but that might keep you from getting bored. I am already waiting for the separate sea plane review, it will be awesome!
    I don’t really understand the purpose of this post and the question ‘Do you relax when you travel?’. You share your experience as ‘traveling equals full time job’ and you ask your readers, to whom ‘traveling is vacation’. Do you want to hear how people feel on their vacation? Or do you want to hear how people feel about their full time job?
    In order to find out if you’re an exeption or the rule about finding traveling exhausting, you should ask this question to the people who travel full time for more than a year. You might find out that it’s much more common than you think. And to mix things up, go ask that question different kind of full time travelers – people that travel only by car, or by train or on foot.
    Ask people how do they feel about their daily life. It it demanding? Is it exciting? Is it boring? It’s a mix of all that.
    Do you have a plan for next 5 years? Next 10 years? Are you comfortable with an idea to have no outside life for next 10 years?
    To me personaly, traveling is rarely ponies and rainbows, it has much more ‘fcuk this place’ involved than I would like and it is highly demanding. But at the end of the day (or year) I remember only those two ponies I’ve seen and it makes it worth it. So yes, traveling is (sometimes) exhausting. Once it becomes more exhausting than usual, well – time for vacation. Challenge yourself on different things.
    How many sunsets do you need to see before it becomes ‘it’s just another amazing sunset’?

  25. I used to be very similar to you and when booking our holidays. I would keep them to the absolute minimum of time, due to the fear of being bored and missing work. However, having someone to go with completely changes that. Last year my girlfriend and I went to the Maldives (Huvafen Fushi) and our schedule went something like: wake up, eat breakfast, go have a nap, wake up, have lunch, do one activity, go back to the room, feed the stingrays, have dinner, go to bed. It was one of the best holidays I’ve ever had. As cliche as it is, it’s often what your attitude is towards the situation you’re in that impacts it the most. You are already anxious about it, so you’ve already set yourself up to fail. If you look at it as being able to stay at one of the latest (and best?) resorts in one of the most beautiful locations on earth, you may just enjoy it.

  26. Travel in itself is not relaxing, there are too many stresses involved from getting to the airport to transiting the airport. Making sure you are on time. Even flying in a premium cabin is not going to be as relaxing as being at home, the altitude the noise it’s going to be warying.

    But travel for me is about the change, if I’m travelling for work which I do a lot it’s not going to be relaxing as it’s not a change its just work somewhere else.

    But travelling for holidays is, once the physical journey is over. Whether we a redoing a beach holiday or an active holiday my mind which is normally going a millions miles an hour at work slows down focuses on reading a book or enjoying whatever experience we are doing and that is relaxing.

    My body may come back from a trip exhausted if it’s been an active trip but that’s fine, it can recover while I’m sat at work the following week, but my mind has come back relaxed and refreshed and ready for work again.

  27. Depends on where I go…if its a beach I relax. If its a city or involves lots of sights, I don’t. Seychelles, Hawaii, Mauritius are relaxing to me. India, China, Japan, etc I’m going from location to location to see things and interact with people so its much more a go go go thing. Places with a beach and things to see, there I combine relax and run!

    The other thing, is having flown around a million miles is that I find myself much much much less frustrated and stressed flying than I did when I was not used to the “nuances” of it. Now I just have no expectations so can just roll with it, be it on an Air India flight or an Emirates flight! Also, Precheck and GE took a lot of the stress out of things.

  28. I need to be busy all the time – at home, work and on vacation. That said, travel for me allows me to recharge my mind, body and spirit and get a better perspective on my life. I often come home sad about jumping back on the hamster wheel of work, gym, sleep, eat, rinse, repeat and having the same conversations with folks thinking there must be more to it all. How to expand the bubble of life we live in?
    Sitting on the beach with a drink doesn’t sound fun and relaxing to me, however, I am scheduled on a repositioning cruise that will force me to relax especially as Wi-Fi is horrible. I find that being disconnected from social media to be the most relaxing for me but I’m older than Lucky who lives, breathes and earns money from being online all the time. I remember life before the internet and can really appreciate being on safari in Botswana floating on the river without a care in the world thinking how amazing this points hobby is that brought me here.

  29. For me, no, travel isn’t relaxing. If I really want to relax, I stay at home on a Saturday and watch stuff on my DVR while eating takeout Thai food. Generally, I travel because I want to explore a new place and see something different/unique/of historical value. Or, I visit friends/family, which is great, but not necessarily “relaxing.”

  30. “…even when I’m traveling to the most relaxing destinations in the world, it’s not actually relaxing for me. And that’s fine, because ‘relaxation’ isn’t what makes me happy.”

    Thank you for articulating what I’ve never been able to. That’s a perfectly stated sentiment.

  31. For me, traveling somewhere (or, more specifically, taking a vacation) is all about a chance of scenery. You escape the routine and, even if you spend days walking around admiring the sights, still return back refreshed, at least, mentally.

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