Not Every Vacation Needs to (Or Should) Be an ‘Adventure’

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I’m tired. Let me lay on this beach in peace.

If you have an interest in travel—whether that means traveling yourself and talking about it with your friends and family, following travel-oriented accounts on Instagram, or say, reading outlets like Fodor’s—you’re probably familiar with the breathless tone with which we’re urged not to just go on vacation, but to go on an adventure.

It’s a seductive way to frame the way you use our precious PTO. You’re not some kind of dork with chunky socks and a Hawaiian shirt. You’re a vagabond, a wayfarer, an explorer.

There is, of course, nothing inherently wrong with this. It’s actually a really wonderful way to have some meaningful, enriching life experiences. By all means, fill your days hiking mountain trails, diving into fish-filled waters, winding down cobblestone streets.

It’s just that this way of vacationing in a state of perpetual motion seems to have elided the validity of going somewhere just to relax. At this point, many of us can’t help the knee-jerk of guilt that comes with the idea of buying a plane ticket to a new place with the express goal of “merely” resetting. We inevitably tell ourselves that it’s too frivolous to buy a plane ticket and book a hotel in order to spend our time doing what is ostensibly nothing. Modes of vacationing geared for those looking to do as little as possible like cruises or resorts are disdained, branded as deeply, unquestionably uncool—the greatest sin a thing vying for your free time can commit. Which, I don’t need to feel cool, it honestly sounds like a façade far too exhausting for this certified uncool person to keep up.

But the thing that can sometimes feel insidious about the emphasis that’s put on go-go-going, even on vacation, is that it can feel like an extension of a culture (at least here in the U.S.) that prizes your efficiency as a cog over all things. … To the point where we reflexively look at maintaining our own personhood with disdain.

But the thing that can sometimes feel insidious about the emphasis that’s put on go-go-going, even on vacation, is that it can feel like an extension of a culture (at least here in the U.S.) that prizes your efficiency as a cog over all things. Gathering shots for Instagram, acquiring new ways to enhance your “personal brand.” It’s the cousin of a system where you should always be striving, hustling, doing. To the point where we reflexively look at maintaining our own personhood with disdain.

It’s a mentality that companies have even been able to weaponize with regards to their own customers. Amtrak recently announced that it would be taking out dining cars on certain routes.

“Our new millennial customers don’t like it so much,” Peter Wilander, the head of customer service at Amtrak, told The Washington Post. Make no mistake, this choice had everything to do with cutting costs, but if you need to put a PR-friendly face on an issue, “ Millennials are always on-the-go so they don’t actually have time for [insert thing]” will serve you pretty well.

But the reasons this perception exists at all is only supported by a kernel of truth. Millennials are seen as prioritizing convenience and ease because their “on the go” lifestyle is a result of having so much debt and so little pay so little security (financial, job, housing, etc.) that keeping life on the rails feels like a never-ending spinning plates routine. Which is a great “business as usual” for corporations, because this perpetual motion means perpetual profits.

Leisurely pleasures that demand nothing more than watching the landscape go by in a dining car or floating in gentle ocean waves should be prized things. And while they do involve spending money, being a consumer, at the very least they allow you to let all aspects of hustling fall by the wayside—they allow your body and your mind to be open and unencumbered.

So if the idea of embarking on a packed itinerary on your next trip is sounding less like fun and more like work, maybe it’s time to take the pressure off by going back to the vacation basics. Split your time between floating in the warm waters of the Caribbean and sunbathing. Find an Alaskan cabin where sinking into calming, natural beauty is as simple as stepping outside. If you want to reach the platonic idea of not feeling obligated to do anything you’re not in the mood for, book a cruise spend your evenings watching the sunset from your balcony.