Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Slowing Down in Palma de Mallorca

I've come to realize that there is a significant difference between a trip and a vacation. A trip is what I generally associate with travel: immersing yourself in new cultures, exploring, sightseeing, getting to know locals and tasting their traditional cuisine. A vacation, on the other hand, is the very antithesis of this: devouring books on the beach, indulging on the occasional poolside cocktail, and adhering to a strict schedule of sunbathing, napping and swimming. Assuming that these are the definitions we are prescribing to, I had been taking at least two trips per month for the past two years, but I hadn't taken a real vacation since 2011.

Although travel is my greatest passion and pleasure, I'm still very much an introvert. Every so often, I crave a break from the chaos and overstimulation that come along with constant travel. However, I rarely allow myself to take these breaks considering how many cities in Europe I'm dying to explore. It's hard for me to justify a lazy beach getaway when I could be spending that limited time (and money) traipsing through a bustling capital or charming countryside village.

Last spring I found myself getting positively burnt out. With little recovery time in between trips, I felt physically exhausted and emotionally drained. The pressure of balancing teaching, travel, blogging and friend-time (while also trying to figure out my life plan) absolutely sucked me dry. I needed to recharge my batteries, and a lazy beach vacation sounded like just the cure. So when my mom came to visit me in June, we fled to Palma de Mallorca for a desperately needed escape.

I checked myself into that resort with no intention of every leaving the hotel except for the occasional meal. I slept in every morning, had multiple mimosas at brunch, spent my days reading books on the beach and my nights finishing books in my cozy bathrobe. I had to be coerced into sightseeing. I half-heartedly researched where to find gluten-free traditional Majorcan dishes, and then I gave up entirely. I failed to immerse myself. I went against every travel value that I thought I had... and it felt awesome.

I know it sounds somewhat blasphemous for a "travel blogger" to endorse taking a break from travel, but doing so allowed me to stay sane. Caught up in the unrealistic ideals of "seeing as much as possible", I was denying myself of the leisure that I truly craved. The introvert in me begged for a break from travel's perpetual overstimulation. In order to reenergize, I had to take a breather and just sit still for a while.

Taking a real vacation (and a rather shameless break from my usual travel norms) taught me the value of balance. I had been trying to keep up with a pace that simply doesn't come natural to me, and I needed to learn how to incorporate down time abroad.

That said, I don't think I could ever be fulfilled by exclusively traveling in this manner. (I mean, I love chocolate cake, but I wouldn't want to eat chocolate cake for every meal, you know?) I still crave authenticity and adventure when I travel, but it doesn't make sense to confine myself to one specific travel style when I know too much can easily drain me. Now that I understand my needs better, I realize that a little R&R can go a long way. 

My only celebrated excuse to leave the beach: fresh burrata and mango gazpacho from Ombu

Ombu's "osmotized" pineapple with coconut cream - aka the best dessert I've had in Spain

I know I won't always have the sufficient time or funds to indulge on holidays like this very often, but now that I remember the value of true vacation, I plan on being better about listening to my needs and letting go. As it turns out, relaxation is not by any means overrated. 

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