Culture and Religion

Tips for a stress-free and relaxed holiday, at home or elsewhere

The Dutch are among the most travel-hungry people in Europe. In 2015, 12.7 million Dutch people went on holiday, i.e., 80% of the population. The rest remained at home because they couldn’t afford a holiday, had health problems, or simply hated the hassle of going away. Staying at home does not need to dampen the holiday feeling, though.

Traveling in the high season is not a thing many people enjoy. Global tourism is on the up and up. The result: horrendous queues at airports and congested highways. The number of Dutch people who cannot be bothered to go on vacation is remarkably high, states Statistics Netherlands.

"The Dutch are suffering from vacation stress", says Greg Richards, Professor of Leisure Studies at Tilburg University. "You MUST take a vacation and you MUST go sight-seeing. Our calvinist ethics is even applied to our leisure time. 'Have you seen this? You didn’t miss …, did you?' The more commonplace it is to go on a vacation, the higher the social pressure and the stress. So perhaps it is much less stressful, and moreover much more environmentally friendly, not to go away for a holiday at all" (NRC Next, July 18, 2017).

Photo pressure. Tourism expert Richards sees the pressure to succeed as another reason for vacation stress: "Good pictures of our wonderful lives on the social media are the new measure of our success, just like a sun tan used to be. But now we are under pressure to take the perfect picture when we should simply be enjoying what we see."

'Touristic musturbation'. Professor of Emotions and Wellbeing Ad Vingerhoets (TSB) thinks vacations are hugely overrated. "Lots of people find it difficult to cope with vacations. They tell themselves they must do and see all sorts of things and that gives them stress. I call it touristic musturbation."

Tips to enjoy a relaxed vacation/staycation (source: NRC Next, July 18, 2017)

1. Looking at things differently. Tourism expert Greg Richards: “In The Art of Travel, Alain de Botton shows that it is not about where we travel to, but the attitude we have while traveling. Being at home can be as interesting as being on a tropical island, as long as we learn to look at things from a different perspective" (see also YouTube).

2. Take it easy. Travel guide author Iris Hannema (Het bitterzoete paradijs, among other books) advises staycationers to slow down and take it easy. Wherever she is, she begins her day in a relaxed atmosphere. "Having a coffee somewhere, looking at people, reading a newspaper or a book, taking a nap, everything at a slow pace. As soon as I feel that I ‘have to do’ something, I stop what I’m doing or stop going somewhere. I refuse to have that feeling; it takes away my freedom. People can do precisely the same thing at home."

3. Talk to new people. "It is irrelevant for holiday memories how many cathedrals you visited, but it is relevant who you met," says Hannema. “I had rather sit and talk to the landlord or the newspaper seller than look up at church ceilings. Preferably talk to people you don’t know rather than to acquaintances."

4. Eat different foods. "Go to a large food market where vendors from many different cultures sell their wares," says NRC’s culinary officer Janneke Vreugdenhil. "Buy ingredients you are unfamiliar with, ask the vendor what to cook with them. Many like to give advice. Or go and have a meal at that nice-looking ethnic restaurant that you have biked past so many times but never had the nerve to enter. Have a chat with the barman or the patrons. Or go and have a picnic in a scenic area where you can take a swim as well.”

5. Alter your interior. "Make changes to your home for the ultimate holiday feeling," says Mary Hessing, editor-in-chief of interior design magazine WOTH. She travels so much that she prefers to spend her summer at home with her family. Put the tv in the cupboard under the stairs and, weather permitting, eat al fresco three times a day. Spend your first vacation day revamping your backyard, create a cosy seating area. Get some brightly colored flowering plants at the garden center; you can enjoy them all summer. Turn your bedroom into a luxury hotel room. Crisp white linens, cosy bedside lighting, extra pillows or even a long bolster pillow. Don’t forget the flowers!" When the weather is good, she even sleeps in her backyard.

6. Rainy day? Bring out the books!