Welcome to the Coach Stressbuster blog. My intention is to share stories and ideas that will energize you and make you happy. I have been high strung my whole life, and as I get older I have learned to park some of my stress and anxiety. I have also learned a certain amount of stress is a good thing.
One of my favorite stressbusters is vacation. It’s a good thing to start planning in the New Year. Americans get so little paid vacation compared to most other developed countries, and is one of the few developed countries that does not mandate paid vacation. According to the Center for Economic Policy and Research even after 25 years, the average American only gets 15.1 days off. In spite of this, many Americans don’t take the vacation they’re owed. 57% of American workers had unused vacation time — up to two weeks’ worth — at the end of 2011, according to a Harris Interactive survey. No wonder Americans suffer so much from anxiety and stress. We don’t take the time to get away and relax on vacation.
I am been self-employed for over 20 years, so I do not have corporate constraints on vacation time, but don’t get paid vacation either. I do have money constraints, so we economize as we vacation, but we take 2 – 3 weeks of getaway vacation time most years.
Last Fall, we took our vacation in France, a popular destination for us since we have family and dear friends who live there. We started our holiday in Nice which is a lively, beautiful city right on the Mediterranean near Italy’s border. One of my favorite features is the Flower Market in the old part of town, a block from the ocean. In addition to flowers, there is wide array of fresh fruit, veggies, cheese and other produce. The produce looks like it’s just been picked. My favorites were the tomatoes and grapes.
After Nice, we worked our way along the Mediterranean coastline to some charming towns such as Antibes, Juan les Pins, Cannes, St. Tropez, les Issambres and Hyères. We targeted the old sections of each town since we love old architecture. We especially loved the harbors with charming boats of all description as well as the fishing boats. The Parasol trees along the Mediterranean are spectacular both in their beauty and the angles they can grow at. My favorites were in an older, wealthy neighborhood in Antibes.
We loved the hike along the twisty coastline in Hyères where each bend brought a new site: the forest, someone’s back yard, some incredible gardens, and the beach. This walk was so invigorating as I felt like a child with this thrill of discovery around each bend, while feeling and smelling the fresh ocean breeze.
We ate lunch outdoors almost every day. In France, lunch is an event. It starts at Noon and ends at 2 pm sharp. However, along the Mediterranean lunch hours are extended, which adds to the casual ambiance of being on vacation.
The highlight of the trip for me was the Camargue, which is a huge salt marsh area with an incredible variety of birds, white horses and black bulls. In some ways, it’s more like Spain, although they don’t kill the bulls in the ring. The Camargue is particularly populated with Pink Flamingoes, Herons and Egrets of all description. Bird watching is a new hobby for me, and I brought my bulky binoculars to maximize my bird watching experience. There was a bird park near Saintes Maries de la Mer, which featured 7 kilometers of trails around bodies of shallow water. We spent a glorious afternoon there, and the weather was perfect.
We met our in-laws in Aigues Mortes, a medieval town constructed under Louis IX as a port for the Crusades at the edge of the Camargue. We drove back and spent time with them at their lovely home in the Tarne, which is inland and close to Toulouse. Coincidentally some dear friends, former Colorado neighbors, live 4 miles away, so we felt blessed to spend time with them.
I am grateful that we take vacations. I can’t describe the energy I come home with, but I feel more relaxed and creative in my work, and appreciative for my life.