How to Actually Relax on Vacation, According to an Expert

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Relaxation expert Darrin Zeer shares his tips on disconnecting while on vacation.

While the thought of letting go and totally disconnecting while on vacation is simple enough, the act can be much harder than the reality.

When traveling to far-flung destinations it becomes a habit to rely on your phone to stay connected to what's going on back home and to document your trip abroad. But with recharging being the main focus of a trip, how can you really relax if you're constantly digitally available?

To put it simply, you can't.

"It's so hard for people to digitally detox because we're all hooked to our devices," said Darrin Zeer, a stress management specialist and author of Office Yoga and Everyday Calm: Relaxing Rituals for Busy People. "The funny thing is that people can give it a good shot, but we use our phones for so many things that it just becomes second nature."

With apps and gadgets making it so easy for people to stay connected while all over the world, it can be difficult to pull yourself away without worrying as though you're missing out. Whether it's an important email, text or Facebook post that you're checking, it makes it nearly impossible to truly experience the destination that you've traveled so far for. But more so than that, it prevents you from spending quality time with the people that you're with. When you're buried in your phone, scrolling through your Instagram feed, Whatsapping friends, commenting on Facebook threads, it's as if you're not on vacation at all. You could be doing any one of those things from your living room couch.

"Stress has become a habit, a norm for most people," Zeer said. "Here's the thing, it can be a little uncomfortable to unwind and that's why it's so important to turn your phone off. Stay present, smell the flowers, tune into how your body is reacting to the environment that you're in." 

But the suggestion is much easier than the reality. People must make a concerted effort to leave their phones behind to focus on the moment. Zeer explained that checking your phone has become a ritual for many, one that's difficult to change.

According to the Pew Research Center, the vast majority of people visit social media sites habitually. A study conducted by the center found that 74 percent of Facebook users visit the platform daily, while 63 percent of Snapchat users and 60 percent of Instagram users do the same. 

"We have to break the trend because it becomes an entrenched addiction," Zeer said. 

While it may seem simple enough to just turn off your phone and walk away, it takes commitment. While it may sound funny, try taking it one day at a time. It can be much harder to break a habit than you'd expect, but you'll be able to embrace your vacation so much quicker than if you were doing so through the lens of your phone. 

Zeer offers two quick tips for those looking to be more mindful while on the road: First and foremost (and most obvious), turn off your phone and try to use it minimally. You'll never be able to truly relax if you have constant buzzing alerts in your pocket. Second, focus on the present. When you're thinking of the past or future, it takes you away from the people that you're around. 

"We're all on the treadmill of life and it's going faster and faster," said Zeer. "Being on vacation is our chance to slow down."