It’s not exactly news that Americans are workaholics and collectively terrible at taking a break. Fortune reported on a study in May that 54 percent of employees ended 2016 with unused time off, which totaled 662 million wasted vacation days (though we sure hope some rolled over!). If you’re one of the millions leaving time off on the table, and then compensating by planning your vacations down to the minute, you might want to rethink that strategy.
Richard A. Friedman, a professor of clinical psychiatry at Weill Cornell Medical College, wrote this week in the New York Times that to get the most out of our vacations, we don’t need an exorbitant amount of time away from our lives, but that we do need to be open to unexpected and unplanned experiences. He offers anecdotal evidence from one patient’s trip, where his Tuscan vacation was packed to the gills, but a broken down car and a stranger’s invitation to lunch had him return looking more relaxed and with vivid memories of this unexpected, and ultimately wonderful, day.
It makes sense—allowing yourself to be in the moment is a fast track to strong and satisfying memories. You’re pulled out of the present if you’re playing strict tour guide and constantly checking a schedule to get on to the next thing, or are obsessively documenting every aspect of your trip so you can look back on the most minute of details.
If I take a second to remember my own vacation memory highlight reel, the majority aren’t captured in an Instagram or on a scheduled visit somewhere. It’s stopping off at an unplanned winery to discover they’re having a rosé festival, or getting lost down a side street and spending an afternoon in a charming vintage shop. The things you can’t plan are often the best bits.
Read more over on the New York Times.