We tend to forget about the importance and value of having free time during our travels. Holidays are often jam-packed with exciting activities and excursions, all the while forgetting to take a moment to recuperate, adjust to new time zones and altitudes, or just enjoy the scenery. You should however make sure to add free time and leisure activities into your trip for a variety of reasons.
The importance of free time
Travel can be extremely tiring. Taking a long international flight is taxing on the body and can disturb sleep patterns. Considering this, it is important to listen to your body and get sufficient rest so you are fresh to enjoy your trip. You should try to schedule a relaxing day after your initial arrival as a way to recuperate and regain your strength… and get ready for what is coming up!
If you have planned an adventure holiday, make sure to schedule a free day in between activities. Failing to do so can cause over-exhaustion, potentially making you miss out on other scheduled excursions you had been looking forward to.
Adjust to your environment
It is crucial that you take time to adjust to your new environment. Adjusting to a new surroundings can be done in a variety of manners, and has physical and mental benefits! There are 3 main areas where you will have to make adjustments: time, altitude, and weather.
1. A new time zone
If you have traveled a considerable distance, it is very likely that you may experience some jet lag. Jet lag symptoms include extreme tiredness or other physical effects (such as headaches or stomach aches) the people feel after taking a flight across different time zones. While there are various tips and recommendations on how to avoid or combat this jet lag, there is no fool proof solution! The National Sleep Foundation says that upon arrival at your new destination, you should avoid heavy meals and exercise close to bedtime. Try to get some sunlight! Daylight is a powerful stimulant which helps regulate your biological clock. All in all, make sure you give yourself the chance to adjust to the new time zone.
If you are traveling to South America, it is very likely that you will experience some very high altitudes. The airport of La Paz in Bolivia is for example 13,323ft (4,061m) above sea level and Cusco in Peru lies at an elevation of 11,152 ft (3,399m). In order to cope with the change of elevation, especially if you are arriving directly from sea level (i.e. from Lima to Cusco), you should set aside at least 24 hours to acclimatize.
Once you acclimatize to the altitude in Cusco, you should have no problem with the height of Machu Picchu either! When you are at these elevations you may feel out of breath while walking, but the risk of getting altitude sickness or soroche gets minimized if you take the time to acclimatize. Soroche is the body’s natural reaction to big changes in elevation. Make sure you are informed about altitude sickness and ways to combat it prior to departure.
It is important to allow your body to also acclimate to new temperatures. If you are coming from the cold, and now find yourself in a warm paradise, it is important to slowly accustom your body to this heat. Try to avoid extended exposure to the heat upon your initial arrival, and drink plenty of fluids. Make sure to wear light colors in the sun and apply plenty of sunblock.
Some researchers believe that merely sitting in the heat, without any movement, will not acclimate your body to the heat. So instead, try strolling in the heat for short periods of time.
Once you take the necessary steps to adjust to the new temperature, altitude, timing and environment, you are ready to fully enjoy your holiday! But no matter what, adding leisure activities into the trip will ensure you are able to:
- Regain energy
- Discover hidden gems you would otherwise not have come across (i.e. a cute cafe; a park; a hidden street…)
Here is a list of my favorite “down-time” activities that can be enjoyed is almost every city.
- Take a stroll
- Relax in a park
- Read a book (in a park or a cafe)
- Visit a local market
Now it’s your turn to go out and explore – but remember to rest sufficiently!
Hendrika is Belgian but she considers herself a citizen of the world as she has lived in many different countries before moving to Peru. She fell in love with South America after her first visit to the continent in Bolivia, and has since then spent a lot of time traveling in the area. She especially enjoys Peru for its diversity, delicious food, and rich history.