Is Travel Like a Good Night’s Sleep?

A strange question, surely, but an important one. Think of the common adjectives associated with waking up naturally from a deep sleep, and compare them to how you feel after the perfect getaway.

Energized? Refreshed? Optimistic? Healthier?

There are a surprising number of parallels between rest and a vacation, primarily emphasizing personal and physical well-being.

Ultimately, like many things in life, you want quality over quantity. Overextended vacations are taxing on your schedule, finances, and mental state. What’s the point of exploring the world if you just want go home halfway through? Isn’t it disappointing when you leave a new city with so much left to experience. It’s worth highlighting that my point isn’t about how to effectively construct an itinerary, mind you. It’s that you should never feel obligated to stay somewhere for longer than you want, or travel further than you should on a tighter time constraint.

If anything, these similarities reinforce the deep importance of travel. Exploring the unknown is so richly ingrained in our history that many would say it’s no longer an element of culture or society, but part of human nature itself. I believe that we all have an innate physiological need for new experiences (yes, even the self-identified creatures of habit). As I’ve said in other posts, it’s not the distance of the getaway, but how it positively affects you. Just like sleep, developing a healthy routine with travel is just as important as traveling itself. We owe it to ourselves to occasionally, if not regularly, explore new parts of the world, but doing it too often and doing it for too long doesn’t benefit us the same way that regulated, planned, and varied excursions do.

Very few people can thrive on alternative sleep cycles. Most of us live in a monophasic cycle, where we’re awake for one period of time and asleep for one period of time every 24 hours. Some of us live in a biphasic cycle, where an afternoon nap is an integral part of one’s sleep. Intense sleep schedules consisting entirely of regularly-spaced short naps (Uberman and Dymaxion cycles) are arguably the most challenging to adopt, and often require one to have the right genetic makeup to truly thrive. Now, let’s look at this from a travel perspective.

Growing up in the United States, many of us are familiar with two “major” vacations a year: summer vacation and spring break. The former is the extended getaway to travel with your family where the latter is usually a fun excursion with friends once you hit a certain age. The summer vacation is monophasic travel, and the introduction of spring break turns it into biphasic travel. As you grow older and more independent, you have the flexibility to travel how you please. Perhaps you take all of your vacation time to deeply unwind and disconnect once a year? Maybe you take a moderate vacation and a brief getaway some months apart? Maybe you can survive the Ultraman travel cycle and go on a getaway every month? Some of us may thrive on a schedule like that, but I’d imagine for most of us would neither find the energy to maintain that lifestyle nor the benefits to justify it.

As you grow older and gain independence, we can choose how spend our time and resources. Some of us are night owls and others are early risers. Some of us prefer road trips and other want to sail around the world. There is no “right” way to sleep, nor there is a “best” way to travel. The point of this write-up was to simply prompt you to ask yourself if you’re effectively practicing self-care at home, on the road, and in all aspects of your life. Stay healthy, stay adventurous, and keep wandering and pondering!


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