Convalesce like A Victorian: Planning Travel for a Period of Recovery3 min read
The idea of returning to work after the acute phase of an illness is a modern, Western phenomenon. In the Victorian era, it was common to have a long period of convalescence—a time of recovery and recuperation—following an illness. In the absence of today’s modern medical cures, patients suffering from a variety of ailments were prescribed a long trip to the country, or a summer at the seaside.
With the rise of COVID-19, some publications like National Geographic have suggested that we revisit the practice of taking time away to recover. And considering that work burnout is at an all-time high, I would like to submit that a vacation can be a necessary opportunity not just to recover from physical trauma, but from mental health difficulties as well.
But vacationing for recovery is not the same as traveling for pleasure. Here are some things to keep in mind as you are planning your convalescent getaway.
Carefully select the people who will join you.
It might be wonderful to bring a companion, someone to keep you from getting lonely. But a beloved friend or partner can impede your recovery.
Before you issue any invitations, ask yourself the following questions, and be honest with your answers: How much human interaction will you be able to handle? Is the person who you are considering okay with taking time apart and entertaining themself? Will you feel guilty if you don’t spend enough time with this person?
Sometimes a healthy convalescence demands solo time for rest and reflection. It’s okay to travel alone.
Pick a setting with natural beauty.
The Victorians used fresh air as a cure for ailments from grief to tuberculosis. While fresh air usually isn’t the only cure to either, it certainly doesn’t hurt. Studies show that spending time in nature can improve your mental health.
Think about what landscapes inspire you. Do you love the water? Start looking up beach and lake houses, or hot springs. Does watching the stars fill you with awe? Plan a camping trip to an area with little light pollution. Are you a treehugger? Stay near a national park, arboretum, or hikeable woods.
Just remember to also consider the exertion needed to reach your destination. If it’s remote, make extra accommodations for how and where you’ll be able to rest.
Take your indoor preferences seriously.
When you are in recovery, your room is just as important the outdoor vibe of your trip. You will probably spend a lot of time in that bed! We all have budget constraints, but this is not the time to skimp on comfort. Stay somewhere with good natural light, cozy seating and reliable amenities. If all of that is not possible for you, choose a room close to a park or other public outdoor space so you can spend as much time as possible in a place that feels good.
Set up one activity per day, and don’t be afraid to cancel.
You can’t know exactly what you’ll be up for until your trip, and your stamina might vary from day to day. That’s why it’s best to plan ahead and “pencil in” one activity for each day. It shouldn’t be something you’ll be devastated if you don’t get to do; it only needs to be pleasant.
This way, if you find yourself bored on vacation, you won’t have to scramble to find an activity, but you also won’t feel guilty about canceling. Remember: this trip is about tuning in to your body and giving yourself what you need.
Don’t push yourself.
It can feel odd to go somewhere new and not see all the sites. But this vacation is about recovery. It is about allowing yourself space away from your daily schedule to rest and reflect. It is not about activity or achievement. Walk, hike or play if you want, but resist setting expectations for yourself. Everyone’s recovery looks different, and if yours is watching TV somewhere other than your house, we support you.