For the 50+ Traveler
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Sometimes we can’t travel the way we’d like. Our schedule or budget may be too tight. We may have personal or family obligations keeping us at home. There might even be travel restrictions limiting our ability to travel as we normally would.

But even if we can’t physically go somewhere, we can use the power of our minds to travel anywhere we’d like. We call this a virtual vacation. We’re not actually changing our physical location, but we’re traveling through the power of the imagination. We capture every detail of a place in our minds and experience it as though we are there.

We have been passionate travelers for many years. But there have been times when it has not been convenient or even possible to physically travel. When we were living in New York City during the months following the 9/11 terrorist attacks, we trained in visualization and imagery techniques to help others deal with anxiety from the tragic events. The coronavirus outbreak has limited travel even more extensively and has created similar feelings of anxiety. For many people, travel of any sort is not an option. That makes this a good time to share our expertise in taking virtual vacations.

Even when you can travel freely, there are times when you are tired, bored, anxious, or even overwhelmed. Taking a virtual vacation can refresh, inspire, and renew as much as any “real” vacation. This is because the mind is a curious and powerful tool. Although you are consciously aware that you’re not actually in a beautiful destination sipping a cocktail in a lounge chair on the sand, your subconscious mind believes that you are. That’s why a virtual vacation is a meaningful and effective retreat.

A beach on Saint Croix.
Sue Reddel and Diana Laskaris

How To Take A Virtual Vacation

The process of taking a virtual vacation is really very simple. You’ll want to start out with an idea of where you’d like to go. Maybe you feel like relaxing at the beach on your favorite tropical island. Perhaps you want to go skiing in the Swiss Alps. Look at your photos or other images if you’d like. You can visit a place you have been in the past or a place you’d like to go -- or even make one up.

Find A Peaceful, Quiet Spot

The next step is to find a spot where you can sit or lie down alone without any interruptions. A virtual vacation can last from just a few minutes to 20 minutes or more, depending upon the time available and what you’d like to do on your vacation. You will feel refreshed after just a few minutes, so don’t feel that you have to clear your schedule to take a virtual vacation.

Eliminate Distractions

Before you start, make sure you turn off all distractions -- no phone, no Internet, no alerts or alarms. Also be sure that you’re away from your pets. They have a way of distracting you even though you love them.

Relax

Once you are sitting or lying comfortably alone, take five deep, slow breaths. With every breath out, allow your body to loosen and relax. Let the tension leave your muscles, and sink comfortably into your chair, sofa, or bed. As you begin to feel your body relax, let your mind start to wander to the place you have chosen for your virtual vacation.

Use All Of Your Senses

Begin to imagine your virtual vacation destination in detail. Use all of your senses to capture the scene.

What do you hear? Are there birds, waves, or rustling leaves? What do you see? Snow falling, rocky cliffs, or colorful fish swimming in the water? What do you smell? Wood in the fireplace, buttery popcorn, spring flowers, or the salty sea? What do you taste? A street taco, roasted chestnuts, fresh coconut water, or a margarita? What do you feel? The sun shining on your face, a soft breeze, or sand between your toes?

Let these feelings, images, sounds, tastes, and smells come to life. Really concentrate on experiencing them in detail.

You can even take a virtual vacation to a place you don’t know. What would it be like to take a space flight to another planet? Or ride in a flying car? You can visit an imaginary world like Oz, Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory, Middle-earth, or King’s Landing. It’s entirely up to you. Just be sure you use all of your senses. What do you see, hear, smell, taste, and feel?

Spend Time Exploring Every Aspect Of Your Destination

Spend time exploring every feature of your virtual vacation destination. Take a hike in the woods, splash around in the pool, go horseback riding, go skiing, or watch the sunset. Have a meal in a restaurant or grab a snack on the street. Listen to musicians or go dancing. Explore a park, enjoy a drink at a swim-up bar, or eat some fruit fresh off the tree.

Enjoy every detail and go deeper with each. What colors and scents and sounds are you experiencing? What tastes and sensations are you enjoying? The more joy you take in your virtual vacation, the more joy your mind will experience. Your mind does not differentiate -- everything you imagine is real to your subconscious.

Emerge Gently

Once you have enjoyed your virtual vacation, take a few deep breaths and then count backward from three to zero. On zero, open your eyes slowly and allow yourself to emerge from your virtual vacation. Breath deeply and enjoy the feelings that flow through you as you welcome yourself back to the rest of your day.

You can take a virtual vacation to a peaceful destination right before drifting off to sleep. It’s a wonderful way to have a restful night.

Watching the sunrise in Portugal.
Sue Reddel and Diana Laskaris

Virtual Vacations We Have Taken

We love to go to these places on our virtual vacations.

Portugal

One of our favorite experiences is sitting on a high mountaintop in Portugal watching the sunrise. We feel the cold air become warmer as we watch the sun come up in the sky, bringing us from darkness to light. We enjoy warm drinks and the soft sounds of others around us just as spellbound as we are by the beautiful scene.

Yellowstone National Park

Winter is so peaceful and beautiful at Yellowstone National Park. The snow sparkles on the ground as we walk silently on snowshoes. We hear the sound of birds chirping and the wind blowing gently through the trees. The crisp air on our faces feels nice and contrasts with the warmth of our soft clothes. The smell of the evergreens fills the air around us as we slowly amble along in the snow.

Paris

We love the energy of Paris and can never get enough. The sounds of busy city life and buzzing cafes filled with diners surround us. We smell the crepes being prepared on the street. We grab a baguette at the first boulangerie we see and take a crisp, chewy bite. The Eiffel Tower is in view as we sit on a bench and watch Parisians going about their day.

Saint Croix

The beaches, the food, the music, the laughter -- these are the hallmarks of a vacation to Saint Croix in the United States Virgin Islands. The smell of salty air mixes with that of fragrant tropical fruit. We feel the sun on our faces and the sand between our toes as we lounge on the beach. The laughter of friends who call themselves our “cousins” makes us relax even more as we sip on tropical cocktails.

These are just a few of our favorite places for a virtual vacation. We know that you will benefit from relaxing your body, refreshing your mind, and renewing your energy from wherever you choose.

Even though there are times when our bodies must stay in one place, we can take a rejuvenating virtual vacation and continue to explore the world at any time.

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