Even though summer has come to an end and school is back in session, that doesn’t mean we have to stop indulging in our wanderlust. COVID-19 and more rigid schedules may prevent us from taking far-flung flights and long, spontaneous road trips, but we can still find adventure close to home.
It’s not feasible for most—myself included—to take lots of uninterrupted blocks of time off for full-blown vacations these days, but one thing I’ve learned over the years is that it’s possible to get some of the same benefits by approaching weekends with more of a vacation mindset.
There’s even research that supports this assertion. Researchers conducted a study with 400 participants in which they asked one group to treat a weekend as a vacation and the other to treat it like a regular weekend. The results were clear: Those who treated the weekend as if it was a vacation were significantly happier when Monday arrived than those that didn’t.
The researchers found that while the two groups of people engaged in different activities, the bigger impact came from a shift in mindset among the “vacationers.” They were “more mindful of and attentive to the present moment throughout their weekend’s activities.”
One of the best ways to take advantage of weekends is by planning “micro-adventures.” Author and world traveler Alastair Humphreys is a big proponent of micro-adventures, which he describes as “something different, something exciting—but cheap, simple, short, and on your doorstep.”
Hiking a new trail. Camping in the backyard. Biking instead of driving. Exploring a new neighborhood. A cookout on the beach. With a bit of forethought, these types of activities can be easily fit into a typical weekend and will pay happiness dividends all week long. And even if you don’t have an entire weekend to devote to micro-adventures, you can still gain the benefits of a vacation mindset by carving out a bit of intentional time in which you slow down, take notice, and have fun.
We have a weekend filled with soccer games, but we’re still going to find some time to hit the beach to soak up what’s left of summer. How about you?