Tag: happy

Travel Swellness: How vacations make you happy (+ my review of Finest Playa Mujeres)

img_7983

My recent trip to Cancun, Mexico, thanks to booking through the folks at Expedia Canada, couldn’t have come at a better time. Because while I have traveled non-stop this year, this trip I planned to be way different than any other I’d taken this year: this was going to be a vacation.

Most of my trips, you see, are for work, and this means the trips typically involve a very busy  itinerary with very little down time. And while this mean I may take part in absolutely wonderful experiences (such as surfing in Barbados or eating conch on the beach), it can also mean visiting one too many beautiful churches or American history museums or seeing every type of room in a hotel including meeting spaces I will never write about, which is fine (I enjoy pretty churches and museums and cool hotels) but it’s certainly not how I would choose to spend a lot of my vacation time. I’d rather be poking around local haunts or even, well, just starting a day later than 6 a.m. some days. And I’m usually not with friends when I travel for work (although I do get to meet a ton of great writers who have become friends!). But this is all part and parcel with what I do for work, and that’s fine. I’m just trying to explain how most of the travel I do is not vacation, even though I know it may seem like so…

img_7945-1

But this Mexico getaway? “You look really happy,” and “Wow, you’re really on vacay,” said my friends of this Expedia trip. These are friends who know me well and can read when I’m too tired or hiding (poorly) being cranky. And I was happy and relaxed; having six days to decompress in the warm sunshine with my only concern being whether to order a margarita or caipirinha was exactly what this frazzled freelancer needed.

How and when vacations make you happy, though, actually happens long before you make it to your destination, though. And I’ve talked about this in the past on the blog. Researchers in the Netherlands took it upon themselves to find out how vacays affect your happiness, and what they found is the biggest jump in your happiness happens in the eight weeks leading up to your vacay, when you are  planning it. And I was giddy and excited planning where to go and what we would do in our trip (and you can check this post for my tips on finding the right Expedia vacation for you).

After your vacay, your happiness typically drops back to your usual baseline of happiness. It’s only if you experienced feeling “very relaxed” on your trip that your happiness jumps for a period of two weeks post-vacay — and I’m, ahem, happy to report, that that would be me. I was beyond pleased with our choice of vacation spot (here are my tips on how to narrow down your Expedia vacay search to find the right one for you). We stayed at Finest Playa Mujeres and I’d say the only thing that could’ve made it better would have been had it been an adults-only property — but that resort is such that you can usually escape to an adults-only pool or just one of the quieter pools during the day.

img_7789

The room (which I failed to take a photo of…see, I truly was in vacay mode!) was spacious and modern, and featured this chic nook on our balcony for a sweet snooze. I finished one book (The Nest — which I very much enjoyed)  and happily dove into another (that I’m still racing through, The Best Kind of People by Zoe Whittall); reading more books is another way I’m trying to make more time for myself.

img_7887

The entire resort is beautifully modern and chic in design, from its airy lobby to its long pools, some equipped with pretty hammocks.

img_7668

The beach has plenty of palapas, so you don’t have to rush down before sunrise to “reserve” your spot. There is sometimes one or two people on jetskis in the water, but they’re usually far out enough that it’s not too loud; it’s still a peaceful beach.

img_7760

The staff are lovely — the only time I felt they could’ve done better, in my opinion, was when no one on staff asked the parents at dinner at the table beside us to have their child watch his tablet with earphones on rather than at full volume (kudos to the woman at the other table for letting them know as she left the restaurant  this was rude — although it only resulted in the volume being turned down a smidge). PSA: It is not OK to play things on your phone, computer or tablet with the volume on in public with people within earshot. All in all, though, the guests at this resort seem to be there to relax; it’s not a rowdy crowd.

img_7608

I’ve stayed at a fair number of all-inclusive resorts and besides its beautiful grounds and design, Finest Playa Mujeres also stands out when it comes to its food. There are a few missteps — avoid the both the pizza and pan-Asian restaurant (except do try the nem as an appetizer — those fresh rolls were delicious!), but the a la carte restaurants (which you don’t have to book a reservation for) are actually tasty. If you’ve been to a typical all-inclusive resort, you know what I mean; the different cuisines tend to poor takes on Italian or Japanese and rubbery overcooked lobster. AT Finest, though, we enjoyed the calamari and sangria at the tapas restaurant, the fish tacos and tender steak at the Mexican restaurant, and so much more. The buffets have a wide variety, too, including some lovely fish in a coconut sauce. My favourite lunch was at the beach shack, because I can graze on nachos with ceviche and guacamole on the daily, and they always had fun snacks including quesadillas and chicken wings.

img_7977

The cocktails are refreshing and well made. The best margaritas we enjoyed at the Golden Bar, and at breakfast there’s a self-serve mimosa and bloody mary bar (always a nice touch), and a wide array of juices;  we also enjoyed some lovely wines, sangria, caipirinhas and pina coladas. And the adorable Sweet Corner coffee shop has some good coffee — we were regulars there for cappuccinos, ristrettos and espressos (what can I say, we like to be caffeinated) — and some yummy buttery mini croissants. I somehow failed to try any of the ice cream they had here at the cafe (I just wasn’t in the mood so I wasn’t going to eat ice cream just because it was available — that’s one of my tips for not ruining your healthy regimen ICYMI).

img_7773

With the cold weather here now, it’s a good time to start planning a winter getaway with Expedia if you haven’t already and let the happiness of an upcoming trip fill you and get you through the next couple of months.

img_7614

1 Comment December 21, 2016

New Year Swellness: So long, 2014. Hello, 2015!

With my bestie on the beach in Anguilla

As I’m sure many of you have been doing as well, I’ve spent the last few weeks reflecting on the past year, which has flown by. Even faster than the year before — is that possible?

And I wish I could say I look back at this year fondly, but it’s been a relatively rough one. Many ups and downs and, well, it’s been tough to keep a light heart. So much so that great things that I realize should stand out just seem a blur because I’m just going through the motions and not appreciating them for what they are. I happened to look back on my Instagram account yesterday (I’m @healthandswellness — follow me, do it!) and realized it’s been less than a month that I was on the sands in dreamy Anguilla (where I managed a scary untethered climb down a cliff that absolutely terrified me — but was patting myself on the back for completely, shaky legs and all). And just eleven weeks ago, in Chicago I ran my best marathon. A very unexpected feat that when I actually spend a sec to think about that morning and how everything just came together and how I came less than two minutes from qualifying for the Boston Marathon, I’m astonished and proud. Yeah, that happened. No, scratch that. I did that.

But lately these good moments are being overshadowed. And that happens. And that’s OK; it’s OK to feel this way. All I think you can do is try really hard to focus on the things that are good and that you’re grateful for, until those things and and thoughts are the ones taking place front and centre and things shine a little brighter. And so, if the holidays or the year as a whole has been a bit of a rollercoaster, think of the highs, surely there have been some. Do it with me now. Yes?

For me, I’m proud of running a personal best not only in the Chicago Marathon, but in Around the Bay 30k, Sporting Life 10k, and in the Nike Women’s San Francisco Women’s Half-marathon. I love that I had the chance to explore Texas not just once or twice, but three times this year (I think Frederickburg was my favourite). I had the opportunity to travel with one of my best friends to two tropical paradises (Bonaire, where I truly hope to return so I can get better at windsurfing, and Anguilla. which once again proved itself to be a foodie’s dream).

Anguilla and Ani Villas

In addition to my incredible group of friends, I added a few new friends this year to my life — all of whom I simply don’t know how I’d survive without. I ate so very well with these friends, both here in Toronto and abroad. Work continues to inspire and challenge me, and I was included in a nomination for a P&G Beauty and Grooming Award this year for a piece I contributed to for Glow magazine. And there’s the random fun-ness; I mean, I did happy hour on a helicopter, for crying out loud; I skiied with an Olympian; I went to some great concerts (JT, OVO Fest, Beyonce and Jay-Z, Nick and Knight, ha ha, and best of all, in the freakin’ pit for the Backstreet Boys, eeeeeeeeek! If you know me at all, you know how major that was).

Alright, so 2014 has had its moments…

As for 2015, I haven’t made specific goals, yet. I still aim to devote more time to sleep; a healthy sleep schedule continues to be a struggle for me. For running, I’m gunning to qualify for Boston, but am giving myself until the end of 2016 as my timeframe to reach this goal (I’m giving myself more than a year since I can only manage to try two or maybe three qualifying marathons a year). As for everything else, it’s all a work in progress.

Skip into the new year with me, with high hopes for it being the best one yet. Make it happen.

— Karen xo

Skipping on the beach, Sandy Island, Anguilla

 

 

 

2 Comments December 31, 2014

Enjoy your past, present and future equally to be happiest

If you reminesce over fond memories, take time to enjoy the moment and also look forward to what the future holds in equal measure, this is a recipe for happiness, says new research published in the Journal of Happiness Studies. Focus more on one period over another, though, and this throws things off — a balanced perspective is best, the findings show.

For example, I fondly remember the NKOTBSB concert last year, am currently enjoying listening to their music as I type this (I think I need to rewatch this performance in fact), and I’m looking forward to the potential future tour the two groups are in talks for (with Kevin — he’s rejoined Backstreet Boys, Oh. Em. Gee!) — OK, so maybe I’m looking forward to the potential upcoming concert more than the other two — I’ll try to rein that in!

(Art, Catherine Dudley)

1 Comment April 30, 2012

Previous page


Recent Posts

Categories

Recent Comments