4 Happiness Hacks For That Post-Travel Let Down

Tips on handling those returning-to-the-office blues.  by Tedd Evers

Conferences, vacations – any time out of the office, away from it all – are great times to reflect and learn ways you can be a better person, at home and at work.  But returning to the office can quickly sap that post-travel glow. If you’re like me, planning the next holiday break to a new destination is a great antidote – and for that, we’ve got you covered.  Unfortunately though, we still have to get back on track until we can getaway again.

Here’s to heel-clicking happiness, maybe just not in the middle of the street. photo: Andre Hunter

Putting Happiness Into Practice

All too often, the demands of our work quickly erase that kumbaya feeling you get after a vacation or listening to inspiring speakers at a conference.  As a result, important changes don’t happen because they require a ton of time or effort – like reading a book or completing some time-intensive soul-searching exercises.

Meaningful change though, is often the result of the cumulative effect of consistent, daily effort.  Like my high school Coach Stroker liked to say “get a little bit better, every day.” (It’s also a core team value here at TripTuner).

In the end it’s up to us to “be the change we want to see in the world” as Mohandas Gandhi once famously said.  Fortunately, there are a few quick hacks you can do today – right now – that are scientifically proven to improve your happiness.

Allow me to follow speaker Erik Qualman’s lead and “post it forward” by sharing a few happiness hacks for home and work from U.S. Travel’s recent ESTO conference in Austin.

  1. Work in 20 minute sprints.

Erik shared how focusing on a single task is critical in our always-on connected world of endless feeds.  He suggested a 20-20-20 rule: breaking the work day into 20 minute segments, taking 20 second breaks after each one to stand up and focus on an object 20 feet away.

The American Optometric Association recommends it as a proven way to reduce eye strain from peering into monitors all day.  As you can imagine, this can get repetitive over a full day, so for a more nuanced approach check out the Pomodoro Technique developed by Frances Cirillo, another easy to implement productivity method.

  1. Walk in nature, unplugged. 

This was part of a number of suggestions shared by Neil Pasricha, author of The Book of Awesome.  To be more precise, his R/X was for 20 minutes of brisk walking in nature – without your phone (that may be the hardest part for some).  Like many of these suggestions there’s science behind “forest bathing” – namely the phytoncides that trees give off lower the level of cortisol, a stress hormone.

  1. Write thank you notes.  To Yourself.

Another one from Pasricha – he talked about the power of gratitude and empathy in helping us get out of emotional ruts.  Thanking others should be frequent and routine (yes, I’m assuming the best of you, that you were raised properly). But we tend to be our own worst critics, so spending time each day to reflect and simply write down your thoughts and what you’re thankful for will go a long way.  Got writer’s block? According to Neil, even reviewing your past notes has proven to be beneficial.

  1. Read for Fun.

OK so citing a Lifehacker article within this happiness hack is sooo meta, but it does show how reading before bed has been proven to lower stress levels and get better sleep.  As Pasricha points out, literary fiction is best and even better if it’s an actual physical book – the glare from screens can interfere with sleep patterns. 

Bring on the phytoncides! photo: Aslan Can

Workplace Happiness, Delivered

Happiness is not just about your well-being — it’s also the right way to do business.  When we’re happier as individuals, we do better work and are more likely to succeed.

Just ask Tony Hseih, Founder & CEO of Zappos.  I read his book, Delivering Happiness after hearing him speak at a DC Tech Week conference 9 years ago when I was in the planning phase of TripTuner.

Happiness is a core value at Zappos.  It’s earned them a well-deserved reputation for amazing customer service – a direct result of their focus on building personal emotional connections with customers.

Creating customer empathy and establishing an emotional connection with your customers is a critical task for today’s digital marketers, as we’ve discussed before.  Developing a strategy for that at work may take some time, but it can start with you. Today.

Clap Along Now

Now that you’ve got 4 quick ways to do it, you can clap along and sing, “I’m Happy” all day!

Just don’t do it a) on your unplugged nature walk b) while you’re reading or writing or c) without headphones on – your colleague may be deep into a 20 minute work session!

Stay Tuned.

Tedd

A Camel, Me and “General B”

One of the #RTW98 series of posts looking back on the ‘round the world trip that inspired the creation of TripTuner 20 years ago.  It’s a story of personal growth and change, with impressions of fascinating places and people around the globe.  If you’ve ever considered extended travel, taking a sabbatical or gap year or just wondered what it may be like, this is for you.

“General Baksheesh” had all the ingredients to strike a commanding authoritarian presence: a distinctive uniform and beret, sidearm at his hip and a pair of AK-47 toting subordinates ready to execute his commands.

General Baksheesh sq

I wasn’t expecting to see armed guards when visiting Egypt’s famed Pyramids, 20 years ago on a solo gap year trip. But there was heightened security (for reasons all too familiar to us now) and a visible tourist police force presence at all main attractions.

It’s an alarming if not unnerving sight.   The soldiers’ mere presence makes you concerned for your safety. Then you realize paradoxically that they’re there for your safety.

Still, it’s a little uncomfortable to be 6,000 miles from home standing alone in front of armed men with whom you can’t really communicate.

Fortunately, after 6 months on the road I’d developed a cobbled together, sometimes successful technique for “breaking people down” – getting past the stoicism and awkwardness of confronting total strangers with whom you share nothing except a common humanity. The recipe: deference, non-excessive smiling, culturally appropriate hand gestures and a sense of humor.

General B was standing with his thumbs in his utility belt, pretending to scan the area (which was completely desolate). Behind him, a bored man squat beside a camel. Business was slow – not many takers for camel rides in the 140 degree afternoon sun. But I gotta do it, right?

Nodding sideways at the General with a forced smile, I shrugged my shoulders pleadingly and motioned to the camel. Like Caesar giving a thumbs up, he nodded to his comrades to left me through. Camel man leapt to his feet and helped me climb aboard the scratchy haired dromedary.

After a short ride, we returned to General B. As if on queue, he stomps out his cigarette, holds both hands in front of his face making the universal “want me to take your picture?” sign. I’ve seen this move before. All deference for the tourist soldier dissolves. But I’ve got to get that shot, and he knows it.

“NO BAKSHEESH,” I declare. “Baksheesh” is the term used by a service provider when requesting a tip or other monetary inducement to action that, in normal circumstances, would be considered ordinary and not worthy of remuneration (a.k.a. a shakedown).

“No, no baksheesh” the General shakes his head solemnly. I shoot him a look of disbelief and calmly but firmly insist: “NO BAKSHEESH.” General B repeats: “no baksheesh, no baksheesh.”

Reluctantly I hand him my camera for the cliché yet must have photo: me, on a camel, in front of a pyramid.  He snaps a few shots and walks towards me to return the camera with outstretched arms, as if presenting a special gift.

Putting my camera away, I look up to see him waiting for my parting glance. He leans his head to the side, shrugs his shoulders and turns his palms upwards. With the pleading face of a puppy dog wanting a treat, he lets out a long whiny cry:

“Baaaksheeeeeesh?”

Now you know how he got his name.

TE on a camel 28-7 pyramids sq

If you could travel for a year, where would you go?

One of the #RTW98 series of posts looking back on the ‘round the world trip that inspired the creation of TripTuner 20 years ago. It’s a story of personal growth and change, with impressions of fascinating places and people around the globe. If you’ve ever considered extended travel, taking a sabbatical or gap year or just wondered what it may be like, this is for you.

If you had an entire year to travel anywhere around the world, where would you go?

It’s a wonderfully tantalizing question.  Try it out on yourself or a friend.  Usually, people will reel off a few bucket list destinations or experiences dreamed up over time: see the Grand Canyon, climb Kilimanjaro, search for the Komodo dragon.  Me? I’d like to snorkel with whale sharks in the Seychelles.

Dig deeper and you’ll sense a person’s appetite for adventure, their passions and a glimpse of their worldview – very helpful in today’s polarized society.  I love exploring new places, so it was easy to create a wish list for my jaunt around the globe.  The more foreign, exotic and different they sounded, the better.  Kelimutu? Cool.  Ouagadougou? Sign me up. Continue reading

Why I Quit My Job to Travel Around the World 20 Years Ago.

20 years ago last month, I boarded Varig Flight 855 from Washington Dulles to Sao Paulo on a trip that would change my life forever.  It was the beginning of an epic 11-month adventure around the world, the dream trip of a lifetime that inspired the creation of TripTuner and reinforced a desire to live life on my own terms.  Yet as I boarded that flight, I thought I was making the biggest mistake of my life.

This is the first in a series of #RTW98 posts looking back on that trip: the mechanics and logistics as well as the inner journey, with reflections on how life may have changed in the exotic lands I visited.  Like many journeys it is admittedly #allaboutme – very personal. But if you’ve ever considered traveling around the world or taking a sabbatical, you’ll find inspiration and tips for your own jaunt. If you’ve done it, I welcome you to relive that unique magic with me.

RTW98-1 Grootfontein

Sometimes life presents you with a choice between two diametrically opposed options, both of which are right.

SPARK

Since childhood, I’ve loved to travel.  But the thought of traveling around the world – and quitting my job to do it – never crossed my mind until I experienced the corporate world.  After 6 years in an intense sales job, I was ready for a change. It wasn’t a dream job, but I loved the independence, social aspect and challenge of sales.  Not to mention it was lucrative – it helped me pay off student loans, buy professional DJ gear and visit Europe and the Caribbean every year. The feeling of being debt-free was empowering, sparking thoughts of jumping off the cutthroat corporate treadmill. Continue reading

Feeling Right at Home on a Minneapolis Business Trip

It was good to be squinting.  The rising August sun beamed off Lake Minnewashta, fragmenting into millions of diamonds around my paddle as a gentle breeze offset the rising temperature.  It’s a business trip, and I’m on a paddleboard.  Sweet, right?

Minnesota, paddleboard, SUP, lake, travel

Experiencing a place like a local resident is a desire for many travelers these days.  Lately, it’s increasingly a key ingredient for business trips as well.  Just look at airbnb’s business travel tagline: “Travel for work, feel at home.”

On a recent trip to a Minneapolis conference, I rode this trend like Paul Bunyan on Babe the Blue Ox. Here’s how I rolled (in an intentionally non-numeric list, because the world has reached listicle peak): Continue reading

Destination Inspiration from the Headlines

jonathan-gallegos-_vA2q0-NroU-unsplash

“Efcharisto” for the photo Jonathan Gallegos!

Read the news headlines of late and you know that parts of Europe are going through some hard times with budget cuts and austerity programs. Read between those lines, however, and you can be inspired with trip ideas. With the dollar strengthening against the Euro and demand for hotels in those areas softening, now is the time to take that shoulder-season vacation to southern Europe. As such, we’re highlighting our favorite Greek Island, Santorini, as this week’s #WhereToGoWednesday destination.

There have been some sporadic demonstrations in Athens (hey, we have those here too), but Santorini is worlds away from any tension. You’ll feel all of your own tensions melt away when you arrive to this idyllic postcard come to life with its cobalt-blue-topped, white-washed buildings spilling down the hillsides of the crescent-shaped volcanic island. Winding alleyways, public walking paths, hillsides terraced with bushy grapevines and mesmerizing beaches await the traveler. What’s not to love?

Santorini, also known as Thira, is the southern-most island of the Cycladic group of islands located in the Aegean Sea. It’s 63 nautical miles north of Crete, has a population of about 14,000 distributed among 13 villages, and covers 28 square miles. Here are some of our recommendations should you find yourself visiting this light-bathed beauty:

Take a Walk
Our favorite times on the island have involved unscheduled exploration. The six-mile walking path from Fira to Oia, along a ridge that used to be the lip of the volcano, is not to be missed. You’ll follow the path through small villages and churches that practically demand dawdling. If you can time your meanderings to end up in Oia (also known as Ia) at sunset you’ll be rewarded with one of those moments that sears into your memory for years. Just follow the troops of Apollo worshipers to the zigzagged levels of walkways that offer the best viewing spots and watch a red ball of fire descend into the Aegean.

Continue reading

The Best-Preserved Colonial Town on the Equator

cesar-viteri-zcyiFpt0E_E-unsplash

thank you Cesar Viteri for the photo

We took a few weeks off from the blog posts at TripTuner because we were doing some late summer traveling ourselves, but are now ready and raring to highlight more of the great destinations found on our site. Columbus Day is just a few weeks away, so now’s the time to start planning your trip. In honor of Columbus’ arrival to the new world, we thought we would highlight a destination in Latin America. This week’s locale is one of the most beautiful capital cities in the Spanish-speaking world: Quito, Ecuador.

Folded between green pleats of rolling hills and the Pinchincha volcano, Quito’s setting is spectacular. Terraced plots on the hillside are decorative mosaics above the shiny metropolis. The whitewashed buildings and colonial masterpieces of Old Town give way to expansive parks and modern edifices as you move up the valley. It really is quite staggering to find such natural beauty in a metropolis of about 2.5 million people.

My husband Bryan and I spent weeks on end in Quito while we were researching a guidebook on Ecuador. The town has it all – intriguing museums, excellent hotels, superior shopping opportunities, and unique colonial architecture. You might even find a Columbus Day (know in Ecuador as “Día de la Raza,” or “Day of the People”) parade while you’re there.

Here are some of my highlights of the city:

Old Town – Quito Antigua
There may be a higher concentration of colonial churches and religious art in Quito’s downtown than anywhere else in the world. That, and the fact that many of the buildings have been maintained in the colonial style, led UNESCO to name the entire area a World Heritage Site. I won’t go into detail about all there is to see downtown, but will simply call out some of my favorites. The tranquil Independence Plaza, with its spotless, manicured lawns, is a must-visit. Closed to traffic on two sides, it’s one of the mellower spots downtown. The soaring Gothic and Baroque-influenced Metropolitan Cathedral, one of the oldest in South America, sits on one edge of the plaza, while the Government Palace is on another. Also worth a visit is the San Francisco Monastery – take a look up to the choir area to notice the elaborate Moorish-style ceiling and large organ. The organ, capable of playing over 5000 notes, is only played once a year because the intricate wooden ceiling is made without nails or glue. Should one piece of wood be vibrated loose, the whole thing will fall.

Continue reading