How successful people spend their holiday

Coastal regions increase happiness more than any other environment
Neglect planning at your peril
That's my lesson for taking a vacation: vacation will kill you,” surmises Tesla founder Elon Musk in a recent biography, having contracted a severe bout of malaria following a holiday in Africa in 2000. Indeed, the most successful business leaders don’t necessarily have the most successful holidays; last year, Amazon’s Jeff Bezos was airlifted from a yacht in the Galapagos to undergo an emergency operation. So are there any sure-fire strategies for making the most of your precious time off?

THE SEA, THE SEA

“O ye! who have your eyeballs vexed and tired, Feast them upon the wideness of the Sea”, wrote Romantic poet John Keats in 1817, urging escape from the monotony of life in industrialised Britain. Almost 200 years later, and the beach may seem like an obvious locale, but many successful figures still find it a useful distraction. David Cameron and Mark Zuckerberg share a penchant for surfing and Bill Gates has been spotted on a yacht off the Sardinian coast.
Spending time by the sea has been linked to increased happiness. Research by app Mappiness indicates that marine locations increase human happiness by more than any other type of outdoor environment, says marine biologist Wallace J Nicholls. Coastal regions may add an extra 5.2 per cent onto a person’s level of happiness, a boost comparable with going to an exhibition versus doing the housework.

DON’T BE AIMLESS

Holidays are a significant discretionary expense, argues behavioural economist Dan Ariely, so if you want a successful holiday, be ambitious. “The famous economist Tibor Scitovsky said there are two things in life: there are pleasures and comforts,” he told BigThink blog. Comforts, or common activities like going to the beach, have less utility than pleasures – challenging pursuits which create lasting memories, thinks Ariely.
Aimlessly wandering or exploring may seem inviting but, in reality, the secret to a successful holiday is to plan in advance. A survey by GoodThink and The Institute for Applied Positive Research found that 94 per cent of holidays resulted in increased happiness and energy if you plan a month in advance, notify co-workers, get as far away from your city as possible, establish travel details before going and meet a local host or knowledgeable guide.

JUST GET OUT OF THE OFFICE

Finally, it’s important to dispense with the myth that successful people don’t take time off at all. Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg makes a thing of leaving work at 5.30pm every day to spend time with her children. JP Morgan’s chief executive Jamie Dimon even sent his firm’s interns a reading list for summer 2011 – implicitly endorsing aimless holiday afternoons.
But they still feel the need to justify their down-time. Sandberg told Makers.com that she sends emails to colleagues late at night and early in the morning to signal that she isn’t abandoning her work. Thankfully that’s not impossible to do from the beach.

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