Psychotherapist/travel authority Stephen A. Shapiro stresses that -- to plan a satisfying vacation -- you should first assess your mood this year. Among the options he lists:
Self-improvement: Tennis camps, ski lessons, weight loss. They can be "gratifying psychologically because they appeal to the almost universal need to feel good physically." But because each day is usually highly regimented, they may be just what you want to avoid if that's the kind of work life you live.
Rest and relaxation : "Doing nothing is an integral part of self-renewal." But, warns Shapiro, it takes time to ease "out of the mainstream and into repose" and it is not easily accomplished. To be on the safe side, plan some alternative activities in case you're hit with "relaxation weariness" after a couple of days of serious napping.
Roughing it : Many who camp "are answering the call for breathing space and for a more deliberate rhythm." They find "comradeship in encountering the raw elements of nature with others." But beware the experience of one couple. The husband loved roughing it. But his wife, "who spent much of her time at home gardening and keeping house," saw it only extending her daily routine -- "with the occasional added pleasure of cleaning fish."
A royal week : "The pampered life" for a break from hectic office and home schedules. But remember, says Shapiro, to keep "a flexible attitude" when weather, illness or strikes by hotel staff upset your dreams.
The culture quest : Organized study tours or self-guided searches through Mayan ruins. They can bring "a feeling of belonging, of participating in the making of the world."
The homeland vacation : "Back to where it all began." Visits to the country where your parents were born or a religious pilgrimage to a holy city. "It is," says Shapiro, "a time and a place for emotional involvement, for experiencing the resonances of a place and for embracing the memory and the history of the roots of self."