We live in a world where we’re encouraged to take transformative trips—vacations we fill with experiences that broaden our perspectives and take us outside our comfort zone. But what if the biggest challenge is to do nothing?
On a recent trip to the Shore Club in Turks and Caicos, a new retreat set along secluded Long Bay Beach on the island of Providenciales, I was surprised to find out how hard it can be to take it easy.
To some, the beach getaway seems like a cop-out. I was in this camp until recently: A typical trip for me involves a dizzying list of restaurants and off-the-beaten-path hangouts—not a collection of days spent relaxing on some of the best beaches in the world. This time, however, I was going to try to slow down.
My daily schedule went something like this: Wake up. Eat breakfast. Locate lounge chair on beach. Order frozen margarita. Enter water. Return to lounge chair; flip over. Migrate to pool. Order jerk chicken. Watch sunset with another margarita. Order dinner. Fall asleep. Wake up, rinse, repeat.
It was surprisingly difficult to stay put beneath my beach umbrella, staring off into the mesmerizing blue horizon, when I thought of all the things I could be doing instead. Did I miss a photo-worthy sunrise by sleeping in? Should I see if there’s a boat tour this afternoon? Is there a secret, locals-only conch shack I should check out?
My perspective shift was subtle. I started listening to my internal clock. (Feel warm? Jump in the ocean. Feel tired? Take a nap. Feel social? Talk to the strangers at the swim-up bar.) Free of distractions, I had no choice but to take in my surroundings more fully: the gradations of blue in the water, the sensation of soft white sand between my toes. Walks on the beach became intimate studies of the island as I looked down and focused on the microcosm of seashells and driftwood.
In those moments it occurred to me that by doing nothing, I was actually doing something: I was wiping my mental slate clean, reminding myself that there was more to life than to-do lists. I was resetting my senses, and renewing my energy to meet the demands on my time back home.
If you’re an antsy traveler, here’s what I suggest: Book a trip to a sandy destination. Leave your phone in your room. Master balancing in a hammock. Float in the ocean on your back and marvel at your weightlessness. Contemplate the sand beneath you. And don’t forget that experiences such as these can be just as transformative as packing things into your itinerary. Sometimes, the less you do, the better.
Four Beachside Resorts Where You Can Unplug
1. Coral Caye
Film director Francis Ford Coppola and his wife, Eleanor, own the low-key, thatch-roofed Turtle Inn, which recently debuted Coral Caye, an outpost on a private two-acre island. Sheltered by the Belize Barrier Reef, it lies a 25-minute boat ride from the main resort. Two cottages with large verandas and low-key beach decor can accommodate up to 12 people, and a central great house, managed by a dedicated staff, has daybeds and a full bar. $1,895 per night; two night minimum.
2. Chileno Bay Resort
The beachfront Chileno Bay Resort may be among the most luxurious new retreats in Cabo San Lucas, but it exudes a down-to-earth vibe. Its 92 guest rooms are serene oases decorated in natural hues, with outdoor showers and floor-to-ceiling windows that showcase ocean views. The beachside bar sells street-style tacos and artisanal tequilas, and thanks to its location in a protected cove, the resort also has one of the area’s few swimmable beaches. From $675.
The bayside Amanoi, located in one of Vietnam’s largest nature reserves, already had a 118,000-square-foot spa. Now you can have a spa to yourself. A stay at one of two new Spa Houses—the Thuy Lien (Lotus) or the An Son (Peaceful Mountain)—includes daily massages and treatments as well as access to private pools, steam rooms, and relaxation decks. Multiday programs focus on stress reduction, weight management, or mindfulness. Spa Houses for up to four guests per house; from $2,100.
4. Rosewood Bermuda
Rosewood Bermuda, formerly known as Rosewood Tucker’s Point, is set to reopen in April after an extensive renovation. Local artwork will hang from the walls of the 92 guest rooms, and custom furnishings will offer a contemporary spin on Bermuda’s English colonial heritage. The Beach Club, located on the island’s largest pink-sand beach, will have new cabanas and a restaurant that will serve freshly caught seafood. From $535.
>>Next: How I Embraced My Inner Mermaid in Fiji
Jennifer Flowers Jennifer Flowers is an award-winning journalist and the senior deputy editor of AFAR.