It's National Plan for Vacation Day!

 Woman kayaks in Glacier National Park. (Photo by Mark Bosky)

Woman kayaks in Glacier National Park. (Photo by Mark Bosky)

If you could be anywhere, with anyone, doing anything -- what would it be?

OK, so maybe your wildest fantasies aren't entirely realistic. But in honor of National Plan For Vacation Day, why not set aside some time to dream a little?

Americans get an average of just 12 days off each year, and less than half of us actually use all of our vacation time. The result? Those employees who forfeit their vacation time are more stressed, more likely to burn out, and -- get this -- less likely to receive a pay raise or bonus. That's according to a 2017 survey conducted by GfK.

So do yourself a favor. Get out a piece of paper (a real piece of paper, not a word doc) and make a bucket list. (Bonus points if you use a colorful pen). Don't make it an impossible bucket list, but do include items you secretly yearn to do, even if they seem a little out of reach. 

Then, block out some time on your calendar this year to do at least one of the things on your list.

Finally, follow through. Make that chunk of time inviolable. Important things will inevitably come up. But that week you set aside? That's your time. It's your chance to explore, relax, recharge, and do whatever the hell you want to do.

Want some inspiration? Here are a few places we're putting on our bucket lists:

Willow's Dream Trips:

 Glacier National Park, MOntana

Glacier National Park, MOntana

1) Alaska. I've always wanted to go to Alaska -- to kayak along the coastline, backpack through the mountains, feast on marvelous quantities of fresh fish in tiny seaside towns. Maybe one day -- when Out There is bringing in enough money that I can quit my day job -- I'll pack up my recording gear and drive north until I find a place that can be my base camp for a while. I'll explore the beauty of the Alaskan wilderness, revel in a world made up of islands, and work from coffee shops or the backseat of my car.

2) Glacier National Park. Everyone says it's spectacular. Ideally, I'd love to walk there from Wyoming, following the northern part of the Continental Divide Trail. Challenges to overcome in pursuing this plan include blocking out two or three months of time (it'd be a long hike...), and coming to terms with the idea of backpacking solo in grizzly bear country.

3) On a more immediate time frame, I have three days in February blocked out to go to Leadville, Colorado. Leadville is the highest town in the U.S. (10,200 feet above sea level), and it's one of my all-time favorite places. My plan? Spend three days, by myself, cross-country skiing, writing, and sipping hot cocoa by the fireplace (because, of course there WILL be a fireplace).

Alex's Hopefully-Not-So-Bucket List:

 zion national park, Utah

zion national park, Utah

1) Zion National Park. The red cliffs, canyons and rivers of Zion National Park look SO distinctive and unique to me. I've never seen anything like it in person and I have decided that 2018 is the year I am going to do it. Since I will have to schlep across to Utah from New York, I plan on taking at least five days with my husband to hike, camp, and be completely awestruck by this landscape that has been forming for hundreds of millions (hundreds of millions!) of years.

2) Fall in Maine and Vermont. We don't really get Fall in Australia. For one thing, we call it Autumn! And sure, there are a few trees whose leaves turn through yellow and red, and fall to the ground in time for Winter. But many of our tree varieties are non-deciduous, meaning a lot of green sticks around. So I would love to take a road trip through Maine and Vermont in Fall to see masses of trees turning all the glorious shades of a warm fireplace. And yes, this trip will of course involve many actual fireplaces, where you will find me curled up with a good book and a glass of mulled wine.

3) Iceland and the Northern Lights. OK, maybe this one is more of a bucket list item. The landscapes of Iceland I have seen in photos look other-worldly, saturated with colors that look almost too real, as though a filter has been applied (but it hasn't, #nofilter). Trekking through that breathtaking country to see the Northern Lights would be a lifetime dream for me. I may not get there in 2018, but I will get there one day!

Erika's Dream Trips:

 northern lights

northern lights

1) Hawaii. Ever since I did my 2nd grade state project on Hawaii, I have wanted to go. The scenery, the music, the local culture, the  pineapples... My dream day would be waking up early to go on a hike in the mountains and then taking a nap on one of their perfect beaches in the afternoon! 

2) Finnish Lapland. My grandmother (Mummi in Finnish) grew up in Finland before moving to the U.S. to marry my grandfather.  She recently passed away and I think I would feel close to her by being in her home country again. We went to Helsinki together about 10 years ago, but I would love to go further north into Lapland to try out some cross country skiing and see the Northern Lights!



Need even more inspiration? These episodes will get you writing that bucket list

With My Toes in the Sand: This episode is about a woman named Susan Conrad, who kayaks the Inside Passage (all the way from Washington to Alaska) by herself. And it's about learning to stop running from your problems -- learning to be content with your life as it is, right here and right now.

When Nature Knows Best: It feels like received wisdom that tough, solo adventures are bound to spark personal change. Sometimes that change happens in ways you haven't planned. This episode is about what happens when you are forced to abandon your plans -- and about the quest to rekindle happiness. (Oh, and it's also about bikes. And Idaho.)

Better Than Fun:  Have you ever craved a vacation (and actually had time for one), but had no one to go with? That happened to Willow one Spring, and this is the story of what transpired -- how she turned a social failure into an emotional victory.

A note about the photos used in this post: where no attribution has been given, the photos have been licensed free for commercial use without attribution.