Busy, frantic lives often keep women from maintaining and nurturing girlfriend relationships. “There is just not enough time,” complains one friend, “to keep up with my girlfriends, but I know they are there for me.” Researchers have discovered that losing touch with your friends can lead to loneliness, isolation and depression.
According to Suzanne Braun Levine, author of the e-book, You Gotta Have Girlfriends, when girlfriends bond, their bodies produce oxytocin, known as the “hug hormone.” Many times women will notice, after connecting with their friends, they are less anxious and experience a sense of well being. And, who can be with a group of friends for more than ten minutes before laughter ensues? According to scientists, laughter releases “feel good” neuro-chemicals (endorphins) and shuts down the release of stress hormones like cortisol. Laughter really is the best medicine!
So, why not make it a goal this year to “befriend and tend” – reconnect with girlfriends and plan a trip together. Here are some tips to get you started planning a great girlfriends getaway.
- Don’t feel guilty! Women are the nurturers who hold families together and rarely take time to nurture themselves. A girlfriends’ trip can enhance your relationship with your family by energizing and refreshing you. When you get back home, your family may even appreciate you more! If you have small children, you may need more time to plan, but don’t give up and don’t feel guilty to take a break and get away with friends.
- Be honest and direct with your friends about a getaway. Openly discuss who to invite. You might get together with a group that share a common hobby, like photography, or has a shared history, like college roommates. Keep the group fairly small so you can better connect. Make sure you are honest about your budgetary limits so you don’t end up paying for a getaway you really can’t afford. Define the sleeping arrangements. If you are a poor sleeper and need a room to yourself, make that known upfront and offer to pay a little more for a private room. If you don’t like to rough it, request friends look at more comfortable accommodations. Open communication will ward off problems and hurt feelings later.
- Determine a date for your getaway well in advance. Remember that the more people involved in the trip, the harder it is to find dates when all are free! But be persistent. My group of six college friends took about a month of back and forth emails before we could find a long weekend that suited all of our schedules.
- Have a point person in charge of planning, but divvy up all the responsibilities. It is more efficient if one person can keep track of the over-all planning, but each person in the group should have something to do or bring. My college friends enjoy cooking, so each made one of her special dishes. (See recipe for the Javanese Dinner – a buffet dinner we all made “back in the day” for company!)
- Plan a basic itinerary for the weekend but be flexible. Don’t overbook. Over-planning and maintaining a strict schedule can short circuit fun and spontaneity. For my recent getaway, I created a list of potential things to do in the North Georgia mountains, including restaurants, shopping destinations and hiking. We only accomplished two things on the list – travelled to a wonderful restaurant on the Toccoa River and shopped in Blue Ridge. The remainder of the weekend, we focused on catching up and relaxing together. (We had not been together as a group for 45 years, so we had a lot of catching up to do!)
- Have reasonable expectations about the trip. Accommodations may not be as wonderful as you hoped. The weather may not cooperate, and some of your friends may not be at their best. It is not about enjoying a perfect vacation, it is about connecting. Show grace to your friends, and remember each one is going through her own journey that may include challenges she doesn’t share. Years ago, a friend told me about a getaway she took with girlfriends to the beach. One of the friends was aloof and withdrawn the whole time, and the rest of the group talked about how rude she was after the trip. Later they discovered their friend had just gotten a serious medical diagnosis the day before the trip. She did not want to put a damper on the weekend by sharing her problem, but she could not keep it from affecting her behavior. Show grace to your friends!
- Focus on your friends, not on your devices! The younger you are, the more dependent you are on your smart devices – your phone, tablet and social media accounts. Disconnect from your devices and connect with your friends.
- Take pictures! The one device you want to keep on hand is a camera. You will want to record your activities together so you can remember the adventure long after it is over.
- Keep in touch and don’t forget to plan your next getaway together!