With Memorial Day and the unofficial start of summer coming up, more and more people are turning their thoughts to their next vacation. If they haven't already planned a getaway, where should they go?

There's no shortage of resources out there to help you choose, from the New York Times mouth-watering 52 places to go in 2016 to rankings of everything from overlooked European gems to the best cities for foodies. But there's something missing from these tantalizing lists of potential destinations, according to philosopher Alain de Botton's bestseller The Art of Travel -- you.

In a recent revisiting of the travel classic, Anna Hart, of British paper The Telegraph, spoke to de Botton about what many people get wrong about vacation planning.

What's wrong with our current approach to travel?

Thanks to endless apps and online reviews, ideas on where to go are easier to come by than ever, de Botton points out. But while we've updated how we plan our trips, most of us have done little to think more deeply about why we're traveling. And that means that we often end up with an escape that leaves us feeling kind of meh.

"The definition of a holiday has remained static: two weeks in the sun, an 'escape' from everyday life, and a chance to rest," says de Botton. Sounds nice. What's wrong with that? Sometimes nothing, but often a lot, depending not just on the weather and the quality of the hotel breakfast, but on your frame of mind. The issue is that our definition of vacation is too limited, according to de Botton.

 

In short, we should spend a lot more time thinking about what we need psychologically out of a vacation, de Botton insists. Bustling cities might be just the ticket for youthful backpackers, but a nerve-jangling mistake for stressed out professionals. A quiet hotel by the sea could be a truly terrible idea if your marriage is in trouble, but ideal if you have two kids and a babysitter lined up for a long weekend.

How to plan a better break

"The ideal scenario would be a string of 'psychotherapeutic travel agencies,'" de Botton tells Hart. But until some clever entrepreneur comes up with a business that assesses your mood and offers tailored holiday recommendations, you'll have to examine your own psychological needs and plan accordingly. De Botton, however, is eager to help.

For instance, for Hart, whose life is in flux as her husband changes careers and is struggling with a touch of anxiety about the future, he prescribes not a week on a sun lounger but a trip to reconfirm her faith in brighter days to come -- specifically, an Airbnb stay in Detroit.

It's an offbeat pick, but de Botton insists seeing the once depressed city picking itself up from the ashes will be just the thing for Hart. And he's right. After a week witnessing the city's recovery up close, Hart returns "feeling like I've been bathed in bright-eyed optimism. It really was just what I needed."

So what are de Botton's other picks? Here's a list of various conditions of the soul and his recommended destinations:

  • For anxiety...Pefkos Beach, Rhodes, Greece
  • For dissatisfaction...Comuna 13, San Javier, Medellin, Colombia
  • For inhibition...Corner Shop, Yokohama, Kanagawa-Ken, Japan
  • For thinking...Capri Hotel, Changi Airport, Singapore
  • For relationships...Cafe de Zaak, Utrecht
  • For stress...The Western Desert, Australia

What exactly do you need from your summer holiday this year? Rest? Creativity? Energy? Romance?

Published on: May 26, 2016
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