Several weeks ago I was lucky enough to escape the wicked winter (now shivery spring) and celebrate my 10th wedding anniversary in lovely Los Cabos, Mexico. As wonderful as it was, I decided age has taught me a thing or two about doing a sun vacation in style. To share my thoughts, and as an excuse to think about the beach again now that I’m back in the never-ending cold, here’s my midlife guide to sun vacations:
The midlife guide to sun vacations rule 1: The sun is your friend
Picking up a cold on the flight down, I had a runny nose for the first couple of days on the trip. And then, magically, it disappeared. I say magically because colds usually stick with me for the long haul (a.k.a. two weeks). To what do I attribute the quick recovery?
None other than vitamin D from sun exposure. While I’m sure being in a relaxed state and away from frigid air helped, the main variable from my normal routine was a heavy dose of sunshine from the Los Cabos desert sun.
I’ve definitely drank the sunscreen “Kool-Aid” and never go out without a layer of it, even in the winter, but maybe I’ll try some modest bare-skin sun exposure, as recommended by many medical experts, including Dr. Andrew Weil.
The midlife guide to sun vacations rule 2: The sun is also your enemy
While I did cover myself thoroughly from head to toe with broad-spectrum SPF 45 and wore a hat, the hyperpigmentation on my cheeks got decidedly darker on the trip. And after a month back, it’s still there, albeit getting fainter. Since my hyperpigmentation first showed up on another trip to Mexico, I’m pretty sure the more powerful southern sun is the culprit.
The takeaway? Even with diligent sun protection, a beach vacation will likely take its toll on your skin. To help repair the damage, I’ve gone back to a weekly application of a brightening treatment. As I’ve written about previously, I like REN Glycol Lactic Radiance Renewal Mask. Hopefully the patches will be faded by the time the summer sun rolls around, or my next sun vacation…
The midlife guide to sun vacations rule 3: Cover-ups lessen [somewhat] the trauma of the bathing-suit reveal
Let’s face it, the idea of revealing skin that’s been covered in layers for months can be almost enough to turn one off heading to the beach. And if it’s also been months since your body’s seen formal exercise, even more so. But what I noticed poolside and even in the hotel restaurant is that cover-ups have grown up. From chic chemises to jaunty jumpsuits, today’s cover-ups have come a long way from the muumuu-like get-ups my mother used to wear by the pool (sorry, Mom!).
So even if you think you can make do with a long T-shirt or robe over your swimsuit the next time you’re by the beach, don’t. A comely cover-up will make you happier in (and showing) your skin.
The midlife guide to sun vacations rule 4: It’s okay to mix in a little vice with the virtue
For me, part of really kicking back is indulging a bit. Holidays are no time to count calories or worry about every fatty flavour that passes your lips. So, while in Los Cabos, I enjoyed the fried scallop tacos the region is famous for and at the breakfast buffet sampled Chilaquiles (fried tortillas with cheese, onion, and red or green salsa) almost daily. I also went a few times to the Cellar restaurant and savoured the best margarita I’ve ever had, served straight-up and made with fresh lime and orange juice.
But since vacation is also about, hopefully, feeling good, I balanced the naughty with some nice, going on long beach walks, having a few sessions in the hotel gym and chasing the Chilaquiles with the Westin Resort & Spa’s Baja take on green juice (cactus, cilantro, cucumber, parsley and pear).
As Oscar Wilde said “Everything in moderation, including moderation.”
The midlife guide to sun vacations rule 5: Vacations can be wonderful lessons in living in the now
We’ve all heard about the value of being mindful and living in the present, but between work and personal obligations, how often do most of us achieve this? Luckily for my husband and me, our trip to Los Cabos coincided with the annual migration of humpback whales to the region. I found watching them better than any mantra to bring me back to the moment. Whether spotting their spouts and tails from the beach, or getting up-close-and-personal to them on a Zodiac boat whale-watching tour, it was hard to focus on anything but their majesty.
Now back at home, the closest things I have to watching whales in the Sea of Cortez are seeing ducks in Lake Ontario. No, it’s not quite the same, but the memory of the whales is pushing me to appreciate the present.
The biggest souvenir from this sun vacation? We often wait to enjoy life: whether that means looking forward to the weekend or a holiday in the distant future. While my younger self would have thought the vacation magic was all about the location, I realize now that getting out of our usual environment helps adjust mindsets. It’s not an easy task when dealing with the day-to-day of “real life,” but I’m determined to preserve that vacation contentment longer than my (very faint) tan lasted.