A girlfriend getaway is just what the doctor ordered
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By Kinsey Gidick
We've all seen the social media posts: a cosy cabin or beach house filled with a pack of women, wine in hand, wearing matching jammies and laughing. It's a girlfriend getaway, of course.
"There are unique benefits to connecting with other women, people who are not necessarily a part of your everyday life," says Lekeisha Sumner, a clinical psychologist and assistant clinical professor at UCLA.
Sumner says a theory developed by UCLA psychology professor Shelley E. Taylor and colleagues, the tend-and-befriend response, could come into play here. In a 2000 article in the journal Psychological Review, the team wrote that, throughout life, "females are more likely to mobilise social support, especially from other females, in times of stress. They seek it out more, they receive more support, and they are more satisfied with the support they receive."
That support can come in the form of girlfriend travel, which involves "people who can pull you away from the expectations of day-to-day responsibilities and offer fresh perspectives," Sumner says. What she calls the "awe factor" involved in travel helps cement the bond. "The 'awe factor' helps to awaken the wonder around you and your sense of connection," she says. "You're strengthening an emotional bond and creating a gratifying experience that can enliven you and give you a sense of vitality. We need that as humans."
Amanda Haselden, a 40-year-old attorney in South Carolina, recently enjoyed such a trip. Her two pals from undergrad booked a hotel in the Hamptons for a weekend. They did typical tourist stuff: yoga in a vineyard, a dinner out. But the highlight? "We had a couple hours, so we were like, 'Should we just take a nap?' " Haselden says. "It's very comforting how, with some friends, you just don't have to explain it."
The benefits of the trip were twofold, she says. "One, I could step away from some of my obligations. I didn't have to worry about my kids' masks, right? I didn't have to worry about them sanitising their hands. I didn't have to worry about their book bags in the morning or signing the 45 documents from school." But, in addition to the relief of stepping away from responsibility, "there's also just such a relief in being back with a safety net of people, friends who have known me for 20-plus years."
For Tiffany Eve Lawrence, a writer in Florida, that was the best part of a surprise 40th birthday trip that her sister had planned for her in June. The sisters and an aunt stayed at Pennsylvania's Wind Creek Bethlehem, played slots, got massages, went hot-tubbing and ate "bomb food," as Lawrence describes it.
But the best part was getting some uninterrupted one-on-one time with two of her favourite people. "We had girly conversations about life, men, marriage and other random things," she says. When she got home, she felt as if she had shed a layer of burden. "It's a total hormonal shift as a woman to be free of every stress, and that's exactly how I felt."
Sumner says just one trip a year or, for that matter, just the idea that you have a trip coming up with close friends can be as beneficial as the trip itself.
Women need alarm-clock-free safe spaces, opt-out activities (yes to a low-key hike at 4pm, no to hot yoga at 6am), and elaborate group photos that we're actually in.