Beating the Post-Vacation Blues
Have you ever gone on vacation, gotten home, unpacked, went back to work, then wished you were on vacation again? Found yourself crying while drinking duty-free rum straight out of the bottle? Yeah, me too. So what is this pattern of post-vacation blues all about? More to the point, what can you do about it? Because sooner or later, sorry, but the rum will be gone (sigh).
Post-Vacation Blues Defined
Perry and I recently returned from an incredible week in Costa Rica. It was relaxing, cleansing, and decidedly unfancy. We loved it. When it came time to return home, we were reluctant to leave our rather bohemian day-to-day, but happy to have had the time we did to rejuvenate. We brought home some small gifts for Tyson, some coffee for us, many photos, and yes, that duty-free rum. Got back into the routine. But after a couple of days we commiserated and agreed we were both feeling kind of...weird.
I'm not talking about some kind of random tropical malady that followed us home. No, it was more like a heavy melancholy that had enveloped us mentally and physically. It wasn't that we were sad to be home. We were simply bummed that the vacay vibe was dwindling so quickly. As Elton John says, I guess that's why they call it the blues.
Be Like Journey
I'm ok with the blues as a genre of music but I don't think it needs to be the source of my theme song if you know what I mean. So how can we be more like Journey than Elton and hold onto the feeliiiiiiin' instead? Well, I've come up with this short list of hacks that should help you stop crying.
As you try the things on my list, keep in mind that the key to success, as with many things in life, is in your approach. So if you transition into post-vacation mode with the specific intention to prolong the positive, relaxed vibe you cultivated while you were away then you will likely fare much better with your Journey. See what I did there?
Eat All the Food: If you ate well while you were away, keep the good times rolling. You may not be able to recreate the dishes exactly, but search out and experiment with the flavours you enjoyed most. We ate a lot of fresh fish (hello, ceviche) and fruit in CR. While we don't live near the sea or have a mango tree, we can darn well add mango salsa to our salmon. Simply smelling the foods you enjoyed can help cultivate your vacay vibe, as "smell can call up memories and powerful responses almost instantaneously." So go ahead - get dreamy and sniff that lime as much as you like before chucking it into your Cuba Libre.
Organize Your Pics: We often spend a ton of time taking and posting pictures while away for everyone else's enjoyment but when we get home they just sit on our cameras or phone, unloved and unseen. Relive your memories while moving your photos somewhere you'll actually look at them again. While you're at it you can delete all the unsuccessful selfies and choose which copy to keep out of the 27 pics you took of the monkeys crossing the road (I speak from experience). And I know it sounds old school, but choose a small number of your chosen pics you can print out and put into an actual, physical album. Then when you feel shitty or it's winter you won't have to rely on technology to relive your memories.
Turn Up the Music: Music often plays an important role in our vacation experiences. I was listening to a Salsa playlist on Spotify one day when I was inspired to book this most recent trip. Maybe it was that one song you heard strolling through town one night or your partner's dance moves at the resort disco (yep, discos are still a thing) that'll still make you smile. Whatever it was, bottle it: create or find a playlist that carries the musical memories from your trip and put it on repeat. Listening to it while on a break from work or in the car can help you destress and return to the state of mind you were in when you first experienced the song. Ahhhhhhhh.
Explore: One of the great joys of going away is exploring a new place. When we get home again the post-vacation blues kick in because everything is so damn familiar. This familiarity can breed boredom, complacency, and even frustration if we let it. But it doesn't have to. Experience your environment through the eyes of a tourist. When you get back from vacation, make an effort to get out and find new stuff where you live. Try a new restaurant or coffee shop. Drive to work a new way. Walk around an area of town you don't usually visit (that's safe, obvi). Sit somewhere and just watch the people go by. You'll be surprised at how well fresh eyes can see.
Do Similar Stuff: Whenever I go away I end up reading two or three books. Whenever I am home I end up reading 0.2 or 0.3 books. WTH? Sadly, it's a simple equation. On vacation you prioritize relaxing (at least I hope you do). The rest of the time you prioritize doing shit and resting takes a back seat. This is why you need a vacation so badly in the first place, by the way. NO BUENO everybody. Instead, make it a point when you get home to do some of the same relaxing stuff you did on vacation. If you read, make sure you take time to keep reading. Went for walks? Get outside and walk. If you napped, go to bed a bit earlier or yep, take a nap. Or maybe you sat by the beach and contemplated life. If so, go out on your balcony or to a museum or art gallery if it's too cold on your balcony and do the same.
Go Offline: While a return to 'real life' usually means a return to going online, it doesn't mean you have to go all in. The fact is that you will not be successful beating the post-vacation blues if you don't unplug to do it. Period. Pretty much all of the things on this list are most optimally experienced without added tech. Allowing yourself at least one hour a day plus some extra time when you wake up and before bed to go phone- and computer-free is not going to kill you. If anything, it might be what saves you.
Plan the Next One
Don't wait until you're overwhelmed and desperately need a vacation to plan your next getaway. Shorter (like a week or less) trips tend to reap more rewards than big, elaborate vacations, by the way. Planning a vacation can be just as helpful to your mental health as actually taking one, so carve out a few blobs of time you can look forward to.
You don't need to spend a fortune to take time off, by the way. Planning far ahead can be quite advantageous price-wise. If you don't care so much about where you're going, book off the time in advance but take advantage of last-minute deals to lock in a destination. Take a staycation. Housesit or swap houses with a friend in another city. Hit the great outdoors and stay in national parks.
The main thing is that you take care of yourself and take the time off. You can't beat the post-vacation blues and hold onto the feelin' if you don't experience it in the first place.