The Inner Workings of My Vacation Brain

Is it obvious from this post that I have travel on the brain?!  Always.  Always.

As I was editing photos and writing about South Beach and our cruise over the past couple of weeks, I relived all the fun, anticipation, and excitement we had.  I loved it, yet felt pangs and yearning in my heart to be transported back immediately.  But as I got to the ports on the latter half of our trip, I also felt the sadness and anxiousness I know I was feeling as the end drew near.

Can you grieve a vacation?  Are there stages one must pass through to finally reach acceptance?  And does one ever really accept that they are not still on vacation?  I began to deconstruct and dissect my mental journey before/during/after our vacations (because this is important stuff, guys 😉 ).  DT and I have talked about this before, but I really started to think in terms of a timeline.

Here’s how my mind works:

Six months out:  Not really even thinking about vacation much, probably because the weather is still decent where we live and we haven’t been sitting in a polar vortex for two months (in the instance of a winter getaway).

Three months out:  Inching closer, starting to become more real.

One month out:  The countdown is officially ON!  Any plans made for dates after we get back seem like an honest eternity away, and frankly, a little incomprehensible.  Life becomes segmented into “Before Vacation” and “After Vacation.”  And I don’t want to think about “After Vacation”!  So it’s kinda like it’s a black hole that’s not even there….

Three weeks out:  Early stages of packing-thoughts begin.  Start to think about leaving the house for a week, who will take care of the critters, what do we need to do before we go?  A checklist is born.

Two weeks out:  !!!!  Two weeks away!  Preparation to be away from work begins, more serious packing consideration unfolds, I’m basically beside myself.

One week out:  !!!!  Holy buckets, one week from now we’ll be THERE!  Crossing things off my checklist, the guest bed has started to become littered with piles, tackling chores around the house so it’s not left in shambles.  But the darker side – I’m already mentally preparing myself for it to be over.  Isn’t that sad and stupid?  I’m already thinking about how excited we’ll be in one week, but in two weeks….it’ll be almost over!  Gosh, I’m sick.

The week before we leave:  !!!!  Out-of-office preemptively set at work, last minute errands, clean up food in the fridge, critter/house care has been arranged and confirmed, piles on the guest bed have grown, suitcases are dragged out (and the cats have done multiple, thorough inspections on these foreign objects).  I’ll be honest, I get a little stressed out before we leave.

The night before we leave:  DT and I have a tradition of happy hour after we leave work on the eve of a vacation.  A kickoff, if you will.  By now he’s printed out all our documents and confirmations, we’ll go home and fill our suitcases, set the timer on the living room lamp, one last-ditch effort to eat leftovers or any other perishables in the fridge.  No fewer than two alarm clocks set, cab called if needed.  We probably won’t go to bed early, who can sleep at a time like this?!

Vacation day is here!  It’s likely been a wake-up-get-dressed frenzy, tend to the animals once more, load the car/cab, a final house walk-through.  I will fret all the way to the airport whether a light was left on, the door was locked, a faucet was left dripping, I forgot to do or pack something.  I’m so excited….and yet I’m a basketcase.  DT can only shake his head.  The plane ride(s) is/are usually a blur – usually because we’re on such an early flight.  But then, we arrive!  To me, in those moments of the first day, it honestly feels like how could this ever end?  Oh no, it will NEVER end!

The first few days:  It takes me/us a while to become fully immersed in our time away right off the bat.  It’s hard to get into that “We’re on vacation and we literally have zero accountability and can do pretty much whatever the heck we want for the next __ days” mindset.  And when I say “hard” I don’t mean as in hardship, or “poor me/us.”  I mean it really is a mental shift to pull away from real life obligations, schedules, routines, and responsibilities.  We’ll look at the time (even though we have nowhere at all to be) and say, “Omigosh!  It’s only __ o’clock!”  Time kind of stands still when we slow down to the groove of vacation.

The midway point:  Then time begins to not stand still.  We’re having fun, and time flies when you’re having fun, man.  When the days we’ve been gone begin to outnumber the days left….sad.  It’s definitely a mental turning point in the vacation.  That I do not like.  But we press on, we must make the most of our time!

The last couple of days:  Bummer.  Big, big bummer.  Vacation depression has set in and the trip we thought would never, could never end….is ending very soon.  In our desperation to keep the spirit alive, we turn to plans for the next vacation.  It’s the best defense!

The last day:  DT and I always try to go out with a bang and we’re usually successful.  It’s part denial, part savoring, part saving the best for last.  Or something like that.

The trip home:  Sigh.  We must plan another vacation pronto.  On a positive note, it is always nice to be home.  Nice to be back in a routine, back in our own bed, back with the critters, back to normal eating and drinking schedules (i.e. not total and complete gluttony).

The first week back:  I do the thing where I think “A week ago we were….”  At first it’s a painful exercise until I get to the end of the week and realize the trip was coming to a close and I’m probably mentally a way lot better now.  Oh, and we’re plotting the next getaway seriously.

That’s pretty much my journey, thank you for coming along with the crazy.  I must absolutely declare how fortunate DT and I have been for the travels we have experienced.  I never want to sound ungrateful or minimize the opportunities we’ve had.  Every one has been a-MAY-zing and we’re very lucky to be able to spend a week here and there every now and again.

It’s just that we LOVE IT SO MUCH!

But as much as we love and look forward to these trips, and as much anguish as I may talk myself into having when it’s over, I know in my heart of hearts, there is no place like home and we are every bit as lucky to have that.

Now, if our home was on a tropical island in the middle of the Caribbean….

Hmmm. 😉


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