Last week at the beach went slowly. This is neither complaint nor marveling. We filled the days, and memories, both good and bad, make time stretch in retrospect. I was also awake a lot, so in that sense, I experienced more of my 168 hours than normal. That is one way to make a vacation last longer.
I know by this point that vacations in the toddler stage are not going to be relaxing. Moments, yes. Sometimes whole hours. But not the whole thing. I also love the work I do, and I work in ways that are somewhat like vacation; my home office wardrobe is shockingly similar to my vacation wardrobe! So for me, there is not this dichotomy where vacations are great and work is not.
However, if you aren’t vacationing with a toddler, and work does involve suits and stuff scheduled every 15 minutes, re-entry can be tough. Are there ways to ease back in and stretch the bliss?
Happiness research, and common sense, suggest a few tactics.
First, research finds that the major happiness boost of a vacation comes from anticipating the fun. But there are plenty of ways to build anticipation into normal life. I love the idea of aiming to have at least small adventures daily. Plan a dinner out with friends a day or two after getting back. Plan something fun (a day trip? even an overnight?) for the next weekend, so the first week back feels like it is merely sandwiched between holidays. Even planning for lunch with a favorite colleague at a favorite spot that first day can help make the morning better.
Many people check their inboxes while on vacation, but if you haven’t, sheer math means there will be a lot in there. The average person gets about 150 emails a day. If you have been gone 5 business days, that is 750 emails, plus maybe another 250 from the two weekends. Inbox 1000! Gone two weeks? Go ahead and double that. It can feel overwhelming (to the point where people don’t even want to take longer vacations). But probably fewer than 50 emails actually matter. So just carve out time to hit delete-delete-delete. Or, better yet, if you have a trusted deputy or assistant, see if that person will go in and delete the unimportant or no-longer-relevant. You will return to a manageable number of messages. Some people keep their out-of-office email on for an extra day just to keep the incoming fire down while they are digging out.
The home front can be its own source of stress. You can schedule a grocery delivery for shortly after your scheduled arrival (with a neighbor as back-up to get things inside should your travel be delayed). Or plan to go out to eat after getting home, and have the groceries show up early the next morning. We actually did laundry during some down time at the beach so we didn’t come back to much of it. If you have a cleaning service, scheduling it for the day before you return means you come in to a calmingly clean abode.
Finally, part of what makes a vacation feel good in memory is the stories you tell about it afterward. So take some time to go through photos, make notes in a journal, or call a friend or family member and rehash what happened. The more you say “we had a great time!” the more you believe it, and keep some of that glow going.
In other news: Have you ever done a “staycation”? Was it rejuvenating? Or did you feel cheated? I am writing an article on the topic and would love to hear people’s experiences.