As the years have passed, I realize I am getting much better at transitioning from my travels back to my daily routine. Of course, a big factor is being retired, and generally not having serious obligations, like a job when I return. But even when I had a full time job, I tried to leave a day or two of “buffer” to account for re-entry to reality, to overcome jet lag, and taking care of routine household chores.
Generally, travel for most of us involves adventure, exploring, good food, making new friends, and lots of relaxation. Sometimes, we learn a new skill or sport, and generally try activities we don’t do in our everyday lives.
Before the smart phone revolution, many of us enjoyed a vacation away from email, particularly work email. But that is no longer true, with texts, email, social media, and ubiquitous Wi-Fi. So, for many of us, it is really difficult to unplug. My best unplugging occurs when there is no wi-fi or cell service!
Perhaps more difficult than going, is returning. The list of chores has piled up, not to mention bills, mail, yard work, laundry, and cooking. And of course, the normal routine, including work, school, and other adult responsibilities. Going from no schedule to an enforced schedule makes the transition even more difficult.
So, what can we do about this difficult period?
With shorter vacations, the transition seems easier. But two weeks in Hawaii, or an Alaskan cruise amounts to culture shock. Much longer trips like my three week trips on the Trans Siberian Railway, multiple safaris across Africa, and driving Chile from top to bottom present many challenges. Just to mention a few, jet lag (on both ends), food options, strange beds, clean drinking water, personal safety, language barriers, and weather.
Psychologists say it feels natural to experience a rather glum transition from holiday to work mode. Less freedom and creativity perhaps contribute to that feeling. So, what can we do about this?
Prepare your home BEFORE you go. This means stopping the paper, boarding your pets, cleaning out perishables from the refrigerator, filling the car with gas, and doing the laundry. I just do not like coming home to a mess.
I always schedule a buffer, sometimes just a day, sometimes more for longer trips across multiple time zones. The older I get, the longer it takes to overcome my jet lag.
Ease the transition, by looking at photos or purchases. Organizing photos is a great way to return to reality. My home computer is much easier to use than my smart phone or tablet for organizing photos. I actually look forward to it.
Some activities from vacation mode can be carried forward, including more sleep, afternoon naps, better exercise routine, better eating habits, and a better attitude.
When all else fials, start planning your next trip. I generally have two or three trips scheduled before I get back!!!
Some of use need closure, and some of us need a definite transition back to reality. During my career, I would bring back small trinkets to my staff. Many would never got to the far off places I just visited. Providing a small token gave them a thrill, and gave me a sense that my trip was more than just a trip.
Each of you must have a “secret” method to move back into reality. Want to share?