Life after vacation (or, how to re-enter well)
We returned last week from the vacation of a lifetime. We being my husband and our four daughters. The vacation involved passports and a balcony overlooking the ocean.
And when I say lifetime, I mean it. We had not experienced a family adventure like this before and it will likely not be duplicated anytime soon.
After being gone for days I walked through garage into our kitchen. I was stepping back into my actual life.
The one full of responsibilities and chores and messy relationships. Full of the routines and parts of my life I was able to forget about, or at least avoid, while gone.
I was stepping into a potential place of disappointment.
This reentry point from a vacation can be difficult, where the everydayness of the schedules and tasks feels ordinary, even boring.
Where discontent creeps in and dissatisfaction over the regular can take over. Because the very nature of a vacation is that it’s a break from the routine, so no surprise we (and I’m speaking from first hand experience here) can dread coming home.
And yet that’s exactly what I want to avoid, dreading my actual life.
What I wanted to avoid last week when I returned and what I want to avoid in my daily happenings. Rather, I want to live out of an appreciation for what’s right in front of me, even in those predictable, non-sexy details.
I experienced a great escape from my regular humdrum, but I have 51 other weeks this year to fully embrace.
So this time around I was proactive about coming home after the time away. I did some work before we left that made returning a little easier.
Here were a few simple, intentional things I did before and right when we arrived home that helped my reentry to my actual life with anticipation and joy:
I cleaned the house.
More accurately, I splurged and had cleaning people come right before we left.
There is nothing more disheartening when returning to the ordinary, than walking into a disaster of a space.
Standing in my clean kitchen made me just a little happier to be home. Adding a clean house to the long to-do list that needs to get checked off before leaving can feel impossible, but it’s worth the time (or money if you are having someone else do it).
No matter that my home’s a little shabby, I’m happier to be in it when it’s sparkling.
I planned some fun.
I know the things in my everyday life that I enjoy, that feel like a treat and so I planned a few for when I got back.
This time that looked like a hair appointment and a wedding the weekend we returned. I obviously didn’t plan the wedding, but it was a celebration I was looking forward to and set our return date accordingly.
Whether it’s dinner with friends the night you get home, or a little pampering the next day, schedule in the part of your life that you absolutely love as part of your homecoming. It will act as a reminder that your actual life has some components that give you joy and it’s not all drudgery.
I ordered takeout.
After being gone for a while, it is likely your fridge is bare and anything still in it has spoiled. And if your family is anything like mine, they want to eat just the same.
And not to state the obvious, but hungry travelers make for cranky travelers.
So for this vacation I budgeted in takeout (a rare treat for this family of six) for our first meal back at home, so we would have a tasty, easy dinner as we unpacked.
It’s always satisfying to have an answer to the question, “What’s for dinner?” Even more satisfying as you stand amidst the pile of suitcases waiting to be emptied.
I embraced my credit card bill.
Speaking of budgets, we had one on our trip. That is, we didn’t overspend. We knew what we could afford while we were gone and we stuck to it.
Returning from a splurge that your actual life cannot bear, can add stress to any reentry. And this is avoidable stress. You don’t want to dread the credit card bill when it arrives.
Have the vacation your real bank account can handle by creating a budget before you start spending (don’t forget to include those fun extras for reentry.) No vacationers remorse wanted around here.
I did an experiment.
Loving the life I was returning to was obviously a bigger job than simply loading the dishwasher before I left for the airport.
I’ve been intentionally working on contentment for over a year.
Of embracing the ordinary and making small changes that will allow me to recognize and appreciate each day, each moment, for the gift it is.
In fact, I did a nine-month experiment to make my routines more enjoyable and my daily decisions a little more intentional.
Like an athlete who trains for an event, I’ve been working for months on loving my actual life, so when the challenge of reentry time came post-vacation, I was prepared to fully embrace the life I was walking back into.
Whether returning from a night away, or a vacation you’ve been planning for years, it is possible to reenter with a content spirit.
May you open the door to wherever you call home, and be grateful for the life it holds.
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