There is nothing stranger to me than the transition period between being on vacation and being back at home. While this is far from my first time coming back from a trip, this period never gets any less uncomfortable to me.
What’s that, you say? The beach isn’t right outside my back door anymore? I can’t fall asleep in a hammock in the middle of the day? So it’s not appropriate if I walk around in my bathing suit in public — gotcha. I have to actually do work now?
I’ll say it. I miss being away. As an in-between, I’m more comfortable on the go rather than being in a sedentary state. Alas, I am a functional idealist, meaning I understand that you can’t just jetset anywhere, anytime. You have to earn your keep – or at least enough for your next plane ticket.
My favorite thing about coming back, though, is that I always come back a little different than when I left. The sun has energized me, and freeing my mind of work, traffic, and e-mail has allowed me to get back in touch with myself and the world around me. I feel my creative self stretching all her limbs, ready for the next artistic venture.
- Nothing I can purchase from any store can replace a priceless experience. I’m not a shop-a-holic, but I am prone to binging every once in a while. I confess to doing some pretty hardcore shopping for this trip, but in the end, whether or not I wore my new gladiator sandals meant nothing in comparison to the view from the top of Coba, the sunrise, or the feel of cool Caribbean ocean water enveloping me — all memories that have become embedded in my soul after this trip.
- Taking care of yourself is not a luxury. It is a necessity. I had my first-ever massage and my second-ever manicure/pedicure on this trip. Holy cow, where have these things been all my life? Forget about body shame and bring on the massage oils! Sometimes, I fall into a cycle of too much work and not enough rest, and I forget to pamper myself every once in a while.
- Have your cake (or ice cream, or popsicle, or coffee mousse, or cookies, or all of the above) and eat it too. Having practically lived in the gym for the past six months, it was liberating to simply eat without counting calories or thinking about having to run off any of the foods I was consuming. I ate, overate, and then ate some more. I ate as soon as I got up in the morning, between meals, and in the middle of the night. I broke every single rule I had created for myself, and it was amazing. Obviously, I can’t keep this up, as I’d probably eat myself to death (I once decided that this is how I’d like to die), but for the time that I was away, I gave myself license to enjoy everything that I could.
- Speak from the heart, and you will be understood. I am fluent in Spanish. I spent 4 years studying it in high school, then decided to major in it through college. I have read Don Quixote in archaic Spanish, written papers in Spanish, given presentations in Spanish, watched films in Spanish, and made penpals in Spanish-speaking countries. Somehow, I still get shy around native speakers. In Cancun, I forced myself out of that shell and spoke at every opportunity. I love being told that I speak it well, and I love the element of surprise I have, being a Spanish-speaking Vietnamese girl. Whereas I was too concerned with using the correct vocabulary or slang word or grammatical structure before, I allowed myself to let conversation flow and – lo and behold – it did!
- Disconnect to reconnect. I have an incessant habit of checking my e-mail and Facebook. Being out of the country, I shut off my phone and only checked my e-mail sporadically. It did wonders for my brain. Suddenly, I felt more in tune with everything and everyone around me. I was no longer distracted by virtual concerns. Back here, I hope to practice this more often so that I can be in the moment instead of in virtual cyberspace.
- I look and feel way better with a tan. Nuff said.
One of my high school teachers said something about travel that rang both sad and true for me. “No matter how much you learn and how much you see when you travel,” she said, “you forget after a while.” The places you go with stay with you, but your memory of them will grow less intense through time.
I felt so sad about how true this was. I lamented that I could never keep places with me forever. But one thing she forgot to mention was that every once in a while, something in your ordinary life will unexpectedly trigger your memory of a faraway place you’ve once visited. It’s as if someone opened a jar of a potent fragrance that jolts you from your current state and lures you into a place in which you feel places, people, sensations, and emotions just as vividly as you did the first time around. Then, when the fragrance dissipates and you return to Earth, you feel sad that it’s over, but immeasurably happy that you have the memory at all.