Have you ever returned from vacation and wish you could just go back to the land from which you just visited? Did you ponder over the act of frantically trying to change your plane tickets and extend your stay?
Research shows that our brain needs novelty—a change of environment! But we don’t need research to tell us how thrilling it is to melt into gorgeous scenery, salivate over delectably new foods and drink, sleep in as long as our body can rest, zip-line through the tree tops, ride bicycles through an apple orchard, feel the warm enveloping ocean water, or delight in your children’s giggles of joy.
It doesn’t seem to matter whether you love or don’t love your home, have a cushy job, or have the worlds most stressful of occupations, most vacations – even the least exciting ones – offer us a critical life-line for survival.
Instead of getting lost in your daily routine, indulge in activities that help health and happiness. Essentially, you want to continue to access those enjoyable moments that you experienced while you were away. Here is a peek at what research indicates are the best ways to keep the mojo going:
Integrate. If possible, plan to have a day or two at home upon return. Don’t have that much time off? Another option is to ease yourself back into work by returning on a Wednesday so that after two days of work you can decompress over the weekend. Give your family and yourself the space to take it slow, unpack, look at pictures and allow your experiences to sink more deeply into your skin.
Reminisce. Look at your pictures! Is it possible that there are lots of people out there who take tons of pictures but never enjoy them? One look at a picture and you can be back in the restaurant or on the beach. Pouring over photos often is one of the best ways to assimilate your experiences, feelings, sensations and learning. How did this vacation affect you inside? In what ways did it affect your views about life, people, the land and yourself? Don’t hold back! Resist the impulse to deprive yourself of how this activity can soothe the bite of having returned home and help you to grow.
Read. If you’re awake at night and cannot sleep or you miss the places and people of your adventure, read more about the culture, the history of the places you stayed or fun facts about the activities you enjoyed (what was the name of the turtle you saw?). Are there sites of interest you didn’t get a chance to visit? When you learn more, you give relief to the part of you that still wants to be there.
Reach out. Having fun and escaping the challenges of modern life is important but if you don’t get to know a local person – actually ask someone about their life and really listen when they share – you will have missed a huge opportunity to have an extraordinary vacation. An authentic interchange with local person is one of the most commonly cited reasons for transformation-through-travel. If it’s not inappropriate, exchange social media contact info with your newfound acquaintance. Once home, send a follow email or message with a memorable photo. Your connection need not turn into a modern day pen pal but it will surprise you and give you the feeling of connectedness that will stick with you for years to come.
Share. Your friends and colleagues expect to hear a few stories about your adventure when you return home. Note to self – the keywords are: “a few stories.” The truth is that very few people want or have the bandwidth to listen to all of the details you really would like to share and this can be dejecting. Find one friend who is willing to hear much more and ask them to indulge you.
Create. If you are like most, you will find that after your second story, most people are not interested in hearing about your travels and yet, you have all sorts of feelings, thoughts and excitement bottled up inside which needs a place go. To this problem, I say: consider seeking out an interested audience. Before you balk at this idea, keep reading. About a dozen of my friends visited a remote island in the pacific and had the rare opportunity of swimming with humpback whales. What does a person do after having an experience of this (literal) magnitude? You can go the old fashioned way and writing it down, dabble with poetry, or give a slideshow talk at a local non-profit, school, library, or bookstore or take your colleagues or friends on a virtual adventure. Any which way, it is critical to get it out – express what is inside of you instead of just moving on. Besides, others can benefit!
Music. If you go overseas where you can enjoy traditional music, travel to a part of the U.S. that is known for a particular genre like Hawaii, New Orleans, or Nashville or listen to a local band while enjoying a fantastic meal – consider purchasing some of the music. Music holds non-verbal memories and sensations in which listening to the songs is a fantastic and easy way to rekindle the feelings you had on your trip. I had a friend who spent a few weeks in the Bahamas and was ready to move there. As she lamented being back in the states, she played the Jamaican music for weeks on end. Music, like smells, can quickly transport us into a different (hopefully better) time and space. Take advantage of this.
Objects. If your adventure was particularly long, deeply meaningful, or overseas – the transition home might be more difficult than is typical for you. If this is the case, consider getting serious about helping yourself to weather the drastic change of
re-entering “your life.” One action that is particularly helpful is having a memorable object with you throughout your day. I once led a study abroad to Costa Rica and a female executive was having a tough time adjusting to work after having been in the depths of the amazon. In an effort to appease her turmoil, she brought the water bottle that she used each day in Costa Rica with her to work and to each meeting. The water bottle represented all that she had experienced and its presence sitting on her desk, made being at work tolerable – that maybe she could be in Costa Rica and work at the same time. Other examples are: clothing purchased or worn on travel, a stone found along the hiking trail or shoes you wore there.
Activities or Routines. Along the same lines as finding an object that makes you feel connected to where you visited, it is helpful to repeat an activity that you enjoyed. For example, if you became accustomed to an afternoon siesta or teatime, perhaps you could insist that you continue this routine – despite what your employer thinks or how strange others may think of it. If during your holiday you stopped wearing makeup or started to walk outside each day, perhaps you could continue what you started and make a lifestyle change. You already have the momentum; allow the vacation to lead you into personal change.
Change. During your best contemplative time, whether it be while exercising, showering, using the toilet, drinking morning coffee, driving to work, or falling asleep – set an intention to “sit in the inquiry” and ask yourself big questions: How did my travel affect me emotionally or spiritually or my relationships? Who I am? What and who do I want in my life? And, what do I hold as most important? Moreover, in what ways do my travels motivate me to change for the better? Put questions like these into the back of your mind and revisit them as you go about your days. When you aren’t thinking about them, your unconscious mind will to continue to ponder. You might be delighted at the ideas and thoughts that flow by telling yourself to reflect.
Next time you return home from travel and are forced by necessity to jump back into the sting of modern life, resist the deluge that appears that it will swallow you whole. As you drive to work, awaken in the middle of the night or lie awake as you try to go to sleep, see if you can pay attention to an inner voice that asks you to keep the flame of vacation alive.
Dr. Suzy Ross is a recognized professor and clinician with over 20 years of experience helping people to learn, heal, and transform. Dr. Ross has spoken at over 50 professional conferences across diverse disciplines and is the recent author of The Map to Wholeness. Learn more about Dr. Suzy Ross and her experience with life transformation here or connect with her on Facebook.