The Trouble With Vacations

After the brief sojourn often referred to as spring break, I find myself simultaneously refreshed and puzzled with regards to vacation behavior. Why do we forgo our everyday sense of decorum in the name of getting away? What is it about going on vacation that makes people abandon themselves?

We vacate our lives to get away from ourselves. We go away to exotic locations and do things that our every-day selves would never conceive of doing. And we think this is good for us. But the act of vacationing is deceiving. It is replete with inherent problems that we either pretend to overlook or blatantly ignore in the process of going outside our normal selves. For example:

Problem #1: The Spending

What happens to our relationship with our wallet when we go on vacation? Somewhere between the outlet mall and the tiki bar we decide that less is more when it comes to discretion. We buy things we don’t need simply because we would never buy them when we’re home. That shirt that we’ll only wear once? When we are back to our normal lives and back to our normal level of sanity we realize that that shirt will hang pitifully in the back of the closet, a constant reminder of the temporary insanity we experienced all in the name vacating. Those “cute” capris with the anchors embroidered on them? They somehow seem out of place in a city that contains absolutely no recreational water features. And yet we continue to spend money on these things, if only to convince ourselves that we do have the innate capability of being someone other than who we are every other day of our lives.

Problem #2: The Return to Reality

What happens when we return to reality, sunburned, exhausted, and broke? The reconciliation of the fabulous vacation we’ve just had with our ordinary existence is not only time consuming; it is an emotionally painful experience. We realize that not everyday can be fabulous like a vacation, but we find ourselves wondering why. Why can’t we live everyday with the kind of reckless abandon we seem to conjure from within while we are away? These thoughts run through our minds when we are cleaning out the shower drain or patching the hole the dog scratched into the wall. When we are taking out the garbage or sorting the laundry. To pretend that getting back to normal feels anything less than a disappointment would be a blatant lie. And by the time we have managed to assimilate our vacation experience into our memory, it’s time for another vacation again.

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