This past weekend I left my house for days. It was extraordinary. Sixteen months into a life-altering pandemic, many of us have spent vastly more time in our homes than we are used to, from not leaving for leisure and work activities to canceling travel plans. Although I moved twice during the pandemic, I didn’t take any trips away until this month. And I was surprised by both how similar and different it felt from pre-pandemic travel.
I wrote a few issues ago about my fears of flying that stemmed from a lengthy quarantine. To my relief, stepping into the airport didn’t feel all that foreign to me, other than everyone was wearing a mask (well, at least 90% of people I saw were following the federal mask requirement). It wasn’t too crowded, although my planes were packed on both ends of my journey. I wasn’t as scared as I had predicted, nor did my fellow travelers act fearful or inappropriate.
When I landed in Michigan to visit family, I cried while hugging my sister for the first time last March. I slowly coaxed my pre-school niece out of her shell after she had only seen me through a screen for so long. And I met my baby nephew, luxuriating in the feeling of holding him and smelling him (babies do smell amazing) after my only experience of him for his whole short life was in 2-D.
Those were the good parts. Some of the surprise negatives included a big struggle to fall asleep in unfamiliar surroundings in my Airbnb. And of course, while visiting children ineligible for the COVID-19 vaccine, our activities were limited to those we could do outdoors (where it was boiling hot) or hanging out at my sister’s house (its own kind of quarantine).
Still, it was a slice of sort-of-normal as I worry about the continued trajectory of the pandemic. When I got home, I was ecstatic to greet my dog and pretty excited to collapse on my own bed. I thought, “Hey, I can do this.” I can find my boundaries and comforts and risk tolerance and safety no matter what happens around me. And that’s a great feeling.
Today’s tips on returning from vacation
On Thursday, I logged on to work at 8 a.m., about 18 hours after my plane touched down from my return journey. It wasn’t exactly the easiest thing I’ve ever done.
And I know I’m not alone. Sara Moniuszko wrote a story for us this week about returning to work after vacation, which she likened to the Sunday scaries – but worse. You’re supposed to feel happy and rested, but frequently you feel the opposite.
As Twitter user @SkarSkarSkar writes, “Going back to work after taking a week off and I’m filled with anxiety, guilt, feeling like I’m lost/all over the place — can often feel like it erases the necessary (rest and recuperation) the (out of office) time was originally for.”
Experts say multiple factors contribute to not getting the relaxation expected out of the vacation, but luckily there are ways to make the transition back a bit smoother. So how do you fight this uncomfortable phenomenon? Well, part of it is making sure you set up a restful vacation from the beginning.
“Cramming in as much as we possibly can into our work week before vacation creates a sense of overwhelming leading up to the actual vacation itself,” explains digital wellness expert Mark Ostach, adding that organizing the last-minute details of going away can also add stress. “Anxiety leading up to a vacation can sometimes disrupt our ability to get into the time off.”