By Jason Menard
The Canadian band Spirit of the West once penned a rollicking pub anthem recounting about how their bar-hopping vacation travels often leave them more exhausted than when they left. Married with two kids, pub crawling is no longer a part of our vacations, but the sentiment is still the same. Although our current lifestyle is more akin to the Spirit of the Mid-West, these so-called vacations do leave us in need of coming Home for a Rest.
Due to the fact that a majority of our family and friends live in Montreal, our vacations consist of heading back home, staying at the in-laws, and using it as a base from which we can do our daily forays throughout la belle province to catch up with old friends, revisit old haunts, and re-clog arteries at favoured restaurants. Compounding the itinerary is the desire to visit other family living in the Ottawa region.
What it amounts to is a lot of time behind the wheel, a lot of wonderful times and delicious meals, a lot of packing and unpacking, and – of course – a long day of travel home culminating in a scant few hours before waking up and going to work the next day (or that same day, as the case may be.)
Now, while I may be able to leave the day-to-day office job behind physically, mentally the separation is a different matter. Not only is there the multiple-day hustle before you leave to ensure that everything runs smoothly once you leave, but there’s also the knowledge that there’s going to be a stack of work waiting for you upon your return. And that lovely invention known as e-mail only makes it worse – and many of us count our e-mails in the hundreds on a good day.
And for those of us with our own businesses, vacations rarely are actual vacations. There’s still the matter of keeping up with clients, meeting deadlines when the mind would rather be elsewhere, and sneaking a few minutes of work time here and there during the day.
Getting back to work is like trying to merge onto the Autobahn from a dead stop. Everyone else is in fifth gear moving with the flow of traffic, and you’re stuck trying to get back into the game while your mind would still rather be playing. In fact, the stress of picking up where you left off is often worse than whatever stresses you were trying to put behind you in the first place! The first day is overwhelming, so many things needing your attention, so little capability to get moving, and so little desire to tackle anything. Eventually you just have to start somewhere and chip away at the pile.
We got home early Thursday morning. We unpacked this weekend. We’ve yet to go to the grocery store, preferring to pick up what we need for the day. Vacation may be over, but real life hasn’t yet caught up. Oddly enough, while vacation is enjoyable, the routine of day-to-day may be the most relaxing. There’s a comfort in familiarity, there’s something relaxing about being surrounded by your own things, and – no matter how hospitable your hosts may be – there’s nothing like sleeping in your own bed.
Yes, the key to surviving vacations is that first weekend back. Forget the chores, forget the obligations, just rest. A couple of lazy days are the key to transitioning back to life and making any vacation successful.
Now, there are a few obvious solutions to combating vacation fatigue and the subsequent work re-integration stresses. One, you could forgo vacations. OK, there are a couple of realistic solutions at hand: vacation at home, or head south to an all-inclusive resort.
Unfortunately, both of those, while appealing, miss out on what the best part of vacations is: sharing time with friends and family, in a more relaxed atmosphere, without the pressures of schedules, obligations, or deadlines. Sure, those stressors exist, but getting away from it all – even if means that you’re only able to loosen the tether that’s binding you to the everyday – makes it all worthwhile in the long run.
Spirit of the West had it right all along. And although nights of drunken revelry are long behind me, pub crawls have been replaced by cross-province jaunts to catch up with friends and family, and the only ones having too much to drink and throwing up now are our friends’ babies, vacations are truly just a prelude to the real relaxation – when we get to come home for a rest.
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