“No one realizes how beautiful it is to travel until he comes home
and rests his head on his old, familiar pillow.” – Lin Yutang
The emotional geography of traveling contains predictable highs and lows. The specifics vary from one trip to the next, but the basic outlines seem as reliable as the progression of the seasons. As confirmed again on our recent trip, I see the contours this way.
Regardless of how eagerly a vacation has been awaited, beginning a trip produces stress. Unless you are leaving most of the family behind, someone has to stop the newspaper and have mail held. Making provisions for the pets, paying bills that might come due while away — everything that makes up your usual life at home needs to be considered and dealt with. Anyone who is employed needs to make sure the work responsibilities are complete. (Many people get so stressed out by this challenge, they question the value of the travel to come.) And then there is the packing!
But if you can get yourselves to the car or to your first flights without a meltdown, the emotional climate will improve.
“Getting ready” stress gives way to the stress of being in a new situation – mixed with the beneficial feelings that come with arrival at the long-sought escape.
Then you begin to check how many clean shirts you have left to wear. Or, on a cruise, you get a questionnaire asking about your flights home. The resort or cruise line delivers a preliminary bill for the expenses you have signed for during your stay. (You check the total in disbelief, but it is correct.) You realize the end is near. Oh.
The slide into the low times has begun. Packing to head home is less exacting than packing to start a trip. There is no need to preserve crisp appearance or to make sure you have matching outfits. But you do need to remember to take home everything you brought – and to get the new purchases home undamaged. Accumulated papers can now be sorted and discarded. Soon your space looks bare and it is clear there is nothing left to do but go home.
Going to bed the last night of a cruise is usually the lowest point for me. I have only my nightclothes, toothbrush and tomorrow’s clothes. The night passes in that “in between” space.
Fortunately by now my thoughts have turned toward home and I re-connect with interests there. How are the Bruins doing now that the Stanley Cup is in motion? Will our cat welcome us or shun us for leaving him alone so long? What will I write about this week for my blog? Interests which were temporarily dormant come alive again and we remember the reasons we want to go on home.
On debarkation day there is fondness in the air, but the passengers have places to go, and the ship’s crew has a whole new load of passengers to prepare for. It has been fun but we all know what time it is.
A friend once described her Cape Cod vacation with her children this way: she didn’t really mind relaxing the family rules during the trip, but “the minute the wheels turned toward home” she felt a change. The sand in the car and the sticky fingers became irritations again, and she was mentally done with the carefree week they had all enjoyed.
I hope your returns are of the “Many Happy” variety, and that you can maintain the vacation attitude even beyond the point where you first glimpse the rain-fed lawn which has taken advantage of your absence. Much of the return trip can be a “Hurry up and wait” experience: get out of your cabin on time, wait for the ride to the airport, check-in on time and wait for the flight. I recommend maintaining the vacation attitude as long as possible – especially during the waiting time. Fretting will not make the time pass any quicker. Maintain the mellow. The world as you know it will reappear soon enough!
Boundaries divide. Travel unites.
27 August 2015 (originally published 13 June 2013)