Let’s talk about the last day of vacation.
It always strikes me as a little bit bananas and Twilight Zone-y that the second you step back into life at home, the magic of vacation starts to fade. That last day feels like snapping a glow stick. It’s so bright at first that you can hardly believe it’ll ever dim, but then, within hours, it starts to lose its luster. By the next morning, the glow is completely gone and replaced with something that appears to be old Gatorade.
This is why we buy ugly, overpriced items from gift shops—sweatshirts and mugs and magnets and little toys that light up and dance. We want something tangible to hold onto once the experience itself is over. It makes sense. I’m not hating on souvenirs—my 100 Year Anniversary Packers sweatshirt will arrive in the mail sometime this week. But I do think we can do a better job at keeping a little bit of that vacation spirit alive year-round.
Vacation is an experience and a mindset, but it’s also a behavior.
The experience part can’t be recreated. I’m not going to sit on my sidewalk this morning at 9:30am eating a free popsicle and waiting for professional football players to ride down the street on a kid’s bike, for example. The mindset part can’t be completely recreated, either. I can’t go dark on all forms of work-related communication this week. That’s a great way for a remote employee to go on the permanent vacation known as unemployment. And the majority of my vacation behaviors—walking around the stadium every morning, spending the day frolicking on a football field, eating my body weight in cheese curds—can’t be adopted in regular life.
But I think there is one critical vacation-based behavior that can be replicated. It’s easy and practical. And it never fails to give me that same glow-y feeling of freedom.
I can put my phone down.
This, I’ve come to realize, is one of the best parts of vacation for me. It’s also my favorite part of flying and of international travel. I love being separated from my phone—and I’m not even that attached to it! Jaclyn, one of my best friends from high school, has probably spoken to my voicemail message more often than we’ve actually spoken on the phone.
But even with less-than-average usage, I still feel the gravitational pull. I don’t even realize how often I mindlessly pick up my phone until the second or third day of vacation, when my first thought in any length of downtime is not related to checking Slack, checking Instagram, returning texts, or looking up some piece of information I don’t actually need to know. Instead of reaching for my phone, I just… sit. And after a few days of no notifications and no scrolling, I start to feel profoundly relaxed. My brain suddenly has room to process instead of constantly consuming.
This is critical for all humans, but perhaps especially for people who do creative work.
Nothing good comes from constant consumption. At some point, it stops being productive and starts being a loop that keeps your brain in perpetual motion—and it takes time to get out of that loop. I’ve noticed this more and more. I’ll go out on the porch and think, “There’s not much going on back here today,” because I haven’t stopped long enough to actually notice anything. And then I’ll sit there for more than five seconds and see a bumblebee collecting pollen from the flowers, a hummingbird zooming past, a dozen different birds singing in nearby trees, a bunny discretely camouflaged by tall grass. It was all there for the noticing, but it’s hard to notice when your brain is bombarded with a never-ending stream of new information.
So I’m going to set some phone rules to see if it helps as much in real life as it does in vacation. I’ll respond to texts and personal emails in the morning before work, over lunch, and right after work (with obvious exceptions being made on occasion, because life). I’ll leave my phone in the office after work to keep it completely out of sight in the evening. And I think Instagram will be relegated to the weekend for awhile, just as a test.
It’s not the same as the full freedom of vacation, of course. But I think it could be a piece of that freedom. And until I can go back to the world of sidewalk popsicles and plastic necklaces and stadium laps, I’ll take it.
(And combine it with my new sweatshirt whenever I need a little extra boost.)
“Will Reagan Orange” is what I’ve been calling it, but his actual new album is called Vacancy, and it was fully released on Friday.
The Packers Pro Shop is having a clearance sale. You know, just in case anyone else would like some Packers-related souvenirs.
Jordy came home!
Season 2 of In the Dark was infuriating and humbling and hopeful. It made a great companion for the 14-hour drive back.