Two weeks seems like the perfect amount of time to unapologetically check out and forget life at home. Having paid any bills in advance, you can push off everything else until you get back. We did exactly that in Singapore and Thailand.
We spent the bulk of our time in Thailand and that meant getting used to practically 100% humidity, falling in line with the slightly slower pace of things (not including the traffic, especially the motorbikes), and growing to rely on the ubiquitous street vendors as our main source of sustenance.
I sent only a few proof of life emails and texts to friends and family, and I replied to just ONE work email during the whole trip. It was glorious! Anything longer seems likely to invite real life to creep back in.
A QUICK ASIDE: IN DEFENSE OF AN ESCAPIST VACATION
“Instead of wondering when your next vacation is, maybe you should set up a life you don’t need to escape from.” ~Seth Godin
“Distant places give us refuge in territories where our own histories aren’t so deeply entrenched and we can imagine other stories, other selves, or just drink up quiet and respite.” ~Rebecca Solnit
Lots of travelers I know take this Seth Godin statement to heart, but I disagree emphatically. It sounds smart on first blush. (And more than a little sanctimonious.) But, the logic falls apart on closer inspection.
Of course, we need a vacation from our everyday lives, no matter how much we love the everyday routines we’ve created. I consciously work to building novelty into my daily life, exploring San Francisco and taking short trips nearby in California and throughout the US regularly. I would never describe my life as boring, but I still crave an occasional escape. We benefit hugely from time and space beyond our usual patterns and haunts, with the weight of responsibility lifted.
I think Rebecca Solnit gets this right. It’s good to get away, to escape and try on an entirely different lifestyle and culture, even just to relax elsewhere. Consider it research and development for life, only conducted far, far away!
COMING BACK TO YOUR EVERYDAY
After fully immersing yourself elsewhere, the transition to being back home can feel a little abrupt or jarring, even when you’re ready to be back home.
Over the years and while attempting to live in two cities as once, I’ve learned the importance of a little ritual in the process of wrapping up my travels and welcoming myself home. It hardly matters whether the travel was for work or for pleasure, but after this trip to Singapore and Thailand, I’ve been reminded of just how helpful these tips can be — especially while still in the throes of jet lag.
BEFORE YOU GO
A good return starts with leaving things mostly wrapped up at home. The last thing I want to do after 20+ hours of travel is to walk back into a messy apartment.
For me this mean leaving my apartment just clean enough to feel good and not overwhelmed when I walk back in. No dirty dishes in the sink, no stinky garbage forgotten for days or weeks, and nothing left to grow in the fridge. I also aim to have clean sheets on the bed, if possible. Nothing feels better than clean sheets, but usually I’m so excited to be back in my own bed that it hardly matters.
As you might imagine, I have varying levels of success at getting this done before I go, but I’ve never regretted doing it in advance. Now I think of it as being kind to my future, travel weary self.
HOME SWEET HOME
The act and logistics of travel can be stressful — TSA security checks, crying babies, heavy bags, and flight after flight of sleeping upright. So after walking in the door, just take a moment to enjoy being home before doing anything else. Plop down on the couch, and breathe a big sigh of relief.
Then do whatever makes you feel most at home… Maybe sort the mail, plug your phone into its designated spot, or open the windows or blinds, whatever works. I usually pull out my yoga mat for a little stretch after being cooped up on the airplane.
ASAP UPON RETURNING
Resuming normal routines as soon as possible helps me feel more at home, and falling back on a routine has helped a lot when trying to get adjust to a different time zone. (Even so, any tips on tackling jet lag are truly welcomed!)
Some of the first things I do when I get home include:
- Fully unpacking and putting away my suitcase. Usually everything is dirty so this is easy.
- Doing laundry — a.k.a. making sure to have clean underwear, by whatever means necessary
- Filling the fridge, before I decide that takeout is a good idea for the whole of the next week
When traveling domestically, I get a start on filling my fridge at the airport. SFO has a great market called Napa Farms in Terminal 2 where I grab a salad for my next meal and a small carton of milk for the morning’s coffee.
P.S. — We had such a great time, and I’m excited to share much more about it soon! Hawker centers, mooncakes, golden palaces, and little known jungle villages will feature prominently. In the meantime, I shared more of my photos of the trip over on Instagram.