Why are vacations so magical?
I don’t mean that in a philosophical, just-making-conversation way. I mean, I’m really asking you guys: What is it about not working + spending time in a new place that turns us into calmer, sweeter, more adventurous versions of ourselves?
I just returned from a 10-day vacation in Portland, OR. I hiked behind water falls, attended my first nude beach, monopolized the mic at karaoke night, and spent time with a million wonderful people.
Now I’m drinking room temperature coffee on a dog-hair-covered sofa in Minneapolis, wondering “Where did all that magic go?!! And how do I get it back?”
Here are 10 ways I’m keeping that vacation feeling in my everyday life
Vacation food is peanut butter sandwiches nibbled trail-side. It’s plates of tapas under the stars. It’s drive-through daiquiris and food truck mini donuts and elotes you eat sitting on the curb.
Vacation food is not leftovers in a tupperware container that you eat at your desk as you work through expense reports.
Eating outside feels special – even when you’re just eating your salad the apartment stoop or fire escape. It can also feel sneaky and a bit I-don’t-usually-do-this. Swing by your favorite Vietnamese place and go sit in the grass with your boxes of noodles, feeling good about your life choices.
Spend more time near or on the water
Fact: pretty much every activity is more awesome if you do it next to a body of water. Reading? Good. Reading next to the lake? AMAZING. Morning run? Cool. Morning run along the river? Exponentially more calming. Working on your term paper? Meh. Working on your term paper at a picnic table on the beach? Less meh!
The city of Minneapolis has 20 lakes – one of which is four blocks from my house – and you know how many times I’ve been there this summer? Five. Let’s be better at taking advantage of the natural wonders (or pools!) our cities have to offer!
Make your food + drinks beautiful
One of my favorite things about vacation is eating beautiful food instead of, say, popcorn out of a mixing bowl. I love eating things with herbs prettily chopped and sprinkled on top or an artistic smear of sauce on the side of the plate. I love drinking things with ice cubes and pieces of fruits and, dammit, maybe an umbrella or two.
Of course, vacation food is also more fun because it’s often prepared by someone else. But you can make your everyday meals more beautiful with minimal effort. Set the table with actual place mats and napkins. Plate your meals in the kitchen before you sit down. Sprinkle something – spices! herbs! a little drizzle of something! – on top. Add ice cubes to your water. It’s not hard or expensive and it’s hugely satisfying.
Be less productive
My friend Katie put a moratorium on all house projects from June 1 – September 1. It’s so tempting to use these long days and weekends for ‘important’ things like landscaping and painting and OMG FINALLY PULLING DOWN THAT POPCORN CEILING.
But you know what’s just as important? Seeing your friends. Making memories. Having adventures. Connecting with your partner, your family, your pet. While it’s theoretically possible to connect with your partner while you paint the garage trim, it’s probably more fun to connect while floating down a river in an inner tube.
If you really, absolutely must be ‘productive,’ block off one day of each weekend for fun. No house projects, no I-don’t-really-want-to-but-I-feel-obligated social commitments, just open-ended non-productive lazing + fun.
Wear less + care less
I know that a vacation is well and truly underway when I’ve abandoned all efforts at makeup or hair care and my daily uniform has devolved into stretchy dresses + flip flops. (This usually happens around Day Two.)
Here’s an obvious epiphany I recently had: I can do the same thing at home! I can just wear sundresses and flip flops and put my marginally dirty hair in a top knot here in Minneapolis! I do not need to put on a full face of makeup to walk to the grocery store and library!
Of course, if I’m going to a meeting or wedding or fancy party, I’ll put more effort into my appearance. But there’s something incredibly freeing and perfectly Summery about, well, not caring.
Upgrade your bedding
Hotel beds > normal beds, amiright? Hotel beds always seem to have perfectly crisp, high thread count sheets and pillows with the perfect amount of heft. Meanwhile, many of us are tossing around on discount sheets we bought three years ago and lumpy, spit-stained pillows.
No more! The average American spends 25 years of their life sleeping. Let’s make it count. Splash out on the right pillow and bedding you truly love. Stop sleeping on a hard foam number if you really want a mushy feather pillow!
The less laid back suggestion I have for you? Make your bed every morning. One of the best parts of vacation is sliding into a beautifully made bed each night. Most of us don’t have a turn-down service at home, but that doesn’t mean we can’t learn how to properly make a bed. Here are official, hotel-caliber instructions for making your bed.
Create easier mornings
Vacation mornings are usually a bit nicer than ‘normal’ mornings, aren’t they? We get to sleep in, drink our coffee on a balcony overlooking something beautiful, and then eat a breakfast prepared by someone else. While this might not be an option for everyday life, we can certainly take steps to make our mornings calmer and sweeter.
Could you shift your work day back a bit? Start at 9:30 instead of 8:30? Could you make your alarm less, well, alarming? We have this dawn simulator and it’s so much nicer than a honking alarm clock.
Prep your breakfast the night before so you can start the day with a nice, stress-free meal. Put together some overnight oats, cut up all the ingredients for your smoothie, make frittata cups on Sunday so you’ll have breakfasts all week long.
Take email off your phone + set up a non-vacation auto-responder
When we’re on the beach or hiking the Himalayas, we’re obviously not checking our email. We’re present and centered and very aware that those emails will be there when we’re ready to check them.
But as soon as the wheels of the plane touch down at our home airport, we’re back in our inboxes. It doesn’t have to be this way! You can take the email off your phone EVEN IF YOU’RE NOT ON VACATION.
Did you know auto-responders aren’t just for vacations? This probably doesn’t apply if you work a 9-to-5, but if you’re self-employed you can use a (charming, helpful, diplomatic) auto-responder 365 days a year! I’ve rounded up auto-responders from some of my favorite bloggers in this post.
Put away the screens
But you already knew this, right? Vacations are for real, actual paper books. They’re for movies watched at a drive in theater and postcards written by hand.
We wouldn’t spend all the time, money, and effort to get to a beach in France and then watch Netflix on a tiny screen in the sand. Let’s not navigate our daily lives that way either, yeah?
Have more fun
When you’re planning a vacation, I bet you sit down and research the best, most awesome things to do in the city you’ll be visiting. You make a list of the restaurants you want to visit, the museums you’ll pop into, the trails you’ll hike, and the shops you’ll patronize. You poll your friends for suggestions and you scroll through TripAdvisor and Yelp and Atlas Obscura.
Why don’t we do that with our own cities? Well, because we’re human and when something is always available we’re more likely to take it for granted. What if you spent a few hours researching all the best stuff in your own city and made a plan to take advantage of it? Make reservations, buy tickets, invite friends to join you!
My Cheapskate City Guides might be a good start!
But I want to hear from you! How do you ease back into ‘real life’ after a vacation? Share your best tips in the comments!