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  • Jan Flynn

What Did I Miss While I Was Gone?

It seems the world went on without me

Photo by author (yes, those are my feet)

Returning from vacation is weird

\Getting away for longer than an extended weekend takes a lot of forethought, a lot of anticipation, a lot of fortune-telling: you will wish you’d brought that sweater; you will regret bringing those shoes; you will be approached by a stranger bearing a large fruity drink containing a tiny umbrella.

There’s the locale you’re traveling to that must be considered, as well as your manner of travel, and how to maximize your enjoyment and secure your comfort in both. Excursions to plan, dinner reservations to make, inflatable neck pillows to stuff into the tote that fits under the seat in front of you with a lot of foot-assisted compression.

One of the enticements of vacation is that you get to spend weeks ahead visiting VacationLand in your imagination, long before you even arrive there physically.

And then, the long-awaited day arrives: you drive or fly or ride to the place, you do all the things, you take the photos, you taste the goodies, you have the surprises and the disappointments, you make the memories. And then you pack up and go home.

With luck, your return trip goes smoothly. If it does, especially with air travel, at some point you find yourself suddenly translated from VacationLand to DailyReality.

The transition is jarring, every time

A return from vacay, no matter how smoothly accomplished or gratefully acknowledged, is a strange combo of relief and letdown. You are once again surrounded by the familiar, which is comforting. Your dog is thrilled to see you, your very own bed is waiting, your closet has all the stuff you couldn’t bring with you.

But DailyReality is there, waiting to descend on your shoulders like a leaden cloak. It starts with your wan houseplants, maybe, or your backlog of mail the neighbors kindly saved for you. Then there’s the empty fridge to be filled, the stuffed suitcases to be emptied, the emails to be sifted through.

At some point, carefree DailyYou is forced to supplant VacationYou with the force of a stinging slap. Maybe it’s when you first climb behind the wheel of your car that you haven’t driven in over a week, or when you return the call from the accountant/contractor/physician. The responsibility you worked so hard to dodge for a time re-emerges with merciless force.

That’s when you check in with the news you haven’t read in seven, or ten, or twenty days, so you can go back to normal life without sounding like you’ve been living under a rock.

Being less than 24 hours out from a red-eye return to Idaho from Hawaii — from balmy trade winds to cold, whistling air slicing across the prairie — I’m still negotiating re-entry. Luckily, I do not have a day job to return to nor kids at home who have to return to school with backpacks properly loaded. So I appreciate your lack of pity for me.

Looks like the world is still a mess

But, generally speaking, no more of a disaster than it was before I escaped to the land of palm trees and mai tais. While I was peering through my snorkel mask at deliriously colorful fish — and my husband was lounging in the shade, happily observing young sirens in string bikinis bun-dulating along the beach trail — it seems the same nonsense that captured the headlines before we left is still in play.

Putin is still massing his forces on the borders of Ukraine. The Canadian government is still dealing with the furious anti-vaxx truckers and their anti-being-told-to-do-anything-prosocial brethren who’ve been occluding trade across the US-Canada border.

Everybody is over Covid, even though Covid isn’t over with us. And Marjorie Taylor Greene “Gaspacho police” has yet to learn the distinction between fascism and soup.

So, situation normal, or what passes for normal these days. I guess the globe kept spinning without my being around to worry about it. That’s good to know.

Whether your in VacationLand or DailyReality, I wish you a Happy Valentine’s Day. And here’s to the next big trip.

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