Getting out of the ‘vacation monastery’

Because we’re considering going to Switzerland this year, I’m going to take an interest in articles about traveling to the country.

In particular, one section of Taffy Brodesser-Akner’s “This Is How You Live on Swiss Time” got my attention, even if the story was a few years old by the time I saw it.

“Your travel takes up a week, but that week is a physical space, a bubble, a monastery in time where everything has meaning, particularly in a place like Switzerland, where everyone is kind and everything runs on time and life feels easier than it ever has before. And you begin to have the sort of space to think thoughts that are bigger than the day and the week and the month and what time the kids get picked up. The gift of travel is to think about your life. The prison of travel is that your thoughts about your life remain in the country where you had them.”

Coincidentally, I read this after my blog buddy Renata and her podcast partner Josh did an episode on travel that was a hoot and she and I had discussed doing a travel-related collaboration.

So we decided to take a crack at the “monastery” of travel. A link to Renata’s terrific take, which is on her website, is at the bottom of this post.

Searching for something more

There has to be more, right?

Every vacation, I do lots of enjoyable things. I take dozens, if not hundreds of photos. I write blog posts. I buy souvenirs.

I have memories. Some of them are what you’d imagine — the zest of the French Quarter in New Orleans, the “Oh my God, this is Broadway”-ness of seeing a Broadway show.

Others aren’t — driving from Charlotte to Asheville on the day of the Dzhokhar Tsarnaev manhunt and listening to Robin Young try, live on the radio, to make sense of how the young man who was friends with her nephew … who had been in her home … could have done such a thing.

I can reach back and grab those things if I want. I can look at the pictures. I can read the blog posts. I can wear my Oregon Shakespeare Festival baseball cap or listen to Killian Donnelly sing.


But those are all reaching back. Like the vacation, they end — the last of the photos, the end of the song, the final paragraph of the blog post, taking the hat or the sweatshirt off.

But where are the big things, the life things? Is there anything we can take out of the monastery?


I post-vac hard, always have, from the time I was a kid going to Florida with my parents.

Worse than that, just the thought of going home and back to normal life makes me crabby before the vacation even ends, sometimes as early as passing the halfway point.

I know it’s going to happen — so it could be a self-fulfilling prophecy — and I know it shouldn’t.

Yet it happens every time.

Vacations are breaks from real life, but not just the emails from work or figuring out when the kids have to be picked up (if you have kids).

They’re also a break from the humdrum, the ordinariness of everything. As much as anything, vacations are an exercise in having something to look forward to.

When do you start counting down to a vacation? Six months? A month? Two weeks? It can’t be just me who considers the last week before vacation torture, an exercise in “just get me out of here” that can feel Sisyphean.

And then once you’re on vacation, you don’t get up and think, “I’m going to just hang around the hotel watching TV all day.” You find things to do. If it’s going to rain, you rearrange your plans to go to the museum today instead of tomorrow because it’s going to be sunny tomorrow so you can go to the park.

So maybe that’s the part of vacation that we can make real, the “more.”

Our everyday lives can never be the self-contained pursuit of perpetual entertainment, like a vacation, but maybe we can strive to give ourselves something to look forward to every day.

If you’re anything like me, it’s a lot easier said than done, but we can try, can’t we?

From Renata’s post, “The Prison of Travel” — 

Without the crutch of being in a familiar place and surrounded by familiar people, I was forced to adapt and become more certain of myself. I think it’s important to remember that no matter how you change, whether you’re at home or traveling, those changes are still you.”




19 thoughts on “Getting out of the ‘vacation monastery’

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  2. On The Fly Blog

    I get so miserable towards the end of a holiday. Short weekend breaks used to be the worst because I felt like I was preparing to go home the minute I arrived. Distinctly remember actually crying on the last night of a particular trip, because it had come at a time when home and school life was particularly hard and the sudden “holiday bubble” brought such tranquility that it hurt all the more when it popped.

    Liked by 1 person

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  4. Great post! I love that you break down how a vacation feels so tangibly different than real life, apart from the physical difference of location. Looking forward to something is huge. Activity, too. I had a recent job interview where the owner of the company said that he believes work-life balance in our area means taking a little piece of vacation every single day. I wonder if it works.

    Thank you for sharing!

    Liked by 1 person

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