Essays & Confessions

13 Things I Learned About Myself While On Vacation

By | Wednesday, August 03, 2016


I spent the last ten days abroad on a trip with a group of friends, and on the plane ride home, I couldn’t help but reflect on the events of the last week and a half. (The self-reflection aided by the fact that there were no screens in the seats, and the flight genuinely felt like a time warp back to 1990.) There was a lot to take in over the course of this trip — great conversations, learning new recipes and tidbits of French, late nights out ending with stargazing and boardgames — experiences I feel really lucky (and a little undeserving, to be honest) to have had. I wanted to distill what I learned down to a few nuggets of wisdom for my future-self to look back on. A very wise friend once told me, “The unexamined life is not worth living,” so voilà! Here are just a few things I’ve learned about myself this past vacation.

1. If I find myself with any extra $$$, I’m joining a pool.
There are few things sweeter than the luxury of having, say, a private pool, and the house we stayed at for the last week had one. While staying at the house, which was also a very short walk away from the beach, I couldn’t help but plan my days around how I could fit in multiple swimming sessions. Stepping into the ocean for the first time all summer felt deeply satisfying on a level I can’t quite describe, and doing so always reminds me just how much I love to swim. I could spend hours bobbing away in water, doing laps, and floating around. Of course, it’s hard to recreate that experience back at home, but swimming is an instant mood elevator for me; so, maybe a pool membership would be all that stood between me and eternal bliss.

2. I condition my hair too much.
A week and a half spent swimming in salt water, letting my hair air dry, and going easy on the conditioner (*cough cough, because I didn’t pack enough*), did wonders for me. My hair felt fuller, more textured, and was easier to style. Duly noted.

3. If I want to get serious work down, cut the internet.
Chelsea and I went most of the vacation sans internet, and my god, what a difference it made in the work I produced. Without internet, I was able to write and work for stretches of time without interruption, concentrate more easily, proofread without an issue, and focus on one task at a time and finish it in full. When I have full access to Internet, I find myself typing something mid-sentence, slipping into a fuge state, and suddenly finding myself reading Suicide Squad character analysis articles and looking at baby photos of Prince George. #Yikes. The times we did have internet on the vacation, I got done what I needed to in record time, and off I went to enjoy the rest of my day. Definitely a dynamic I could recreate back home on days I need to get a lot of shit done.

4. Traveling with a group of friends is ideal.
My former-self viewed group travel as a hassle — an extreme test of patience where you’d inevitably want to rip each other’s heads off by the time you had to bid “adieu!” at the airport. Well, that’s simply not the case anymore. Traveling with the group of friends — specifically a mixed-gender group of friends —  was an entirely wonderful experience. The group is made up of interesting — and interested — people who like to discuss real and meaningful things, laugh, drink, dance, swim, sightsee, and play board/card games. It’s like a dream scenario you couldn’t make up. The dynamic is truly magical, and being with that group made the trip all the sweeter because I felt like I was not only getting to know everyone better, but I was getting to know myself better through doing so.

5. But…I do miss (and crave) solo travel.
That all to say, there is still a part of me that craves alone time exploring a new city by myself. I love the feeling of being temporarily isolated from the rest of the world, walking along by myself in a town where no one knows me. Dipping in and out of places that I chose to go to, without checking in or running my plans by anyone else, being selfish with my time, and carving out my own schedule. It’s something I experienced when I studied abroad in college, and a few times (for very brief stints since then), and I don’t think I’ll ever lose that desire. It doesn’t make me a “loner,” it simple makes me curious to see what it’s like to go at it alone.

6. Harry Potter still makes me emotional.
Like many people, I was a big HP fan. A small part of me thought that in my old age, in the years post-HP frenzy, that I might find the novels childish or overly simply and not connect with them the way I once did. (Which would have been a natural progression I suppose, but also deeply upsetting). Turns out that I was brought to tears multiple times on my flight home after I bought Harry Potter and the Cursed Child at the airport, and proceeded to ugly-cry my way through a few scenes. Shout out to my seat-mate who politely looked the other way as I wiped my eyes with my grubby airplane blanket.

7. Learning a language doesn’t come easy for me, but it’s unacceptable that I can’t speak a second.
During this trip, I met several new people who spoke both French AND English, so I was able to converse with them easily (despite the fact that I only speak English). They were more language savvy than I, and I felt humbled and eternally grateful to them for learning a second language. I thought to myself, “I would have never been able to get to know this person — they’re wonderful sense of humor or thoughts about life — if they didn’t take it upon themselves to learn a second language. This reality is something most of us Americans take for granted, and I feel 100% compelled to pay it forward to the world (and the people I’ll meet) by learning a second one myself.

8. Facing “bikini season” no longer bums me out
In fact, it’s exciting to me! I used to associate bikini season with #bodyissues and feeling reluctant to unveil myself in front of people unless I was really in shape and fit. Now, I find myself just feeling excited to swim — that cover up can’t come off fast enough. Bikinis mean vAcAtIoN and represent the precious time I’ve set aside for relaxation and indulging in warm weather. Ahhhhhh.

9. I’d rather shop for food than clothes.
Toursim-grocery shopping has always been one of my favorite things. Each time I travel to a new city I always make it a point to spend an hour or so walking up and down the aisles of the local supermarket. I find it weirdly fascinating, and I love thumbing through all the delicacies, looking at the different brands, the packaging, the layout of the store, etc. On this trip, by the time we got to Paris I was practically quivering to go to the Monoprix. I stopped in to bring a bunch of goodies back home, and hauling that stuff back to the states felt more satisfying than any other souvenir I could have picked up.

10. I still get homesick on vacation.
I’ll admit, I always miss my parents while on vacation, and I’m not too proud to say it. Every time I had WiFi I would text them, and when my mom texted telling me that she missed me, I experienced a sharp pang of sadness. I guess some of that will never go away, and I used to think it made me a baby, but fuck it, I STILL MISS THEM AND MY DOG TOO.

11. If I never used a microwave again, it would be too soon.
I didn’t use a god damn microwave for nearly two weeks, and I feel great about it. We would all be a lot happier and healthier if we microwaved less and cooked more.*mic drop*.

12. Working on vacation is not #bad or Wrong.
Finally letting go of something I had tied up with my former image of what made a Proper Vacation. I used to believe that working on vacation sucked all the fun out of whatever day you logged in on, and you were failing at “relaxing” and taking a break. You had to be a workaholic with no self-care skills, right? But, over the last year or two, I’ve realized that working for a few hours here and there doesn’t make a vacation any less special, especially when you’re working on something you love. For me, I actually find that it enrichens the experience. Too many days lounging around and sunbathing leaves me feeling unmotivated and lazy, but, when I work a little bit, it keeps me feeling energized. I tend to pack more into each day to make the absolute most of my time, and it helps to keep me engaged and thoughtful while I’m away.

13. I have the capacity to fiercely love things that are indifferent to me.
Just ask the family dog who I followed around kissing and petting and hugging for four days straight  (because I deeply missed my own dog back at my parents’ house), and didn’t give a shit about who I was or if I lived or died. That’s dedication.

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