“I don’t want to go home. Let’s just stay here.”

— Mr. RN, on our last day of vacation.

(Poor guy. To own the truth, I didn’t want to go home either! I imagine that everyone with us felt the same way.)

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I was really surprised by how sad I was to come home from my summer vacation. Initially, I thought everything would be fine. After all, Mr. RN and I spent just over a week away, which was amazing. We hadn’t spent that much unstructured time together since last December, and we really enjoyed the break. I was pretty sure that we’d be able to dust ourselves off and get back to work without even feeling sad.

Then the heat wave happened. When a major heat wave struck the Northeast, we were staying by a lake, enjoying its natural cooling effect (breeze on the water, anyone?) and jumping in for a swim whenever we ourselves felt overheated. Then we drove for a few hours and stopped for breakfast. The television in the restaurant had a major news reporter talking about the heat wave, and he was standing smack dab in the middle of our adopted city, sweating and complaining about the weather.

We looked at each other and laughed nervously. This was not a good sign.

The whole first week, I missed the vacation deeply. And I realized that this was probably pointing to a few things that were “off” in my life. If I address all of this, perhaps I can recreate some of the vacation bliss. Here’s what I plan to do in the coming week:

See family (virtually).

It was really wonderful getting to spend time with my immediate family and extended family on vacation. It was surprising to see people who’d never met, like my sister-in-law and one of my random cousins, having some excellent conversations. No matter what everyone was doing, there was always someone around to spend time with.

The only way I can “fix” this need in my life long-term would be to move somewhere else, as nobody from my immediate family or Mr. RN’s immediate family lives here. I do enjoy seeing my relatives who live about an hour away, but I really don’t get out to see them enough. Anyway, in the coming week I’ll make the effort to see my family over videochat.

Read.

I love reading. I always have, and I feel fairly certain that I always will. Being on vacation in other people’s houses was perfect, as there was a limited selection of books and lots of time to read them. I finished Half a Life by V.S. Naipaul and Carry On, Jeeves by P.G. Wodehouse. The former was disappointing (say what you will, literary critics, I like my stories to have a beginning, middle, and end), the latter was hilarious. I also started a book by Henry James, which was absolutely brilliant. I need to get it from the library so I can finish.

I got a bunch of other books from the library this past week. The Vanishing American Jew by Alan Dershowitz was actually a really  thoughtful, well-written book, even though I didn’t agree with all of it and feel disappointed that the writer has gone rather senile (to use a charitable explanation for his behavior) in recent years. Possible Side Effects by Augusten Burroughs was hilarious. I giggled often while reading it. I have a couple more books to go. I find that by making time for reading and keeping electronic devices out of my bedroom, I can churn through books quite quickly – and enjoy doing so.

Hang out outside.

This goes well with #2. When I’m outside, it’s always for some kind of reason. Going for a walk, going for a bike ride, walking to the park to throw the baseball around. All of those things are great, but on vacation I loved being outside and just sitting around. This week, I’d like to go to the park and either read or just do nothing. To save money, Mr. RN and I live in a small apartment with a roommate. We don’t have a yard, so it’s not quite as easy to just camp out outside. Still, there’s nothing wrong with going to the park for this, and I resolve to spend more time in parks and porches.

Have less stuff.

Last summer, when we were moving, we did an enormously wonderful KonMari-style purge of stuff. I learned a lot of things, like how to get my driver’s license out well in advance at the recycling center and how to get to Goodwill early before the Picky Goatee Guy arrives. But now, I’m feeling the crunch again. Somehow, I continue to have things that don’t spark joy. So I’m going to see what I can shed this weekend.

Cook new things.

Generally, I’m a big believer in looking at what you already have and deciding what to cook on that basis. So, for example, if I have pasta and collard greens around, I might cook the greens and throw them into the pasta with a hearty dose of lemon juice. It’s a standby recipe for me, one that I’ve made a lot and know that I can make well. While that’s a great way to do things, I’ve been missing out on the fun of picking a recipe first and then going for it, even when that means purchasing a few things. When I was on vacation, I made pasta puttanesca for the first time ever and started converting my brothers to the wonderful world of olives. Since I got back, I made fantastic eggplant dip, vegetarian Uzbek plov, roasted red pepper dip, coconut spiced green beans, and pressure cooker tomato risotto. Being out of my comfort zone has actually been great.

I have a nice supply of vegetables and fruit right now. Rather than just cook my old tried and true dishes with the veggies, I’d like to try something new. It had better be good, since Mr. RN has the appetite of at least three regular people and he’ll spend lots of money on food if he ends up being underfed.

Have no agenda

That kind of contradicts all my previous promises, doesn’t it? On vacation, I liked being able to sleep in and do, more or less, whatever I felt like doing. While I believe that I would go crazy if I spent every day like this, the freedom of having a week free of work obligations (and free of guilt) was amazing.

What I want to do now is to recreate that on Sundays. For a year or two (I can’t quite remember), I took every Saturday completely off. I didn’t work, I didn’t pay bills, I didn’t do any homework. It was amazing, and it really freed up my mind. For some time, I haven’t been doing that, since I’ve been feeling like I really “can’t” waste the opportunity to work on my novels on Sundays. But starting this coming week, I’m going to try it. Last time I did this, I was amazed by what a difference it made. I kept in touch with pen pals. I always said “yes” to social things on Saturdays, because it’s not like I had anything else to do! And it was that much easier to get things done on Friday, knowing that I’d be off the entire following day.

I’ll post an update of how things went. Stay tuned!

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