It didn’t take long for the vacation high to fade.
In fact, it was shockingly fast. As soon as I stepped off the ship and onto the ramp that took me down to baggage claim, reality started to set in. Vacation was over.
E-mails needed replies. Laundry needed to be done. Groceries needed to be purchased. Work was waiting.
A day and a half later, I was back in the office, on deadline again, and the Caribbean suddenly felt so far away, it was as though I had never left home.
This summer I cruised to Haiti, Jamaica, and Mexico with my parents, my brother, and my husband. It was just the right blend of family time and sightseeing. There was plenty to do, but enough time to rest. And, maybe best of all, my cellphone had no Internet connection. For seven days, I was unplugged, and it was perfect.
But upon returning from this blissful getaway, I realized just how quickly those vacation vibes can evaporate. Why is it that we spend months planning and thinking about a trip, but when we’re back, it disappears so quickly?
I selfishly asked friends and experts for advice to deal with my post-vacation blues, and here’s what we came up with.
Talk about it. That’s the simple tip from Rocco Lanzilotta, area leader of Liberty Travel in Boston. Just sharing our experiences with others helps keep them alive, Lanzilotta said. He calls his clients a couple days after they return from a trip. “That allows them to continue that vacation in their heads,” he said.
So, here goes. I went on my first Caribbean cruise this summer. I didn’t know what to expect, but it turns out I’m a big fan of floating around the ocean on one of the world’s biggest cruise ships. I went swimming. I went snorkeling. I went kayaking. I sat on a chair and stared at the ocean. I paid too much for a manicure. I drank mojitos. I ate too many desserts. I ate too much of everything. I visited an ancient Mayan city. I learned, from a patient bartender, how to dance to reggae on a catamaran. I learned and forgot two words of Creole. I got sunburned on a kayak. I swallowed ocean water. I was bitten by mosquitoes. I was serenaded by waiters on my birthday — twice. I didn’t cook, I didn’t clean, I didn’t make my bed, I didn’t check my e-mail, I didn’t religiously read the news.
Another tip from Lanzilotta and many others. Take lots of pictures. Organize them on your computer. Look at them often. Or better yet, print them out, says Charmain F. Jackman, a therapist in Watertown who sees many clients struggling with the transition from vacation back to work.
“Having a picture in your office or on your desk will remind you of that moment when you’re feeling down,” Jackman said. “Or hang it by your door, so you can see it when you leave home and when you come back.”
Jackman takes her own advice. After returning from a trip to Haiti, her husband’s home country, she printed three photos onto a canvas and hung them in her office.
Jackman may be on to something. We take so many photos digitally these days, but rarely print them out anymore. There is something different about looking at photos in your hand, or on the wall.
Jackman also suggests giving yourself time to adjust between vacation and the office. If you don’t have to, don’t rush back into work, she said.
One of my aunts, a schoolteacher, had the same advice: “I used to come home the day before I had to go back to work, but that was way too stressful, so I cut off a day of my vacation and that helps me to settle back in. I also clean the house before I leave town so that I don’t have to face a mess when I return,” she said.
My Globe colleague Bella English is full of good tips. She looks “obsessively” at her iPhone photos and videos, and brings a bottle “or three” of local wine home to enjoy later.
“I usually read books on the area we’re going to ahead of time, but sometimes it’s later,” she added.
For me, spending a little money always helps. I’ll admit I’m a sucker for souvenir stores with little trinkets made in China. But I always try to buy one piece of local jewelry — nothing very expensive — that I can wear back in Massachusetts. This time, I returned with a silver bangle. It has been on my wrist almost every day.
It helps remind me of the day I sat next to the ocean, with my feet in the sand, my family beside me, eating the best fish tacos of my life. No cell service. No noise.
Maybe coming home to work and chores and Mass Pike traffic will always be a downer after a vacation as relaxing as that. Which means it’s time for me to follow the other piece of advice I got from the professionals: start planning the next trip.
Travel consultants like Lanzilotta often see clients start booking their next trips as soon as they’re back from a vacation. “There’s always a conversation of where to go next,” Lanzilotta said. “[It helps] if you have something to look forward to.”