In defense of staying home
There’s a common misconception among people of an excessively positive persuasion, that vacations are always fun.
You know the type. These are the people you see chucking each other on the shoulder about that near-death Indonesian bus ride experience, or laughing about that time they got malaria and hepatitis in the same week.
For them the world is rainbow-skied and popcorn-scented, even if it’s raining sewage.
Vacations, for this crowd of anti-trolls, are like cherries on the icing on a cake made entirely of lottery wins.
Except, they’re wrong.
For kids who get to eat, sleep and scream whenever they want, vacations are doubtless epic in their joyousness.
But for adults who have to search, book, pay, pack, arrange, coordinate and organize, vacation time invariably comes with a mixed sense of anticipation and dread, up there with that first haircut from the new guy and a mother’s day omelet, cooked by the children.
Even, or maybe especially, when nothing goes wrong, we spend the whole time worrying about what might.
We go on two-week “breaks” with granny and gramps, three kids and an overdraft in a “villa” with one bathroom and expect to come back revitalized.
In reality, escaping the fortnight without a murder charge is an achievement, returning to the office is a relief and the dread of the next get-together is very real.
OK, I exaggerate.
But there’s some truth in it, otherwise vacations wouldn’t appear in the Holmes and Rahe scale of most stressful life events, above Christmas and minor law violations.
Perhaps that’s why this time of year sees a deluge of articles on vacation tips.
“Summer’s here!” they all proclaim. “Here’s how to make sure you survive.”
Conde Nast recently published a report on how to keep the whole family happy while on vacation.
The Scary Mommy blog’s travel guide is “AKA How Not to Kill Your Children on Vacation.”
I have a single, better, catchall tip: stay home.
Stay put and enjoy
I love staying home.
No holiday is ever as stress-free or feels as long as one in which I wear the same T-shirt for four days straight. If I wear one at all.
No vacation is as hedonistic or self-indulgent as one in which my fridge and my TV remote present the only serious decision-making challenges of the day.
No vacation can offer the hermetic privacy or sociable gregariousness as one at home, surrounded by friends, or just your own four walls.
It might seem odd for a travel editor to be promoting the opposite of seeing the world. But here’s a little insight into the world of travel editing -- we’re human, too.
Sometimes we just want to lock in and slob out.
I'll invoke the McDonald's defense: slobbing out at home should be part of a balanced diet of healthy travel excursions.
There are oceans to swim, hills to curse up, Japanese curiosities to ponder, after all.
Staying home doesn't have to mean hunkering down in your house, either.
It can mean exploring those corners of your own city you never get the chance to see while working.
Hong Kong, where I live, has some great beaches, but it can take four hours to get to them -- too long during a school night, but more than doable with a few days leave.
Prepare for the guilt
I’ve tried to "stay home" in nice hotels, indulging myself with the five-star comforts of a pillow menu, an in-room massage, a surround-sound “Back To The Future” marathon, a room-service glass of iced water.
But the guilt, oh the guilt. It’s not worth it.
Every shard of sunlight, every car horn, every birdsong pierced my senses, reminding me there was a foreign world out there and I was missing it.
Back home, there's nothing to tug on your shame-strings and you realize that ignoring the pressure to which we’re all exposed, to “seize the day” and “make the most,” can be a good thing.
At least one study has found that vacationers are no happier after their break than those who just stayed home.
The AAA motorist group predicts that fewer Americans will travel on July 4 this year, due to a shorter holiday and economic conditions that remain sour.
Other nations too are taking fewer, shorter holidays, and when they do they’re closer to home.
Good on ‘em. I’m jealous. It’s cheaper, too.
There's the comedown, of course -- the realization that you just spent five days of leave aping the Unabomber.
But that’ll just make your next commute back to work all the more rainbow-skied and popcorn-scented.
The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of James Durston