The 5 stages of post-vacation grief

We’ve all been there.

One minute we’re sipping rum punch on a beach in Hawaii or Instagramming Times Square from the Top of the Rock, and the next we are silently screaming “Serenity now!” as a toddler wails in the seat next to us during our plane ride back to reality. We could have sworn we were just having the time of our lives, and now we are left wondering what kind of sorcery could have pulled us from our island paradise. Like with anything lost or left behind, there are certain stages of emotion that we must go through in order to restore balance and normalcy in a world that no longer involves waking up on a beach with a magazine over your face.

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If you have ever returned from vacay, you know the feeling. Here are the five stages of post-vacation grief.


man with his head in the sand

One approach to post-vacation: istock/baona

Right around the time you start saying you “need a vacation from your vacation,” you’ll also start adopting vacation behavior into your day-to-day life. A new bedtime of 3 a.m.? Insisting on calling beer “Cerveza?” Turning your nose up to North American food because Spanish cuisine is now the only type in your wheelhouse? You, my friend, are in denial. You’ll risk hypothermia to rock a sundress, because it’s the only thing you feel comfortable in now (and, let’s be honest, to show off your tan before it fades into oblivion the way your vacation has). Your body may be back home, but your mind is still sight seeing. Thankfully, before you indulge in your urge to wear a bikini to the office, you’ll move onto the next stage of post-vacation grief.


Shouting young woman, close up portrait (istock/ozgurdonmaz

Shouting young woman, close up portrait (istock/ozgurdonmaz)

Although reality has begun to seep back into your life, you are not too happy about it. Suddenly, routine responsibilities now seem like an annoying inconvenience. Your boss asking you to stay late for a meeting DOES NOT fit into your new timeline of “it’s always happy hour.” Snow on the first day of spring? This would NEVER happen in a place where winter doesn’t even exist. Whatever vacation zen you had, it is long gone now and it has been replaced with the kind of anger that even your loved ones can’t curb. In fact, if you have begun contemplating trading in friends and family, in order to move to a place where the vacation never ends, this is a pretty good sign that you have moved on to the bargaining phase.


two hipster-looking guys talking on steps

Good friends will take you on another vacation. istock/lorenzoantonucci

I mean, sure, your friends and family are cool most of the time…but do you really need them? Aren’t you willing to sacrifice them if only you could live on a tropical island? And while we are at it, that significant other of yours is probably just dead weight. This is something you need to do for yourself. No distractions. You begin googling what it takes to become a scuba instructor, and when you find out it’s too much effort, you convince yourself and the universe that you are OK just “living off the land.” Who needs employment when your only job is to soak up the sun. You’ll figure out the whole eating and drinking thing when you get there. Coconuts grow on trees, right? You are down on your hands and knees, praying that you’ll be a nicer person, if only you can go back to your personal paradise. This is when stage four engulfs you.


person sitting with head in hands

Post-vacation mood. stock/Martin Dimitrov

If you aren’t on vacation, is there even a point of getting out of bed? Showering is for a night out in a foreign country – does it really need to be done at home? You’d tell your friends how you are feeling, how you’ve got the blues, but they just won’t understand. Best to save your breath for that job you suddenly disdain. Why does the universe hate you so much? Why would it offer you two weeks of bliss, only to rip it away from you in the blink of an eye? This has literally never happened to another human being before and you aren’t sure what you have done in this life to deserve such treatment. You thought your trip opened your eyes and changed your outlook on the world, but now, now you are just a shell of yourself. All hope seems lost, when suddenly a shift takes place.


woman extending arms in a field of wildflowers

Relive your trip’s happy moments. istock/ kieferpix

One night, while sitting at a bar with your friends, double checking to make sure your tan is still there, you’ll realize you are laughing again. Sure, the chicken fingers you’re munching aren’t Michelin-rated, and you are certainly not surrounded by five-star accommodations, but you have some pretty great memories. Your experiences make you a hit among friends and strangers. Your pictures are a reminder of the happiness that the world offers… and most importantly, your Instagram BLEW UP! Fifteen new followers? Hello! You are basically famous now and is there anything better than that? You thank the vacation gods and begin planning the various ways you can avoid debt while financing your next adventure.


Main image:  istockphoto/kieferpix

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