There was a piece of advice that used to murmur through the expat community when we lived in Liberia – take a vacation at least once every 3-4 months. Leave Liberia, even if it’s to go only one country over, leave…take that break from everything you know as “reality,” and recharge. This past week has made me believe taking a break doesn’t just apply to living in a post-conflict country.
“It’s the moon,” people said. Or, “there’s some rare moon thing going on.” That was their explanation for why everyone around, myself included, has been on edge, having trouble sleeping, is randomly injuring themselves, and more. I don’t know if it was the moon, the sun, the stars, or the Austin temps reaching 100 this week, but I definitely found myself muttering into the abyss – I. Need. A. Vacation.
Literally. I haven’t had a vacation – defined as a trip that didn’t revolve around work, school, or family obligation – since JP and I stopped in Paris for a long weekend on our way back from Liberia…In December of 2009. So yeah, I’m about due for a vacation.
But it’s not just the no fun travel thing that makes me feel that way. It’s also the realization that I’ve been budgeting, planning, moving, working, job-hunting, loan-repaying, studying pretty much every day since my feet touched back down on US soil over four years ago. JP and I have been muscling through the process of putting on our “big kid pants” and trying to get our proverbial sh*t together on a consistent basis that entire time. No breaks.
We’ve made progress. I slowly found a job with a team I adore. JP got into an amazing Masters program and is now nerding out in Liberia for the summer. We got to move to Austin, a place that was home before we crossed inside the city limits. But despite the progress and despite all the wonderful things about transitioning into this next phase of our adult life, both of us somehow lost the fun in functional. Responsibility is a good thing, just like living and working in a foreign country is a good thing. But it’s still a good idea to take time to set responsibility aside and take a moment to recharge.
Vacation and taking that break doesn’t simultaneously have to break the bank. But I do think it has to involve physically, and therefore emotionally, leaving home for long enough to be able to feel that away-ness…to actually breathe again. Go camping. Find a hotel in your own city and treat yourself to a night in a place you won’t have to clean afterward. Take a road trip. Or, if you really need it, pull an Eat, Pray, Love and travel the world for a while. But take the time to recharge.
For us, I think that might simply mean spending a weekend in one of Texas’s other fantastic cities; enjoying a walk through different scenery; waking up to something other than dog breath in our faces; and planning only moment by moment. Just for a weekend. Just what won’t stress us out even more when we get back. Just long enough to remember how to breathe again…and how to be fun again.