Bringing Vacation Home

A couple weeks ago, Kevin and I flew down to visit my dad in the Laguna Beach area.  It was a cultural experience for us, to say the least – huge houses everywhere you look, the ocean rolling right next to the freeway, expensive cars at every stoplight, and malls with shops like Diane von Furstenberg and Tory Burch instead of Kohl’s and Hot Topic.

Once I got over my initial fear of being judged by beautiful, expensively-dressed people who give their children plastic surgery as graduation gifts, I was able to relax and enjoy the sun and, well, vacation.  Go on holiday.  Take a break, etc.

And during this break I remembered how awesome breaks feel.  We had our Disney honeymoon recently, but it’s so easy to slip back into the daily grind that everything wonderful and relaxing from that trip evaporated pretty quickly.  Besides, it’s Disney World – kinda hard to bring back a restful state-of-mind from a place that deliberately exists outside of everyday, real life.

Southern California was a different story.  For some people, that area is their real lives, and while they may not see it, to the rest of us it looks like they’re living a Disney-style fairy tale.  It’s just that their fairy tales include all the same elements of our ordinary lives – cars, houses, shopping, dinner at restaurants, etc.  I realized that this vacation mindset didn’t have to get left behind like it did with Disney World.  There was just enough hint of real-life to encourage me to bring that mindset back with me, and hold onto it, rather than letting the daily grind wear me down again.

Here’s what I came up with:

1. Indulge your hobbies, no matter how unprofitable they seem.  We went to the movie costume exhibit in FIDM in Los Angeles and it was incredible.  The collection featured costumes from all the 2012 Oscar-nominated designers, along with costumes from more mainstream flicks like “The Immortals” and “Captain America.”  (Yes, Cap’s suit was there.  And it was awesome.)

Visiting the campus itself was the fulfillment of a long-simmering, wouldn’t-it-be-fun-if pipe dream to actually apply to FIDM and be a costume designer myself.  In middle school, “fashion designer” was at the top of my list of what to be when I grew up, and I was constantly drawing outfits based on the stuff in the Delia’s catalog or redesigning movie costumes.  I still draw, but less frequently, and with more of a bent towards comics than design.  Polyvore takes care of my fashion-design needs, but that’s definitely not the same as actually drawing something.  Seeing the costume exhibit made me want to get out the pencils and let my creativity flow freely, instead of just working with a prearranged set of digital tools.

Do I have a lot of time for drawing?  Nah.  Will it make me any money?  Probably not.  Will it be fun and refreshing and a good mental break from my usual routine?  Definitely.

2. Have dessert.  I love restaurant desserts, and I love the decadent feeling of deliberately saving room for dessert.  It’s even better if the restaurant has some crazy treat you can’t get anywhere else.  My spending is definitely altered on vacation, which means splurging on dessert every night.  Once I get home, though, I get back to worrying about spending the money and counting the calories and usually just end up skipping it.  If I’m feeling like I need a mini-vacation, buying a fancy dessert would definitely help me unwind.  Also good choices: unnecessarily fancy ice cream or pastries from your local hoity-toity grocery store.

3. Fewer screens, more reading.  The only time I used my computer during our vacation was to look up directions and to do a couple work-related tasks.  Similarly, the only TV we watched was a couple hours of soccer and tennis.  Instead of spending hours online or watching TV, we were out doing things or reading the stacks of magazines my dad keeps around the house.  I loved it, and I’m resisting falling back into our everyday question of “what should we watch after dinner?”

Having stacks of magazines around can feel a little like living in a waiting room, but if they’re presented right, they can be great sources for quick learning or inspiration.  “People” and “Us Weekly” don’t count – I’d go with “National Geographic,” “Vogue,” “Architectural Digest,” or some foodie magazines.  Seeing distant places and beautiful designs is a vacation for your brain; reading about them keeps it from getting lazy.

What do you do post-vacation to keep your brain less stressed?  What’s your best idea for a mini-vacation or staycation?

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