What an after-vacation dip can tell you

Many of us don’t like it when our vacations are about to be over. During a holiday, you can enjoy a free life without stress. You can forget about time and surround yourself with the environment that suits you best. But when this time comes to an end, and you start having nightmares about having to go back home, you might be up for more than just an after-vacation dip .

An after-vacation dip is normal

About 60% of people who return from their holidays have trouble getting back to everyday life. Especially on Sunday evening, before work starts again, many of us feel a bit down. And this is not unusual. During our vacations, we are in charge of our own time. We can sleep longer, take an afternoon nap, eat whenever we want to, and most importantly, we are free of stress.

Besides, during a vacation, we relax, meet new people, discover unique places, and often move more than we do during our days behind a desk. All these things increase our endorphins. Endorphin is a hormone that makes us feel happy. However, our level of these endorphins drops when we return to our usual environment and work. As a result, we feel down. The post-holiday blues. It can take up to seven or ten days before we are adjusted again to the lower levels of endorphins!

Try to enjoy your home and friends

Although your hormones naturally make you feel a bit down after returning from vacation, most of us can enjoy when being home. Sleeping in your own bed or binge-watching your favorite series might be things you missed during your holiday. Meeting your friends and sharing your travel experience with them will also help you to get through your post-holiday blues.

However, when you feel unable to enjoy these things, and your dip seems to continue for weeks, you might have to change something in your life. Although feeling a bit low is normal, it should never take too long or influence your everyday life and emotions.

Reflect after your vacation

When you struggle with a severe after-vacation dip, it might be time to reflect on your life. Struggling to get back to normal might show that your normal simply doesn’t suit you anymore.

Maybe you can’t sleep enough following your busy schedule? Or do you miss physical exercise or the connection with nature? Think about what made you feel happy during your vacation and what you miss the most now that you’re back. Slowly try to include parts of these elements in your life.

My return

When I returned from my most recent trip to Greece, I knew I was ready for a change in my life. Until now, I have always been someone with a high value for my own home. My own bed, my living room, my plants, and my bunny. These have always been reasons for me to get back home.

This time, however, when I opened my front door, I only felt strange. My house was too big, the stuff I own meaningless, and the location too crowded and concrete. All I need is the sea and the things that fit in my suitcase, not a whole apartment in the middle of a city!

I feel strange seeing the traffic around, and even stranger being a part of it when I have to rush to work. I feel unable to just hop back into my busy life, which feels so empty today. And with the people here, it seems impossible to connect again.

Mostly, I feel like a stranger. A stranger in my own country and in my own life. Knowing that I once did fit in here, shows me that I have changed, and it is now time for my life to change with me. The only thing that gets me through my days, is writing this blog and planning my next holiday. But this is not enough to keep me happy.

Don’t live to escape

Planning the next holiday is something many people say is helpful to get over the after-holiday blues. And although this might help with the average dip, I don’t believe this always solves the issue. If it feels like you’re living your life, counting down the days till your next escape, you should change something about your life instead. You shouldn’t have to wait to live until you’re out of your real life!

I recently met a 50-year-old woman with a love for Greece as big as mine. Thirty years ago, after a long holiday in Ouranoupolis, she returned feeling like her life in the Netherlands didn’t fit her anymore. She decided she wanted to move to Greece. 

But first, her husband didn’t want to come, then the kids came, and her mother needed care. When she divorced the man that kept her here, she couldn’t take her girls with her, so she stayed. And later, new boyfriends didn’t want to come either.

This woman planned regular holidays in Greece for thirty years and lived only during these short periods. Every time she returned, she felt depressed for months. Today, she still says she will soon move and finally be happy. But what she regrets the most is not moving thirty years ago.

Change is difficult

Talking with this woman showed me two things. One is how important it is to listen to our after-vacation dip. But secondly, she shows me how difficult it is to listen to ourselves, even after years of regret. Humans are creatures of habit and routine. We’re afraid of change, even when we know a transformation is best for us.

This is why girls abused by their fathers tend to choose an abusive partner. Or why people with low self-esteem seek situations in which they can feel less than others. But, it is also the thing that makes us believe we have to work hard, have busy schedules, or stay in a relationship that prevents us from following our dreams. Change is difficult simply because it is unknown to us.

From sleeping more to a career change to moving out of the city or an emigration. They are all difficult changes. However, if you stick to the old out of fear, it is time to be brave and move to the new. Step by step.

Start small

When you feel unhappy with your life, it is easy to say, “I have to change my whole life, but I don’t know where to start.” No one can change their whole life at once, and neither should we try to. Like the Chinese philosopher, Lao-Tze said, “The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.” 

Do you want to exercise more?
Start with doing five squats before you sit down on the toilet.
Live closer to nature?
Buy plants, or leave the city once a month.
Do you want to explore a new culture?
Start reading or cook recipes from the country you love.
A career change?
Invest an hour a week in learning a new skill.

Start small! 

Keep walking

The smaller the step, the easier it is to actually make it. When you feel the positive result of a small change, it will be easier to take the next step and the one after that until you slowly come closer to your bigger goal.

I have been taking small steps for over two years. I work less, sleep more, spend more time with friends, visit the beach more often, and go on holidays more regularly. With each step, I come closer to a life that suits me. But more importantly, I learned to reflect and act according to that continuously. This lesson is more valuable than the actual change or big life goal I set for myself.

Today I say I want to live and work in Greece to be happy. However, this goal is not the one I started with two years ago and might not be the one that results in happiness two years from now. I change through my experiences and with these experiences my goal in life changes. True happiness is not about reaching anything in life. It is about listening to what is inside you and being true to whatever you hear. And an after-vacation dip is the perfect moment to start listening!

From a successful career to an uncertain life

We are all taught that we have to study and work hard in order to make it in life. Having to be richer and more successful than our parents, the bar for us is high. So high, that many of us are under continuous pressure to “make it”. However, with all of us trying to become professionals, we end up looking like amateurs. You will have to be part of the very lucky one percent if you want to feel like you reached your goal of truly being special in this world. For the rest of us, I guess we just have to get the best out of our way there, our life, something many of us forget. At least I did. And this is my story, explaining why I am willing to trade a successful career in architecture for an uncertain life in Greece.

I kept pushing through

I spent the last ten years of my life dedicated to becoming the best architect I could possibly be. Working at top firms in the Netherlands, a 12-hour day at the office was a normal part of my daily schedule. Even the weekends I spent at the job. I truly believed that my professional success was the most essential thing in life. I could not even imagine what I would do if I did not have my career.

But as my years as an architect passed, I became more aware of the fact that I was not really living my life. I was living my work, but not myself. Traveling rarely, never taking a day off, and pushing through if I was sick. I never allowed myself to stop to listen to what it was I needed or wanted. Then, my beloved grandfather died in 2019 and I was unable to permit myself to take a break to grieve. Pushing through the pain of the loss I had felt, I reached my limit. I needed a change in my life.

Dark times followed my success

The start of this change was marked by a difficult time. I had a complete breakdown. Struggling with extreme tiredness, anxiety, and sadness, unable to continue the life I used to live. Even not able to buy bread at the supermarket across the street, it was time for me to stop.

I grieved my grandfather, my career, and mostly myself in the following months. I cried 10 years’ worth of tears and slept the rest of my days. But no matter how down I was during these months, I always felt that what I was going through was a good thing. I never pitied myself, nor did I feel like things would never get better. I needed a reset, and the darkness was just part of the beginning of that

Childhood trauma made me loose myself

In the summer that followed these dark months, I visited Greece for the first time. Meeting my boyfriend’s loving family, living a slow life, and connection with nature, made me reflect on what I had missed out on the decade before. As a young kid, I had always liked to swim and hike, grow vegetables, paint, built furniture, read books, write, and allow myself to get carried away by the creativity that was within my own mind. I used to be chaotic, creative, impulsive, and full of energy. However, for some reason, I ended up being an adult who did not have any of these characteristics.

I lost myself, I had drifted far away from the person I genuinely was and instead lived pretending to be someone else. I can tell you numerous reasons that explain why this happened to me. Including always being the strange kid in school, physical abuse and rape. But these reasons don’t really matter. The important part was that I recognized the parts of myself that I had been missing. I finally knew what to look for.

I am more than my career

It took a while for me to find myself back. I basically had to learn to let go of all the little norms I had taught myself to live by. When you say to yourself that you are not allowed to laugh for over twenty years, it is extremely hard to start giggling straight after you decide you want to. But piece by piece I reconnect with myself. Not only with the little girl I once used to be, but with a completely new adult version of myself as well.

I learned to be me, and love myself for that. I stopped rushing through life but instead learned to enjoy the journey that is my life. However, I was, and unfortunately still am, an architect at a big firm in the Netherlands. I am still expected to pursue a successful career in architecture. I still have to work overtime without getting paid, and I am still bound to a minimum amount of free days a year. The only difference is that today I can say that I don’t want this life any longer. And this made me realize that going from a successful career to an uncertain life in Greece might not be such a bad option for me.

Life in an office doesn’t suit me

The problem with a successful career today is that we are all putting too much pressure on our colleagues. Especially us, over-perfectionistic architects, are way too good at this. We all peer-pressure each other into staying longer, making slightly more beautiful images, and never stop thinking about a design. And even when you do this, it is never enough.

For me, a life like this does simply not work. Being someone who loves doing different things at the same time while being in touch with my body as well as nature, sitting on a chair for hours, looking at the same drawing on the screen in front of me, adjusting every little detail to create perfection, just to do it all over again the next day, simply does not work. I need to be outside, I need to be active. I need to be physically tired at the end of my days and I need to be able to be more out-of-the-box creative.

Uncertainty is better than not being myself

Understanding this part of myself, combined with the loving family that is waiting for me in Greece, made me decide that I will give up my career by the end of this year. Feeling like I will not function in the world of architecture without losing a part of myself, I choose to follow my own needs. What Greece will bring is still quite uncertain. Maybe I can work in tourism, or maybe this travel blog will turn out to go well. I could design holiday homes in Santorini, become an architect in Greece, teach English, or work in a bar or tavern. But since this life of uncertainty is less scary than having to tell myself to stay with my successful career, one more year, I believe the decision to quit is the right one. I am ready for my next adventure!