Vacation is great — coming back is hard

Published 6:19 pm Friday, November 8, 2019


Contributing columnist

There is something to be said for a change of scenery. As much as I love the Bluegrass state, I was more than happy to pack my bags and head south of the border last month for a 10-day trip to Merida, Mexico. When your boyfriend is running a study abroad program in a tropical location, you take advantage. 

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To maximize my stay, I combined vacation days with telecommuting days, thanks to the wonders of our web-connected world. It turns out, you can write grants and send emails from just about anywhere. Including the deck of the pool in the backyard of your Mexican vacation home. Before you get too mad at me, you should know that the mosquitos were extremely aggressive.

But even with ferocious biting bugs and a 1,000% humidity level, it was great to be somewhere else for a bit. I loved eating out at dozens of restaurants in easy walking distance from the house — Peruvian empanadas, Korean noodles, traditional dishes from the Yucatan peninsula and handmade coconut gelato. I loved the artisan markets, the Mayan ruins and the beginning glimpses I caught of Day of the Dead festivities, although I left too soon to catch the real celebrations. 

I loved the afternoon thunderstorms, cozied up in an indoor hammock listening to the rain. I loved the hammocks so much that I brought one back with me for my screened-in porch and have been bundling up in sweaters to make use of it on these chilly Kentucky evenings. 

On Sunday mornings, the city closes a huge stretch of the main road to motor vehicles and turns it over to bicyclists. Hundreds (thousands?) of people rent bikes or bring their own and pedal along the promenade. It was glorious.

Of course, the only problem with taking a vacation is that re-entry can be a bit difficult. Even a working vacation rewires your brain in ways that can prove problematic. Take my experience in the Houston airport, when I attempted to board the wrong airplane. No, really. That happened.

I was so excited to have made it through customs and immigration quickly that my mind went blank as I looked at the departure screens and I wound up at the wrong gate. But it didn’t stop there. I queued up to board and scanned my boarding pass three times before the gate attendant asked me if I was really very sure I was going to Louisville.

At which point I remembered I was flying to Lexington. 

My real flight was departing 10 minutes later from a gate at the opposite end of the universe. Getting there required changing terminals, riding a train and sprinting down several ridiculously long hallways while muttering a steady stream of curse words under my breath (which did not help my already questionable cardiovascular state). 

Upon arriving in Lexington, I was greeted by my adoring children — who promptly had a collective meltdown, overwhelmed by all the big feelings that come with being abandoned for an eternity by your mother and then reunited with her in a busy airport. The “welcome home” picture snapped by my dad is of me sitting on the floor of the airport with a pile of crying children in my lap, two of whom are clutching adorable hand-drawn posters. 

Everyone felt better after dinner had been eaten and travel presents had been bestowed. It’s an unshakable rule of parenting that you must return from trips with gifts for those left behind. Travel presents are fun at any age. I still get excited when my folks come back from a big trip, because they still bring gifts back with them. 

Even with the difficulties of re-entry, it was a great trip. I’m going back down in January and I’m already counting the days. This time, I’ll pay more attention to my boarding pass, though.