“Back to reality…”
At the end of every vacation, conference, or trip, the most common phrase I hear is, “Okay, back to reality.” I’ve definitely said it in the past; however, over time I’ve learned to change my attitude about reality.
It’s a common cultural phenomenon to take time off work only to dread going back. Probably the majority of us fall in this group — we’ll call this Group A. Yet a very small minority would say, “That was a good trip/vacation. I enjoyed my time there, but now I’m excited to go back to work and a life that I enjoy.” In my network, I could count with one hand the people who would say this — let’s call this Group B. Most of us switch in and out of these two groups throughout our lives, depending on our circumstances and state of mind.
Universal Reality vs. Conditional Reality
We cannot change universal realities, like how we all have 24 hours in a day, need food and shelter to survive, or are bound by gravity. However, we determine our conditional realities, things we can control, like how we choose to spend our day and our vocations in life. The difference between Group A and Group B is that Group A individuals settle for unsatisfying conditional realities while Group B individuals constantly work towards conditional realities they are satisfied with. If their responsibilities restrict them from changing their conditional realities, Group B individuals change their attitudes towards those realities.
There is no such thing as reality. Reality is what you make it. — Frederick Lenz
Say you have a deep laceration that needs stitches to avoid infection. You don’t throw a bandage on it in hopes that the skin will repair itself quickly. Likewise, a vacation once or twice a year to maintain sanity isn’t going to cut it (no pun intended). There’s a deeper issue at stake here — that many of us are settling for bandages when we need stitches.
If we hate our conditional realities that much, why do we put up with them at all? Do you absolutely disdain the return home at the end of vacation? Take an honest look at yourself and ask what makes you dread the flight back and what would change that.
You might be saying: “This sounds too ideal. I have bills to pay”, or, “That’s just vacation high. Reality will sink in in a couple weeks.” I’ve heard this opposition countless times when I share my experiences and desire for change to my friends and family after my travels. The idea of vacation high is often misunderstood.
Sure a crazy adventure fueled by action sports and no responsibilities may make you want to quit your job immediately and move to a remote island. Feeling like you can magically change the world, master a field you have no prior experience in, or spend your life trotting the globe without a financial plan is the vacation high friends and family warn about — it’s folly.
The feelings and thoughts we experience about long-term elements of our lives (career, family, and lifestyle) while traveling, however, are indicative of our truest desires and goals. These are the thoughts to consider. In foreign environments and isolation from peers, our brains are forced to create new neural pathways.
For many reasons, like societal pressure, peers, or family expectations, we may have created habitual neural pathways towards our long-term goals out of settlement. Settled choices or ways of thought may have first started as comfort in times of failure or disappointment, but permeated into our routine outlook on life because we are true creatures of habit. A way to force a change in habit is a new environment.
When did we learn the most in our lives? It was during the formative years of childhood and adolescence. At that time, every experience and place seemed new because, well, it was. When we travel, every experience and place is new. So, in a way, it’s like experiencing adolescence a second time. We can literally rediscover ourselves, and do so in a positive way. This is why we experience the high. We should not ignore our relevant reflections while traveling.
Call to Action
If you belong in Group A, there are 2 options you can take when you get back to that 9–5, group of friends, or environment that you hate:
A) Change your conditional realities to match your desires
B) Change your attitude about your current conditional realities
We have more power over our lives than we think: power over our actions, how we spend our time, and how we view ourselves. Use the momentum — the yearning for something better at the end of vacation — to change your life for the long-term.
The reasons for being dissatisfied at the end of a vacation are all excuses to validate the comfort of settling. If your careers, friendships, or attitudes are the cause, you can work towards healthy, tangible adjustments.
Another universal reality is that change in behavior and attitude is a hard process. There are many tools out there to begin this process, like self-help books and blogposts on Medium:
Create your day. Design Your Life. ~ Anonymous.medium.com
You must understand and feel the weight of the consequences of your behavior.journal.thriveglobal.com
This process takes work and it doesn’t come naturally. It doesn’t happen overnight, but I know that it is worth the struggle. Making these slight adjustments will move you from Group A to Group B and leave you feeling much more satisfied in your current endeavors.
I don’t like cliche introductions (“So, what do you do?”), so in the context of this post, I’ll introduce myself.
Universal Realities: I am an Asian-American male in his mid-twenties, born and raised in the Baltimore, MD area.
Conditional Realities: I love to travel abroad because of forced introspection. I have been on 3 major international backpacking trips through Southeast Asia, Central Europe, and India, as well as small weekend trips. My travels have taken me to Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia, Laos, Vietnam, Switzerland, Austria, Italy, Czech Republic, India, the UAE, and the UK. I’ve discovered more about myself through these trips than I ever did in college or any community. I changed my professional career in the last two years after finding dissatisfaction in my previous one (a thought that came while I was traveling Europe). I enjoy drawing, any type of individual physical activity, video editing, and talking about topics like this. Since these are conditional realities, they are subject to change.
Like, comment, and share this post if you enjoyed it. If you didn’t and you think I’m an idealistic fool, feel free to comment and say why. Follow me and stay tuned for more insights, experiences, and tips from my travels.