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Just back from vacation? Etiquette tips for your return

  • Author: Mary Schmich
    | Opinion
  • Updated: 6 days ago
  • Published 6 days ago

(Thinkstock)

Summer is prime vacation season, which means that it's full of people coming home after getting away.

The following is a short guide for these returning vacationers.

Tip 1: Don't brag about how great your vacation was.

When I was growing up, my family didn't take vacations. There were 10 of us and very little money, and so during the sweltering months when school was out, we stayed put.

When September rolled around, we went back to school and listened to other kids talk about their family road trips, visits to the family cabin or time in a rented beach house.

I didn't begrudge other kids their vacations, and even look back fondly at the tedium of my childhood summers, so rich in time to read.

But I was always a little embarrassed that I didn't have a vacation tale to share when school resumed, and my memory of those back-to-school vacation stories has made me sensitive to the fact that not everyone can take a vacation. Even those who may not want to hear about the fabulous vacations of others.

So remember: There may be a few people eager for all the gushing details of your time off, but many would prefer a pithy "It was fun!" followed by "And how have you been?"

Tip 2: Be brief.

"How was your vacation?"

When you return from vacation, polite people will ask you this question, and you may take it as license to describe everything, good and bad: every meal, hotel or campground, every dirty rental car and credit card snafu.

Resist the urge.

Other people's vacations are like their dietary habits and sex lives — boring to anyone not directly involved.

When people ask, "How was your vacation?" most do so in the same spirit they ask, "How are you?" If they want an answer at all, they don't want it to be long.

A bonus to the brevity: If you answer briefly, your listeners are likelier to ask for more.

Tip 3: Don't complain about how hard your vacation was.

You spent too much time driving, the flights were delayed, the beach was littered, the national park was packed, Europe's not what it used to be, California's overrated, everything was too expensive, it was too hot or too cold and other tourists are bozos?

Whatever your complaints are, unless you can spin them into a heartbreaking or hilarious story, grousing about a vacation is like griping that your swimming pool is too small.

Having one at all is good fortune.

Tip 4: Don't complain publicly that your vacation is over.

Now that you're back, so is obligation.

The alarm clock goes off. Routine beckons. Work calls.

In other words, you again occupy the life you vacated, and even if you're happy to be home — at some point you're always happy to be home — you may be tempted to whine about missing those lazy, hazy days when you were your freer, truer self.

Remind yourself that it was better to have left and returned than never to have left at all.

Tip 5: Take quiet time to recall the wonders you encountered.

We go on vacation not only to escape ordinary life but to renew our energy for it.

We change our rhythms and our views. We meet different types of people, eat different food, dress differently at 1 p.m.

The change is like light we carry home: When we get back, we see the familiar in a slightly new way.

But no matter how enlightened or renewed you feel, keep in mind tips 1 and 2.

Tip 6: Be tolerant of people who would rather talk about their own vacation than listen to you talk about yours.

Offer them the courtesy of listening even if they've defied all the rules above.

Remember how many people have tolerated you.

Tip 7: Don't be insulted that some people didn't notice you were gone.

Instead, be glad for the reminder that your life didn't collapse just because you took time off.

Final tip: If you go on vacation somewhere that you know others would love, don't hesitate to recommend it, briefly.

Don't be deterred by all the warnings above. It's OK, for example, to say:

If you ever get the chance to visit Crater Lake in Oregon, go. It will take your breath away. It will make you feel bigger and smaller, stronger and more tender, more connected to the universe and to yourself. All the things a vacation is supposed to do.

Mary Schmich is a Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist for the Chicago Tribune.

The views expressed here are the writer's and are not necessarily endorsed by the Anchorage Daily News, which welcomes a broad range of viewpoints. To submit a piece for consideration, email commentary@adn.com. Send submissions shorter than 200 words to letters@adn.com or click here to submit via any web browser.

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