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The Dangers of Vacation Personality

Everyone knows someone who lives for vacations. Their conversations center around that next place they are going, what they are going to do when they get there, and they set their computer background to a stunning photo of a sunset at the beach there. They may have even dropped the suggestion that all that is getting them through the daily slog is that next trip that’s coming up, and how epic and crazy it will be.

Their vacation finally rolls around, and they spend the entire time drinking in touristy bars and laying by the pool, never talking to anyone new or experiencing any local culture beyond the bottom of their pint glass. The next time you see them, they look like someone beat them with a tanning bed the entire week they were gone, and for some reason their stories are all about how much they drank and how they embarrassed themselves in inventive, hilarious new ways.


For many people, leaving for vacation causes all time beyond the next drink to fall off a cliff and they slide into what I call Vacation Personality. All friendships become single-serving and the highest goal in life is drinking one more without passing out. While this can be very entertaining, I travel to immerse myself in new cultures, meet new people, and find amazing new adventures. Judging by the fact that you are here, I suspect the reason you travel isn’t to drink in a different place with the same people, either.

Congratulations on being in the right place! However, Vacation Personality’s temptation to slide into a comfortable familiarity when you are in an unfamiliar new place has a strong pull. Here are a few ideas that have worked to keep me on track.

Walk softly and carry a big list.

If you chose to visit a place, you probably know at least a few things you want to do while you are there. Make this a bigger list by asking people what their favorite parts of the area are and sort it by location. Each day, pick one thing you really want to do that day, and go there. Afterward, you will have a list of things to do nearby without spending your entire day commuting to different places.

Don’t just look, experience.

There will be a lot of things to see while you are there. Don’t skip the legendary monuments that everyone talks about, but do more than just giving it a slackjawed stare. Don’t just take a picture of the volcanic lake, jump in and take a swim!

I recently visited a gorgeous mosque in Old Delhi, and I didn’t just wander around inside with the people preparing for the next call to prayer. I chatted with the person working the gate. As we became friends, slowly I convinced him to let me climb the hundreds of stairs into the top of the minaret. He came with me, showing me the gorgeous views through ornately barred windows and guided me through the spiral staircase too narrow to let people squeeze by without feeling like your buttons were going to pop off.

Later that day I visited a Sikh temple with thousands of people flowing through it. Instead of just walking around taking pictures of the massive lines of shifting people, I was drawn to a building to the side where people were standing around, waiting and talking for a while until hundreds of people rushed out and everyone surrounding the building rushed in. It turned out to be where Langar was taking place, a fully volunteer-based meal that treats everyone as equals regardless of race or economic standing. When the doors opened and hundreds of people flooded out, I poured in with the rest of the group, sitting on the floor knee-to-knee with neighbors as a meal was pieced together in front of me. I joined in eating everything with my hands, cleaning the plate of a delicious meal while my new friends laughed at me and taught me how to use my fingers for every utensil I needed.

That's my plate on the right, by the feet.

Pace yourself.

Treat every place you visit as if you are coming back someday. If you run around trying to cram everything into a tight schedule, you won’t have time to enjoy any of it. There’s not enough time to do everything, so pick the things you really want to do and fully enjoy the ones you choose. Go at your own pace, not trying to squeeze everything in and rushing past the really amazing parts, but really getting the most out of each destination by letting it soak in and truly affect you.

Did this change the way you think about travel? Share with your friends on Facebook and Twitter. I don’t advertise, so it’s the only way to spread the word. Thanks!

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