I'm always fascinated to watch when somebody returns to the office after a long trip. And I'm not talking about a four-day weekend, I'm saying seven days minimum; preferably a 10-day or two-week escape.
They walk in and immediately all of us become like a group of villagers running to the shore to welcome home Odysseus. He's here! She's here! We swarm them, wanting a piece of that post-vacation glow. Wanting that feeling of pure happiness that exudes from their face. We want to know what life was like on the other side. Tell me what it was like to see the sun!
And so, one by one, the questions flood in.
How was your trip? Tell me about your trip. What was the best part? What'd you do? Where'd you go?
At first, the post-vacation person is happy to oblige. They smile and laugh as they retell various stories. There's a look of nostalgia on their face as they bring these memories into the office.
Then comes the wave of fact-checkers. This group has stayed up to speed with daily alerts. They're like Adrian Wojnarowski following NBA free agency or Mel Kiper with the NFL Draft. They've followed the person's vacation on Instagram, or Snapchat, or the GoPro that they stealthily taped onto the person's suitcase. This round of questions aren't even questions at all, more like statements:
I saw your pictures of Machu Picchu, those were incredible. Whale watching looked like so much fun, I can't believe how close you were. Those dinners looked awesome.
Slowly, that post-vacation glow begins to disappear. In place of that nostalgic look comes one of fatigue. By one o'clock in the afternoon, you hear the person let out a small sigh when approached with another how was your trip question. By four o'clock, that post-vacation person has grabbed their colleague by the shirt collar, pushed them against the wall. I said my trip was fine, alright, it was JUST FINE!
Now, to be fair, no one is doing anything wrong here. As co-workers, we're all legitimately excited and want to hear more. As the post-vacation person, they're doing the best they can to share the energy, but are hitting the natural wall that anyone would face telling the same story multiple times in a day. It's the same reason why I need about four years before I can hear the song Despacito again.
The problem is that this fatigue begins to chip away at all of the good memories. It goes from, "Man, I wish I could go back" to "I don't want to talk about this trip anymore, I don't want to think about it, I just want to put on headphones and look at the 200 emails in my inbox peacefully."
So, similar to how the cashier set me up for success by looking at the ice cream last week and saying, "Oh, I heard that was disappointing," I want to share a tip with you that will help your friends and colleagues the Monday after a trip. It will sound crazy at first but it's the best way to help them preserve their sacred memories and actually begin to enjoy even the bad parts of their trip.
Here goes. When you see them that Monday morning, try asking them this:
What was the worst part of your trip?
No one else is asking this question. And the thing is, every trip has its bad parts. Layovers. Being on a crowded non-air conditioned bus. Getting sick from the food. But no one feels like they can share these stories for fear of sounding snobby. They fear people will view them as being ungrateful. Oh, I'm so sorry to hear you had heartburn in Sicily, cry me a fricken river.
But of course these bad memories will stand out in the brain. Bad memories are really good at this; it's why you'll randomly be haunted by something that happened twenty years ago. And sure, it's hard to forget seeing the Grand Canyon for the first time, but it's also hard to forget lying on the ground, holding the toilet bowl tight, crying to God for help after a maybe too authentic meal in India. Sadly, our bad memories usually stay in tact longer than the good ones.
Unless you get to talk about them.
For example, my buddy Jon visited me and Ashley once in New York City. The trip ended up being pretty bad. Jon was cheap and I had a whole lot of big city ego. Big city ego meaning I had gotten used to spending 3x more than things should actually be.
Friday night, we went to a restaurant, asked for waters. The waiter opened a $15 bottle of flavored water instead. Saturday we walked the entire Brooklyn Bridge followed by the Manhattan Bridge to avoid paying bus/subway fare. On Sunday, it was pouring down rain. Jon was rolling his suitcase along the sidewalk. The suitcase somehow caught this lady's foot when we turned the corner. She fell down to the ground. We looked out to the street a couple blocks later and there was another person just lying down in the middle of the road.
By the time Jon got to the airport he breathed a sigh of relief. Get me the hell out of here. I don't think we spoke for a week.
But then, I don't know, maybe two weeks later, we started laughing about the stories. Everything above became funny to think about. What was a pretty bad trip became almost more fun to reflect on than a good one. The negativity of those bad memories had been replaced.
That's the beauty of the "What was the worst part of your trip" question. It begins the same type of process; transforming bad memories into funny ones. Your colleague will probably even want to share multiple stories. Oh and this other time, oh yeah, this part really sucked. You gotta hear this.
You kill two birds with one stone; this move will help your colleague preserve the good memories and convert even the worst parts into stories they enjoy telling. All in all, that makes for a pretty good Monday after an even better trip.
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