To me, summer is somewhat synonymous with vacations. The memories of my summer’s are filled with recollections of family vacations. They weren’t a yearly occurrence, yet we went on enough. While I can’t say every single vacation was spectacular, the idea of vacationing always seemed nice to me. A break from normal life always sounds appealing. (Hey, memories of vacation beat memories of a hurricane and earthquake any day... :-/)
Furthermore, a recent study in the Journal of Applied Research in Quality of Life, quoted by NYTimes.com, found that the most enjoyable part of a vacation is the anticipation or planning aspect of the trip. Surprisingly, the euphoria from planning a trip can last up to 8 weeks while the happiness sustained from a good vacation can last a mere 2 weeks. That being said, while vacations essentially do provide some level of happiness both before and after, however, the post-vacation difference between having an amazing vacation and a neutral one is arguably miniscule.
I can relate to the logic behind this. Before a trip you’re excited about the destination, culture, amenities, activities, sights, etc… The unknown aspect is exciting and alluring, while the planning and research aspect only makes it more interesting. I suspect there is a modicum of hope in there as well. When you’re planning a trip everything goes according to plan and rather smoothly. However, things don’t always go as planned; or put another way, rarely does everything go as planned. It all starts with a flight delay… Anyway, the article didn’t explicitly mention the fact that people who had stressful or un-relaxing vacations didn’t exhibit happiness upon their return at all (obviously?) but I think that idea shouldn’t be taken for granted. Going on a stressful vacation, just for the sake of going on vacation is in my opinion pointless.
However, I am still divided. Looking back at the pictures of my past vacations still make me happy and nostalgic, even if they weren’t all that great. Besides, every vacation I’ve been on has made me appreciate home in so many different ways. In that case, maybe the article and research is wrong. Quantifying and classifing vacations in terms of short-term happiness gains is only one aspect of a much larger picture. What about the long-term memories, experiences, and happiness that come out of vacations? What about any knowledge that was gained by the trip? What about that feeling of appreciation, belonging, and "home" that one feels upon returning? Are all those metrics for naught? So while perhaps one’s summer vacation wasn’t as good as it could have been, remember, nothing can be better than the memories and happiness it will provide for eternity! Just remember to take some picture for posterity though… :-P