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Why I need a post-vacation buffer day

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I am late getting this column to my editor, because I took a couple days off earlier this week to go out of town. (I am hesitant to call two to three days off a vacation; I feel more comfortable sticking the “Out of Town” label on it.) But that’s not why I’m late. It’s because I didn’t take a buffer day and now I’m all turned around and clumsy.

You know the buffer: a day off preceding or following a vacation. You’re not vacationing but aren’t at work, either. Some take an extra day at the start of a trip to focus on packing, etc., but I prefer my buffer as grand finale: I have no problem getting my head in the right place to anticipate a trip, but when I return, it’s a month of Sunday night depressions. Not taking a buffer day makes me feel like I’ve overslept—for the rest of the week.

I don’t remember always feeling like this. Does the weariness come from age? Or how we work nowadays?

As work bleeds into leisure (checking email during vacation, moms participating in conference calls while in line at the amusement park, receiving an unexpected call that starts “I know you’re not in the office, but can you help me with…”), I have to guess that no, it’s not just my approaching decrepitude.

Indeed, it seems like the buffer day has increased in popularity. Huffington Post just ran a piece about it, as did CNN. There’s a growing need for needing the exit before the exit, as it were. Although, vacation days should be all about suspending real life, so it kind of burns to waste a day preparing for the inevitable.

Are Americans so starved for that transition because we get no mandatory vacation time in the first place? And, in general, a piddly amount compared to the rest of the world?

Or, perhaps our so-called hectic workdays are too many of us having an over-inflated perception of our self-importance.

Because, sometimes? I don’t mind needing to check my email while gone. I’m OK with receiving the (very) occasional phone call. It makes me feel needed. Important. As a kid, I never liked naps; I thought I’d miss something. I love my vacation, but I also love the fallacy that I am irreplaceable at the office.

What’s your take on the buffer day? Do you want to soften the landing?

Carin Moonin is a writer living in Portland, Ore. Sometimes she'll even tweet about things she hates at @carinwrites.

Photo by Katy Warner/Flickr