Vacation Me Is My Best Self and I Miss Her

So things are fiiinally getting back to normal (thank you, vax life!), and I couldn’t be more thrilled to never again (at least for a little bit) think about the phrase “flatten the curve.” But even as bars, restaurants, and theaters starts to open up again, there’s one part of my old life that still feels far-off: international travel. And, ugh, I am so sick of my non-vacation self.

I yearn to meet anew the bold, brave, badass version of myself who comes out whenever I trot the globe. When I’m on a trip, I’m a totally different person who does all sorts of wild things I wouldn’t normally do (RIP the times I spent hanging out nude in a public bath in Taiwan or climbing far too deep into an unsupervised Vietnamese cave) and right now, I’d kill to be that cavalier, uninhibited version of myself.

I’ve been thinking about this a ton as I get ready to publish my new thriller, We Were Never Here, which follows two jet-setting best friends who meet up from opposite corners of the planet for a dream vacation every year. They throw off their dull, grayscale selves and become the technicolor boss bitches who can only exist somewhere over the rainbow: landing in new towns without a hotel reservation and charming strangers and dancing on a jungly patio and, early in the book, bringing a cute backpacker back to the hotel room for a one-night-stand. The trip takes a turn for the terrifying when said hookup turns violent and the friends kill him in self-defense, because, well, thriller novel. But short of homicide, there’s not a lot I, too, won’t say yes to on a trip.

I’m not the only one who gate-checks my normal life and becomes a totally new person when I leave home; there’s plenty of research showing our personalities and decisions actually transform when we’re traveling. “It is argued that holidays are a ‘liminoid period’ in which norms of behavior are temporarily abandoned,” wrote Cardiff University researchers in a study of female travelers and vacation flings.

For one thing, Vacation Me is a creative genius. When I’m writing, travel helps me solve plot puzzles and see my narratives—and my characters’ problems (*cough dead backpacker cough cough*)—in a whole new light.

Vacation Me is also more open-minded and worldly. And ohhh, how I’d love to step out of my own shoes (cork-bottom slippers, if you must know) and see the world from perspectives other than mine or engage with people who aren’t like me… or who are just… not in my COVID bubble.

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Plus, not going to lie, Vacation Me is kind of a sexual powerhouse. Swear to God, at home in New York I cannot for the life of me get someone to flirt back in a bar or commit to a date via an app. But once I get through Customs, I’m attracting moony-eyed men everywhere I go. Once, on a solo-cation, I kicked a hot architect I’d met earlier that week out of my bed so I could get to a massage on time, and then the hot masseuse asked for my number.

But if I’m being honest, I’m not totally sure I’ll be able to be that person again. I’m in a relationship now, so future travels will be free of such dalliances, and I’m weather-beaten from the pandemic. I feel like I’ve been trained to steer clear of strangers and keep to myself, to sanitize every five minutes and constantly ask about things like HVAC systems and HEPA filters. But hey, whether previous Vacation Me is still under all this PPE or not, my first trip is on the books (Iceland over Labor Day, babyyy) and I have a feeling I’ll like Vacation Me 2.0, too. For one thing, she’ll definitely be someone who appreciates the hell out of every new experience.

Sure, in the very worst-case scenario, fictional travelers might find themselves bucking the norm of calling the police when disaster strikes, instead scheming to ditch the body and get the hell out of there. But in the real world, taking a trip means kissing my dullest, most ordinary self goodbye. Vacation Andi is real, she’s spectacular, and she’s coming soon to an airport near you.

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