Hi. My name is Abbey, and I suffer from PVAS.
In case you’re unaware, PVAS — or Post-Vacation Adaptation Syndrome — is a common malady that plagues people of all ages. Its severity varies according to vacation duration and destination, but symptoms tend to be more pronounced in Northerners who travel south while it’s still in the 40s and/or snowing at home. Unfortunately, the better and sunnier the vacation, the more severe the PVAS symptoms.
Rate of symptom onset also varies, but is generally thought to be proportional to travel time. For instance, during our 15-hour car ride from Orlando to central Ohio, we were let down gently. Ever so slowly, the towering palm trees faded away and were replaced by swaths of evergreens which were eventually crowded out by prickly, naked hardwoods. The sun disappeared. The minivan’s outdoor temperature gauge dropped from the 80s to the 70s, 60s, 50s and settled at a frigid 47 that, two months ago, would have prompted us to drive with our windows down.
By the time we pulled into our driveway, weary and depressed and shivering, we had mentally prepared for what to expect. That didn’t soften the blow much, but it helped a little.
Folks who travel via airplane don’t have the luxury of gradual PVAS onset. Over the course of a few hours, they jump from an air-conditioned terminal to a temperature-controlled plane to an airport that’s heated at approximately the same temperature to which its southern counterpart is cooled. When the sliding doors open to the outside, these poor souls stand there with their wheeled suitcases and glowing suntans, stunned by the arctic blast that stings them in the face. Welcome home, Buckeyes.
As mothers we try to plan ahead to alleviate the symptoms of PVAS, which are not limited to the physical. Prior to departure, we clean the house to whatever extent possible so as not to return to piles of crusty dishes and 12 loads of laundry on top of the 18 we accumulated while away. We make the beds, put a couple pizzas in the freezer. Try to make our home seem like a welcoming place because we know that the moment we step through the door after a week away, the demands of Real Life that we shed, along with our winter coats, prior to vacation — schedules, chores, work — will be waiting to pounce on us and drag us down.
Duration of PVAS symptoms, again, is variable. The first few days back, it’s as if you can still feel the sunshine on your skin and the white sand beneath your feet. If you’ve not yet returned to work and school, the detachment from work-related communication is blissful, but you’re no longer able to fully embrace it, knowing that tomorrow you’ll have to click through each of the 562 emails you missed while you were sunbathing.
But gradually the memories fade — not entirely, just enough to become less tangible. You check the weekly weather forecast and force yourself into the realization that you’ll still need to wear your winter coat, because this is Ohio. You put away your sandals, your tank tops, your shorts. Get some laundry done. Send the kids to school. Scroll through each precious day of vacation photos and relive the moments, which doesn’t warm your body but does your heart some good.
PVAS is entirely preventable, yes. You can choose never to go anywhere, eliminating the chance of depression upon return. But if you were alive in 2020, you know that never going anywhere rarely accomplishes anything good.
Or you can have a vacation that’s so horrible you actually find relief in returning home. I’ve heard accounts of such a thing. This preventative measure is admittedly a bit more difficult to plan and execute.
Personally I wouldn’t recommend either method of prevention, because as difficult it is to cope with PVAS, I wouldn’t trade our family vacation experience for anything.
So I’m medicating my symptoms by printing the photos (people still do that!), talking to my husband and kids and anyone who will listen about the memories, sharing the stories and planning for more adventures in the future.
PVAS is no fun, but I guess if it’s the price of crafting happy memories, I can deal with it. (PS: I’m keeping the sand on the car mats for a little longer, just for nostalgia’s sake.)
Abbey Roy is a mom of three girls who make every day an adventure. She writes to maintain her sanity. You can probably reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org, but responses are structured around bedtimes and weekends.