Picture the scene.
It’s July of 2011, and 5 people from New Jersey and New York are rushing through the Food Lion, a grocery store in Outer Banks, North Carolina, to stock up on food and drinks before heading to our beach house. The cart — which has at least two non-working wheels — is comically full, making it a joy to navigate through a crowded store. When we approach the checkout line, I quickly notice that each of the six carts in front of us are equally filled to the brim with essentials like frozen waffles, beer, and bread, and it occurs to me that this process is going to take a while.
“Great,” I say to my brother Pat, who has even less patience than me. Naturally, he starts tapping his foot and I start audibly sighing — after all, we’re in a hurry! And this line is moving far too slowly. Luckily, my brother’s laidback wife sensed the impeding blowups and stepped in, handing me a gossip magazine and handing Pat their son, suggesting he take him for a walk while we wait out the line.
Her plan worked.
When it was finally our turn, I had calmed down significantly (and managed to catch up on Kim Kardashian’s latest split), and that’s when I realized why the line was moving so slowly. The checkout person was making conversation with every single shopper — and it wasn’t just chit-chat. She was having long discussions about where they’re from, where they’re staying, how long they’ve been coming to the Outer Banks, and what they planned to do during their visits.
“Heeeeeeeeeeey, y’all! Where are you from?”
“Have you been to Tale of the Whale? That’s a nice spot for a romantic dinner. But if you have the little guy with you, maybe try Mulligan’s. It’s much more kid-friendly.”
“I see he likes sharks! Did you know there’s an aquarium in Manteo?”
Huh? Was she on the tourism board or something? I didn’t understand what was happening. You see, at the time, I worked in New York City. And while it’s an exciting place with limitless possibilities, it’s also a place that can turn the nicest people into cynics. Because in the Big Apple, everyone is perpetually in a hurry, and they’ll think nothing of shoving past women and children if it means saving precious seconds. And as far as strangers making conversation with you, that doesn’t happen unless they’re looking for money or directions.
All that considered, can you blame me for being a bit taken aback by this woman, who was helping people maximize their time on the island — out of the kindness of her heart? Each time someone thanked her, she stated (in her southern drawl), “You’re welcome, dear! Enjoy!”
After discussing whether or not we should tip her (to which my sister-in-law rolled her eyes), Pat and I agreed it was time to slow things down a bit; to leave our NY/NJ neuroses behind and switch into vacation mode. And so, instead of heading straight to the house to unpack, we went to a seafood restaurant and enjoyed a delicious lunch — the unpacking could wait, we uncharacteristically decided.
And somehow, we managed to hold on to those feelings for the rest of the week. We truly embraced beach life, filling our days by kayaking, building sand castles, swimming, and having happy hours on the deck. By the time the trip was over, I felt like a different person, which is precisely the intended effect of time away, according to a recent Psychology Today article. “Vacations have the potential to break into the stress cycle,” wrote Susan Krauss Whitbourne, PhD. “We emerge from a successful vacation feeling ready to take on the world again. We gain perspective on our problems, get to relax with our families and friends, and get a break from our usual routines.”
Not only that, but getting away can also pull us out of our comfort zones, which Whitborne said can “build new synapses and give you some of those memorable, bonding experiences with your fellow vacationers.”
And if nothing else, it will help you to sloooooooooow down.