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I Changed My Post-Trip Routine and Unpacked Immediately After a Vacation. It Left Me Stress-Free.

by Staff

Insider’s reporter on day four without a shower.
Monica Humphries/Insider

  • I returned from a 13-day van trip having gone five days without showering.
  • Before I got clean, I unpacked and did a load of laundry.
  • By unpacking first, I was able to completely relax post-trip. 

I propped open my apartment door and lugged in about eight bags.

I had a sack with 30 pounds of laundry, a suitcase with unworn clothes, and bags full of leftover groceries, laptops, books, and toiletries.

Beyond the overwhelming amount of items I needed to unpack was a smell — and that smell was me.

I had just wrapped up a 13-day road trip in a van, and the Ram Promaster I rented from the RV rental company Native Campervans didn’t have a shower or bathroom. While I didn’t mind popping into Planet Fitnesses and RV resorts here and there, I had procrastinated on showering toward the end of the trip.

When I arrived in Denver, I was on day five without a shower.

But before I turned on any hot water, I decided to spend a few hours doing chores.

By the time I was done, my belongings were put away, my bedding was clean, and I was stress-free.

This was far from the reality of how my trips typically end (usually, a suitcase full of dirty clothes sits in the corner of my home for a few weeks).

But the process of unpacking immediately helped me put an end chapter on my trip, which left me welcoming — instead of dreading — normalcy again.

Some of Insider’s author’s belongings in the back of the van.
Monica Humphries/Insider

I wanted a shower to signal relaxation. That wouldn’t have been accomplished if I still had to unpack.

After four hours of driving that day, all I wanted to do was shower, crawl into a clean bed, eat dinner, and relax. But looking at the mess scattered across my apartment, there were a couple of chores that couldn’t wait to be done.

I had food that needed to get into the fridge, and I needed to wash my comforter.

Setting out on the trip, I knew I would be sleeping in freezing temperatures and wanted the van to feel a little like home, so I packed my only comforter. While I didn’t regret the choice, what I hadn’t considered was that it’d need to be washed before it went back on my bed at home.

Unfortunately for me, my washer and dryer are in a separate building. This meant that I’d be popping in and out of my apartment building, something I didn’t want to do in pajamas, but I also didn’t want to shower and put on real clothes.

I opted to do something I typically don’t do after trips: start and finish my laundry before I showered. The time between switching loads was also the ideal amount of time to put away everything else I had packed.

By the time my duvet comforter was dry, my apartment was tidy and I was finally ready to get clean and relax.

The experience taught me that setting up your home for success when you’re back from a trip before relaxing is the way to go

I’m a procrastinator. I’ve left luggage sitting in my bedroom for weeks waiting to be unpacked.

I realized that having groceries and packing my comforter was a blessing in disguise. It forced me to unpack, and it gave me the gift of a tidy apartment.

Perhaps most importantly, getting my chores done immediately after a trip allowed me to fully relax. By the time I did finally shower, there weren’t any tasks looming over me.

Instead, I could watch TV, eat takeout, and finally be clean without any post-trip stress.

For future trips — regardless of whether I’m traveling with perishables — I’ll motivate myself to get clothes in the washer and get my apartment tidy immediately. It just might make the difference between dragging myself back to reality versus jumping into my real life, feet first.

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