I love my family, I really do. My kids are teenagers and despite that, they’re both people I love to spend time with. My husband, also delightful. I enjoy all of them and feel lucky that we all get along and like being together. Without disrespecting them as individuals or a group, I have to be honest: Going on vacation without them was like a little slice of heaven.

I do not exaggerate: It was absolutely exhilarating. Here’s why:

The burden of decision-making floats away

On our family trips, I do everything, from deciding when and where we’re going to what we’ll bring, where we’ll stay, and what we’ll do. I’m used to seeing three faces looking at me expectantly, waiting to find out the plan, unwilling to take the reins themselves. 

But this time, I was away with a bunch of friends, staying in a lovely house with a swimming pool courtesy of Airbnb, and we were all going to the same event. I was gone for six days, and I rejoiced in being something I used to have some scorn for: a follower. 

I told my friends up front, most of whom were not parents, that I would love to NOT have to decide things, and was happy to just go along with the plans. Of course, I weighed in when we were making group decisions, but I did not have to lead the pack anywhere. 

The freedom of having someone else do it gave me a lightness I haven’t felt in a very long time, and I was genuinely happy with every choice that was made.

Suddenly, it’s YOUR needs that matter

Remember being single, when whatever you wanted to do could happen without consultation and without juggling the needs of the many? I didn’t have to look at restaurant menus to make sure there was something for my youngest to eat because they don’t like anything other than chicken fingers and ramen. The only needs I considered when making my daily decisions were mine.  I’d forgotten what it felt like.

Airports and airplanes are a thousand times easier

Dragging my family through an airport is no fun whatsoever. My husband hates flying and airports, so he gets this grim expression on his face that somehow looks worse when he tries to muster up a pretend-this-isn’t-terrible smile. 

My youngest is afraid of flying because she sometimes gets sick, so we provide Dramamine and I end up with a sleeping kid’s head on my lap for most of the flight. But when I’m alone? I can read a book! Watch a movie! Mostly, I can just be a low-key, low-maintenance, chill traveler.

You never have to be the party pooper

I don’t have to say “no” to anyone, because no one’s coming to me asking for extra cash for souvenirs they’re going to forget about, food they’re not going to finish, or snacks that will ruin their appetites before meals. Anything I opted not to do because of cost was a triumph, not a disappointment.

You can actually relax… well, mostly

I think once you have kids, you don’t really relax in the same way you did before, but this was as close as I’m going to get and it was wonderful. In my daily life at home, I am the person who fields relentless requests for everything, all the time. They ask me in person or by text, and they need everything from money (for both legit and ridiculous items) to solutions for problems that may be happening at the moment or weeks into the future; the urgency is always there regardless.

But on my vacation, everyone backed off… at least until my youngest was alone in the house with a bee. From my location in another part of the country, I gave bee-avoiding advice and kept my kid calm until help arrived. Other than that, they solved all their problems just fine without me, and I didn’t even have to hear about them.

You can find yourself, a little

It’s so easy to lose ourselves in our roles as parents and at our jobs. But when you go on a vacation with your friends, without your spouse and your kids, you are simply YOU, and you get to rediscover who that is.

The chef’s kiss: coming home

When your vacation is over, and you’re on your way home, you’ll remember how much you miss everyone, and when you walk in the door and they run up to welcome you back, you’ll feel like the luckiest person in the world. 

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About Laurie Ulster

A transplanted Canadian living in New York, Laurie Ulster is a freelance writer and a TV producer who somehow survived her very confusing adolescence as the lone female Star Trek fan in middle school. She writes about pop culture, lifestyle topics, feminism, food, and other topics for print, digital, podcasts, and TV.

View all posts by Laurie Ulster