• By: Susan Barnes


  • Dear Empty Nesters (and Empty Nesters-to-Be),

    Your kids are off having a great time, spreading their wings, feeling free and looking ahead instead of back. I say let them be your role models for a change and go tackle the world on your own. A big, juicy vacation is the best way to turn an empty nest slump into a celebration of your new independence.

    And that’s my Dear Abby advice to you, straight from a home where the younger of our two sons recently flew off to college. The house is quieter now. A gallon of milk lasts a lot longer in the fridge. The dogs stare at us with that how-are-you-going-to-entertain-us look. I worried about how I would handle the return to being a one-generation household. The tactic we’re taking is to seize the moment and have fun with this fresh phase. Why should your kids be the only ones off meeting new people, living new experiences and “studying” abroad? You deserve all of that, too!

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    A healthy dose of Tuscany was the cure for what ailed my husband and me. It’s hard to feel down in a world where you can watch the sunset from a country villa with a glass of Chianti in your hand. Did I miss the boys? Sure. But did I find myself enjoying the moment in a different way than if they’d been splashing in the pool on the other side of the cypress? You better believe it.

    If you Google “empty nest syndrome”, one of the top tips for how to overcome it is to “reconnect with your partner and friends.” Is there a better way to do that than on a vacation that suits your interests – without worrying how it appeals to your progeny?  Now may be your moment to spend a culinary week cooking and visiting markets in Provence. Or be like our neighbors who decided to do New Zealand. It’s a fantastic family destination, but they could never clear everybody’s calendars when they had to plan around soccer and athletics. The great thing is how a vacation jump-starts the process of creating memories that belong only to you. (Just be sure to have your guide take a picture when you’re geared up for tectonic snorkeling in Iceland or camel-riding in the Moroccan Sahara. I can tell you from personal experience that it is very satisfying to text an image like that to a 19-year-old who’s confined to a classroom.)

    Group riding camels in Morocco

    Trust me: I am an utterly, irretrievably sentimental mom. I love my sons to pieces, and we had so much stupendous fun as they grew from babies to young men. Of course, we butted heads, too. After each of them received their college acceptance letters, the separation phase kicked in and long before they flew off, my husband will tell you that we had a few moments of thinking, “Okay. Maybe it really is time for the next phase.” We wouldn’t change any of it, but with a couple of empty-nester vacations under our belts we also wouldn’t turn that clock back even if we could.

    Our sons and their someday-families will always be welcome to travel with us. But for us these days, travel is a sweet antidote to a house that’s 50% less frenetic than it used to be. If this coming fall is when your turn is coming, take another piece of advice from the experts and plan ahead for it now. If you can look forward to a nice long stroll in a Cotswolds sheep meadow or some Himalayan me-time in Nepal, your empty nest will feel like it’s full of opportunity.

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