If the best part of a Las Vegas trip is the anticipation and build up before, the worst part is the come down after. The Vegas hangover, as I like to call it.

Or, as my mom always says, “it’s all fun and games until it comes time to pay the fiddler.”

Oh boy have I been paying the fiddler this past week. As if the physical/mental/emotional/financial toll of Las Vegas wasn’t enough, I got all four wisdom teeth extracted two days after returning. So I’ve been recovering in all senses of the word.

While dental work provides a convenient (and almost universally understood) excuse for my radio silence the past few days, it’s not the true reason.

 

How was your trip?!?

When I get back from trips, people are always eager to ask some variation of:

  • How was Las Vegas?
  • Did you win?
  • Was it fun?
  • What did you do?
  • What’s your top highlight?

I think they’re always surprised when I respond with a terse “it was a blast” and change the subject.

Coming from me – someone who normally can’t shut up about Las Vegas – this brevity is certainly out of character. I imagine the lack of details must be a letdown (or a welcome relief, depending on the sincerity of the question).

Sometimes I feel guilty for not sharing more tantalizing stories (because there are always so many!), but I literally feel unable to until at least a few weeks out.

It takes time to process a Las Vegas trip.

At the risk of sounding melodramatic, the cycle of a Las Vegas trip is like the cycle of drinking – complete with the feelings of anticipation, followed by enjoyment easing into care-free bliss, and culminating in a brutal hangover (sometimes with the empty promise to “never do that again”) – followed by the desire to do it all over again.

 

The Anticipation

The weeks leading up to a Las Vegas trip are filled with a growing sense excitement, opportunity, potential, and possibility. Sin City will soon be my oyster, where I’ll be able to do whatever I want, whenever I want, however I want. I can almost feel minor annoyances disappear as the promise of an escape from the bullshit of daily life grows nearer and more tangible.

Excitement continues to mount as I pass arbitrary milestones that I set to hype myself up. 2 months. 50 days. 6 weeks. 1 month. 3 weeks. 20 days. 2 weeks. 10 days. 1 work week. 72 hours. 1 sleep. 4 more hours at work. Anything to make the dream of Las Vegas seem nearer.

The anticipation reaches a fever pitch in the final week. My mind is overrun with possibilities, and I obsessively research, adding to my ever-growing list of ideas. It’s even harder than normal to focus at work as I visualize the bright neon lights, feel the glowing buttons of a video poker machine, and taste the crisp taste of a cold beer.

In the final 24 hours, I finish out my Las Vegas ritual. I pack (always the night before), set my gambling budget, make a karma donation to Five Hundy by Midnight, set my out of office reply, load my car, drive to the airport. By the time I’m through TSA, my heart rate is already elevated (and not from getting groped). Vacation begins (and sobriety ends) with my first beer in the air.

 

The High

Once I finally land in Las Vegas, my limbic system is overstimulated on all sides by the electric energy, ceaseless stimulation, lack of sleep, and a constant titration of alcohol.

The unending action, rush of a big win, thrill of meeting new people, tantalizing taste of delicious meals, and simple bliss of walking down the street with a drink in hand blur together into a sense of care-free euphoria.

In Las Vegas, I’m too busy living in the moment and taking in all of the new experiences to feel anxious or depressed about the bullshit that brings me down in real life. Vegas truly is an escape from reality, a respite from stress, and a break from responsibilities. For those glorious days in Paradise, nothing else matters but fun, relaxation, and enjoyment.

 

The Vegas Hangover

However, just like a great night of drinking is all too often followed by an awful headache the next day, my trips to Las Vegas are followed by a heartache for the next few days.

A lingering hangover and deep sleep debt provide no protection from the onslaught of unread emails, accumulated responsibilities, and chores that immediately slap me in the face as I come back down to earth.

Coming back from vacation is never fun, but returning to equilibrium after experiencing the excitement of Las Vegas is brutal; the lows of daily life feel even lower after riding the highs of Las Vegas for so long.

As the constant stimulation of a city that never sleeps is replaced by the slow-paced drudgery of the work week, late nights on the town are exchanged for early mornings in the office, and the abundance of options are reduced to the lone gas station and bar, my daily routine almost feels pointless. I often feel numb, like I’m just going through the motions.

Thinking back to Las Vegas is painful, almost like I’m grieving the trip. Little things remind me of a person I met, food I tried, sight I saw, or drink I had, and I’m hit with a pang of longing. It’s almost painful to think back to the fun I had in Paradise, so I push it to the back of my mind and throw myself headlong into readjusting to the routine of work and daily life.

 

Nostalgia

Fortunately, after about a week, my logical mind reclaims the reigns, and I realize that Las Vegas wouldn’t be fun or special if I lived large every day.

As I slowly settle back into my daily routine and embrace the simple pleasures of normal life (while continuing to resist some of the intricacies of rural Nebraska life), fond memories of my Vegas trip begin to return. These brief recollections are met with gradually less resistance until, finally, they fill me with a sense of happiness and nostalgia.

With the rose tinted glasses of nostalgia finally working their magic, I can’t help but break out into a shiteating grin as I think back to the characters I met at the tables, antics I got into on the Strip, the dazzling sights I took in, and all the crazy adventures I had.

Just like that magical moment after the hangover wears off, I can’t wait to tell all the crazy stories and do it all over again! Which leads me to…

 

Repeat

When done correctly, the next Las Vegas trip is always around the corner. I’ve learned that the best way to combat the Vegas hangover is conveniently same remedy that works for a hangover in Vegas: the good old-fashioned hair of the dog.

In other words, the best cure for the post-Vegas slump is obviously… more Las Vegas!

As such, I’ve developed a personal policy to always have another trip booked. This not only gives me something to look forward to, but also added motivation to not go full-degenerate in the casino, since if I go balls to the wall, I won’t have as big of a bankroll for the next trip.

With the debauchery of #Sergios5thAnnualDestinationBirthdayPartyinLasVegas (and 15 other amazing trips) in my rearview mirror, the excitement of my 17th trip – my mom’s 61st birthday bash – is already on the horizon for April.

It’s less than 90 days away… but who’s counting?

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