I'm always quite sad when I head home from a vacation, whereas my boyfriend always looks forward to getting back home. But whether you are a traveler-at-heart or a homebody, there's no doubt that there are tangible benefits to taking a vacation, including (incredibly valuable) stress reduction, the perspective shift that happens when you see how people live in other parts of the country or world, and the wonderful feeling of tasting or smelling something new.

There's nothing that we spend as much money and time on as vacation — yet we don't expect more lasting benefits than the photos of our adventures. But it doesn't have to be so. When you return from your next vacation — whether solo, as part of a couple or with your family — you can keep the good feelings going.

Here are some ideas of how to re-enter your life and preserve most of the vacation glow:

Give yourself a day off upon return: If you can plan to arrive back on a Saturday so that you have a day to arrive home and reorganize before you return to work, you can keep from landing back in your life and feeling immediately stressed out. If you come back mid-week, consider taking an extra day off to put a "buffer day" between your vacation and your work. This will allow you to get your home life back in order, as well as some hours to just enjoy your voyages in the mental rearview. It can also help to have this time to take a nap or otherwise readjust from jet lag and time changes.

Use the less stress vacation mode to reprioritize your home life: Whenever I get back from a trip, I feel compelled to get rid of the extra stuff in my life that's not conducive to reproducing the relaxed feeling I have while traveling. Example: When I was in Barbados recently, I only wore a small portion of the clothes I brought. I realized that having all the extras was really just a distraction, and having a few great pieces I loved to put on was lower stress and made it faster and easier to get out the door. Upon my return home, I trimmed my closets once again, and took extra linens and other household stuff I don't really use to Goodwill.

Try new things at home: We all get stuck in ruts, and one of the highlights of traveling is trying new activities, foods, and ways to fill our days. Bring this open spirit back home with you and consider treating your hometown or city as a place to explore: Hit a restaurant that's outside your normal fare, or check out some kind of entertainment that isn't something you'd 'normally' do, like a live play or a musician you have heard of, but don't know that well. Go out on a limb or two and it will feel like you are learning anew about the place you live when you're not traveling.

Use your travels as impetus for more: Getting out in the world is important and valuable. Your work and career matter, but it seems that for most of us, the amount of time we spend working, or thinking about work, is much higher than the time we spend thinking about everything else in our lives. And there's more to life than work — vacations and travel put that fact right up to our noses, and force us to realize that the world will continue to revolve when we 're not at our desks. So when I return from a trip, I try to start organizing the next one — because even though I don't need the reminder about what else matters in life outside work, I will in the future, and I'll be prepared.

Starre Vartan ( @ecochickie ) covers conscious consumption, health and science as she travels the world exploring new cultures and ideas.

Vacation re-entry: How to reap (and keep) the benefits of time off
Maximize the benefits of your vacation so you don't just leave all the good stuff behind.