Transitioning Back to "Real Life" After a Chase Vacation

Jul 5, 2009
877
602
21
Newtown, Pennsylvania
I am flying home after a two week chase vacation, and although I have been doing this for 16 out of the last 18 years, it never gets any easier to say goodbye to the storms of the Great Plains.

There is such emotional engagement in chasing, it is such an adventure, so different than day to day suburban, corporate, domestic life, and I find it can take weeks or even a month or two to transition back to "normal." You may say that this is the case with getting back to the routine after any vacation, but I would dispute that. I do not find the transition from other vacations to be nearly as difficult. If I create great memories on a family vacation, that togetherness is not ending when I come home. If I live the "island lifestyle" for a week in the Caribbean, when I leave for home I take comfort in the fact that I can recreate at least some aspect of that by just throwing on some Jimmy Buffet or reggae tunes and cracking open a beer while I grill some cheeseburgers, or visit friends at the shore for the weekend. If my wife and I go on a cruise, I know that when we get home we will still have occasion to go out to dinner together or sit by the local pool at the swim club.

But chasing? It is like being in another world completely. There is no way to duplicate any aspect of the experience, especially living in the Philadelphia suburbs. If I armchair chase a great setup, it only makes it worse, as I experience an intense yearning to be under the meso I see on radar. I find that it is almost better to tune out completely; why think about food or read about great dessert recipes if you have to go on a diet?!?

I do not recall ever seeing much about this "transition" experience. Just about the only place I have read anything about it is in Jenna Blum's novel, "The Stormchasers," in which she does a great job describing the feeling and is apparently a kindred spirit in that regard. I have heard, anecdotally, that people who take other adventure vacations may have similar challenges transitioning back to real life.

So I am curious to hear the thoughts of other chase vacationers. Do you have trouble transitioning or not? If so, what are some strategies you use to smooth the transition? Do you like to keep tabs on what's going on with Plains weather or do you find it easier to ignore it completely, maybe beginning your learning again after the season when you no longer feel like you are missing anything?

In a poor year like 2014, it is somewhat easier to transition back to real life because I am not leaving something quite as exciting. But even one good chase day creates memories that make it hard to leave, and ultimately the experience is less satisfying. In a good chase year, the trip is more satisfying and then even harder to leave.

If you live on the Plains, I think your situation is somewhat different because you may not have that total sense of immersion that one gets from two or three weeks of straight chasing. And you don't necessarily have to wait an entire 50 weeks for your next chase opportunity. But perhaps your own strategies for frequently getting in and out of chase mode for a day or three at a time can help chase vacationers like me!

Jim Caruso





Sent from my iPad using Tapatalk HD
 
As a fellow East Coaster, it takes me about a week to get used to being back from a 2+ week chasecation, if just for getting back into a regular routine. While many people get in the mindset of "oh man look at what I'm missing" or "I really wish I was there right now," I take a different look at it. Instead of lamenting over what I am missing, I prefer to think about how nice it was to have gone out and experienced what I did, knowing that I did the best that I could while I was on my chasecation. Shrug off the bad days and fully enjoy and appreciate the good days.

If a chaser focuses on the negative aspects of not being there or missing out on an event, then there's going to be a lot of depressing times considering the limited amount of time there is to be out there to create positive experiences. It's best to just focus on enjoying what you were there for and for what may come in the future.
 

Rob H

EF5
Mar 11, 2009
825
5
0
Twin Cities, MN
Yes, I have issues transitioning even on short trips, and it's especially bad when you deal with a disaster zone close up. I was explaining to a non-chaser friend the lack of sleep, dozens of hours of drive time, the life or death decisions, seeing the damage, etc. and he suggested that some storm chasers likely deal with a minor form of PTSD, which explains a lot.
 
It can be a real shock coming back to England after 2 weeks or so on the Plains - the culture is different, the landscape is different, and, of course, the weather is different.

Some of the hardest times to re-adjust have been where the last day or 2 of the trip has been manic, with huge supercells, tornadoes, etc - to come back to a 'normal' UK life after that can be very hard to comprehend, certainly for the first few days.

However, I think the biggest thing to get over is not so much the storms themselves, but the fact that living a nomadic lifestyle for a couple of weeks, where the things which matter are: finding a storm; finding a bed; finding gas; finding food, is great fun! To have to come back to working, chores, etc, is hard! Of course, we have to because chasing doesn't pay for itself (for most folks anyway). One thought is that next year seems to far away, but life has shown me that it will actually pass quickly, and then it gets scary to think about what can happen within the next year, and will life be different by the time I next go? That's the stage where I tend to get over the fact chasing is over this year, and start living my 'normal' life again!
 
Aug 27, 2009
156
43
11
Interesting point and I feel very much the same. I was only able to chase for 6 days this year and only one of these days was an actual chase day! So, basically I waited for a full year only to have one day. I keep coming back to Twitter & StormTrack, read about other's experiences etc but it is quite painful at times, especially when you hear about great storms etc. Yeah, the withdrawal is bad for me!

Paul: It looks like fun is not really over for you though, I see a Moderate Risk over parts of England today! Sweden is typically disqualified from having any type of severe weather, ever. Unfortunately, I don't have a car but otherwise I may have gone down the continental part of Europe this week.
 
Jun 14, 2009
76
33
11
Brooklyn, NY
I think the biggest thing to get over is not so much the storms themselves, but the fact that living a nomadic lifestyle for a couple of weeks, where the things which matter are: finding a storm; finding a bed; finding gas; finding food, is great fun!
Excellent point, and I hadn't thought of that. I've had the same experience on long multi-day or week outdoor trips (kayaking, biking, etc). It's the simplicity of it. And Storm chasing adds a lot more excitement to that equation. :)

John
 

Scott Sheppard

We are lucky to have a passion that is so enjoyable for us. I can identify with the withdrawal. Personally I have found it helps to inject other types of adventures throughout the rest of the year.
 

Deano

Enthusiast
Feb 18, 2012
2
3
0
Great topic.

The depression for me is huge and this last week at work has been rough, its like it never happened and lasts quite a while, some times it takes me up to and over a month to get over a few weeks storm chasing.
Eventually the pain fades in August and here in Australia our season picks up Late Sept, but more so mid October through January, so I get my storm fix every 6 months or so but its still nothing compared to chasing the plains.

Everything about it is great the long drives, lack of sleep, all the funny in jokes and laughing that occurs thanks to days of lack of sleep, the banter, chasing a hotel room for the night in a place that you can watch the light show from your room or hotel spa.
The places you stay, the people you meet, the tiny towns you drive through and stop in with the locals loving the Aussie accent, the amazing green fields of wheat and corn the bubbling cu, the flat country. The great food at Applebees Dennys, Ihop and Quiznos and the odd Golden corral buffet all so bad its good.

The great net coverage, watching the new model updates come in, reading out the new Meso discussions, Tornado watches and NWS forecast policy's to everyone in the car, Listening to the radio awaiting the first warning coming over the radio and there breaking in severe weather coverage. The excitement when a tornado warning pops up on GRL3 or the radio.
Looking over the meso analysis page every 5 mins hoping its changed.
Checking the new HRRR run, the hours sitting on a dirt road in the middle of no where watching a storm build and feeling the moist SE winds flow into it and the silence before other chasers arrive is defending, yet calming and relaxing but also exciting as you watch it build hoping it produces.

Waking up to see the racing stratus and gusty SE winds with Dps in the 60s and the weather channel talking it up.
The way you plan your gas up times so you aren't stuck with no fuel under a meso, the shocking gas station food the very late nights getting ready for the next day and staying ahead of the squall or MCS. The early mornings eating the hotel breakfast looking at the models while the weather channel is on in the background saying tor con 6 today in the central plains today be weather ready.

The hours driving up and Down Interstate 35, 40, 70, 80, 90, and Up and down Highway 83 183 283 and MANY MANY more and stopping at the same gas station and subway or quinos every time.
Hearing the same song like 50 times in the one week and singing along to it by the end of the week, then every time you hear that song even years later it still reminds you of the plains

The daily lightning shows the rain, hail, wall clouds, anvils, and some days the crazy chaser convergence.
The checking Facebook and forums at the end of the day to see how everyone else did and meeting some of them at Dennys, Ihop, Applebees at 1am in the morning.

All the crazy traditions, mascots, little toys, stickers, lucky what ever so and so you have in the hope it will get you a tornado.

There is just NOTHING i can fault about chasing, I LOVE every part of it.

Standing out in the flat plains watching a storm grow, or produce, after hours, days, weeks, months of waiting and forecasting, is the best feeling in the world and you are high for so many hours after its just the best day ever.

So now that i have reminiscent so much, i am now even more depressed lol.

I try and take lots of little trips during the year, always planning the next little trip to stop the PHD (Post Holiday Depression).

But totally agree with what Paul said its the simpleness of it the easy worries and all the fun and excitement thrown in.
Then you come back and its like was it all just a dream, but the pics and video show that it wasn't and you pine to be back there, but it eventually fades and like Paull said you cant wait to be back next year, but will it be the same, you might chase with others, you may not be able to go, alot happens in a year.

Is It May yet?

PS sorry for the very long post, got a tad excited its alot of fun and hard for so many to understand how much fun and how happy we are out on the plains every day when chasing.

PPS This didn't really answer your question James sorry about that, but yeah only thing for me every year is that it eventually fades a month or 2 after i get back and you get fully involved in every day life again. Also the season ends the pictures and forecasts stop, summer kicks in over there and yeah it just fades out before picking up again Late March the following year.
 
Sep 29, 2011
645
612
21
47
Fort Worth, TX
www.passiontwist.com
Passion has two sides, and they are equal in their intensity. But all the misery can be wiped away by one great tornado day. The problem this year is, there has been no tornado day. But the more the misery piles up, the greater the happiness will be when we finally break through again. Tornado hunting gives me plenty of depressing times, because it means everything to me. It's worth it, to be able to have something in life I'm so passionate about and that fills me with so much joy. Many people never find such a thing. I guess to answer your question, I deal with the depression by imaging how happy I'm gonna be when I document my next tornado.
 
  • Like
Reactions: Michael Norris

James Simonds

Interesting this topic came up. It was just yesterday that I was looking on radar at a tornado warned cell. Good structure (on radar), good rotation, overall a pretty good storm. And the entire time all I kept thinking was "wow, I wish I was there." Only in terms of storm chasing can I wish I was 75 miles north and truly mean it.

Here in Michigan we don't have much action, so it can be quite a long time between events. Made worse by the fact I don't have the funds or time to go on a chasecation, I can only cling to past events. In fact, it was a month ago today (May 12) we had some nice supercells in SE Michigan, and yet I'm still thinking about that day. Thinking about the awe inspiring sight of the ominous clouds. Thinking about the hail rattling the roof of my car. Thinking about something that happened a month prior. Once again, only for storm chasing can that be said.

It's the closest parallel I can draw to being an addict. In a lot of ways, chasers are addicts; it's just our drug of choice is severe weather. But being under the base of a rotating meso produces such a euphoric "high," and the eventual crash occurs. "Real life" is bland and mundane in comparison.

I alleviate this to a degree by not thinking about it. I'll focus on other things like work, and spend my free time doing my other hobbies. And when that itch for severe weather arises, I'll even ignore the forecasts, model runs, and videos for a couple days. It's proven to be the only means of keeping my sanity, especially this year.
 
Last edited by a moderator:
Part of the getting over process for me is to try and not look at the US weather for a bit when I get home! Easier for me as 1) I'm 4,500 miles from the Plains, and 2) I'm a meteorologist in the UK, so I can look at our weather. There have been some big storms over here and especially across Europe to keep me interested, although I've not been chasing them. But it's really just to try and not think about chasing for a bit!

I think you have to be able to get over it otherwise you'll end up spiralling into some form of depression, if you pardon the pun.
 
Jun 1, 2008
488
386
11
Chattanooga, TN
www.linkedin.com
Excellent post by Deano on page 1; everything written is spot on! Also I agree with the original post by James, but for slightly different reasons. I get post vacation blues after any trip. Can't ski good mountains in town; only a cruise ship can go in the middle of the sea and stop at exciting ports; and, tropical islands are only in the tropics. I believe the mental investment in our storm chasing trips is why the post vaca blues are more intense after storm chasing.

Resorts and cruise ships have directors and we enjoy their programming. Okay storm tours do too. But for most of us chasing independently, we ARE the resort/cruise director. We program the trip. Pick the motels; pick eateries; forecast; nowcast; navigate; document; socialize; and, everything Deano said. The emotional highs and lows of a chase are unique. Many of us go on a guys/gals/friends trip totally away from even family responsibility. When I go back to the Great Plains I'm visiting old friends and coworkers on down/rest days. The social and science nexus of a storm chasing trip is so unique and incredible, but I propose the biggest mental/emotional investment is being our own resort/cruise director. We go from total control, other than nature, to regular hum drum life post-vaca.

All that said, I'm usually okay after a good trip. It is fun to share the video and still pix with people in Tenn. Also I guess I still have some hope being in Dixie Alley, but it is just not the same as the Great Plains. A good trip satisfies me; bad trip means I go out again. This year we whiffed Mother's Day weekend; probably deserved to whiff for going THAT weekend, lol. Gustnado Nation last week was fun even though we did not book any traditional tornadoes. I'm fine. Maybe next year we'll get another Rozel.

Other outdoor hobbies helps. Still got beach summer and mountain hiking ahead. Fall color is awesome around here; then, it is ski season. Other seasonal hobbies help get back to spring faster. Stay positive!
 

Dan Robinson

Staff member
Jan 14, 2011
2,553
2,219
21
St. Louis
stormhighway.com
I come from a different angle on this question. Since I moved to the Midwest in 2010, I've had a never-ending storm season. Here, tornado events are spread out fairly evenly through the entire year, and require a fairly continuous monitoring of forecasts and a need to be in "chase standby" mode all the time - even in the dead of winter. So, when I get home from a Plains chase trip, I can never fully disengage from that mode. I've quite literally been on a 4 & a half year-long "chase trip" with a "chase base" here in the Midwest. In some ways, I miss the ability to put storm chasing "away" for the year and focus on other things like I did when I lived far away from here. There's some blessing in that. It keeps the novelty of the spring season intact and fresh every year. Would I trade all of my "off season" non-Plains tornadoes to have that again? Probably not - but if I was forced to due to life circumstances out of my control, I could definitely accept it.
 
May 22, 2007
65
0
5
Lynnwood, Washington
I have never taken full blown chase vacations, but I lived for a few years up until 2009 in Nebraska. My wife and I would get out as often as we could for chasing when events occurred within about a 100 mile radius of us. My feeling was similar, though, in that sure I lived there and had access to the events all season long, but those in reality were spread out enough that the mundane life that is found in that area outside of chasing really got to me between chases. Whenever we'd be out going somewhere I'd think of how sad and boring it is compared to when we were in that same spot during a storm event x number of weeks or months ago. Even very small things, such as going past a gas station in a tiny town and feeling so sad thinking about the time we stopped there to use the restroom and pick up snacks while we were on a chase and ended up bagging a nice tornado just a half hour later.
It was just an entirely different world being in the car with our equipment, radio tuned into breaking severe weather coverage while out on random county roads with nothing around us but corn fields was like a high- there was nothing more exciting to me than that. Going home afterwards and getting up for work the next morning on a "normal" weather day just was a different world- might as well have been a totally different dimension, even, considering how differently it felt to me.
 
Jul 5, 2009
877
602
21
Newtown, Pennsylvania
Bumping this quite-old thread rather than starting a new one, which should please the MODs (BTW, I was unable to find this by searching on “transition”, I had to page back forever through my own content to finally find it...)

....Anyway, now that many chase vacations are coming to an end, I wanted to revisit this topic... Maybe some that responded before have new perspectives or coping strategies... Hoping to get many others to participate, now that the ST forum has been revitalized...

Also, to add a new perspective (but feel free to comment however you like on the original question) - is the “transition” easier or harder spending on whether you had a:

1. Great / successful chase vacation with some excitement, adventure, or intense experiences
2. Bad chase vacation but only because the weather just didn’t cooperate
3. Bad chase vacation that was your own fault, i.e the weather did provide opportunities but you didn’t see anything because of your own forecast and/or execution errors

Personally, I would rank them from most difficult to easier transitions as follows: 1, 3, 2. They are all hard transitions, this is just a relative ranking.

I call #1 most difficult because, although a successful trip may be satisfying, settling back to real life of “volume 5” after a couple weeks of intense experiences at “volume 11” - coming down off the high, so to speak - I have found to be a very tough adjustment. It’s hard to concentrate on any routine, mundane personal or work stuff back home.

#2 is not easy either but is easiest of the three for me; the itch is not scratched, it’s tough to wait another whole year to satisfy the craving, but it’s also aggravating when the weather doesn’t cooperate so it’s easy to say “screw this, I’m outta here!” You go home knowing you didn’t see anything, but you didn’t miss anything either. Of course, if it’s just poor timing and you miss good stuff before or after your chase trip, this may become a more difficult transition.

#3 is me this year. It’s a close call in ranking this as an easier transition situation than #1. In some ways #3 should be the hardest transition of all: the added sense of failure, regret, frustration and disappointment over bad decisions and “what might have been” should make it more difficult than #2, where the lack of success was due to the weather and out of your control. And #3 lacks the sense of satisfaction that #1 has. With #3, you have to wait a whole year for the next possible opportunity for success. But while the transition still sucks, I find it a little easier than #1 because the frustration still leads me to say “get me the hell outta here, this is BS and the aggravation just isn’t worth it!” (Mind you, that’s just a coping mechanism!)
 
  • Like
Reactions: Jeff House
Jun 1, 2008
488
386
11
Chattanooga, TN
www.linkedin.com
Good stuff. I might add a semi-satisfied category, which was us this year. End of the last day is sad. Unless it's a grand finale wedge-fest, which this year was not. In 2008 the last day was our best day, 3-4 cycles of mayhem.

You know what I feel when I have to leave the Plains? I feel like I just spent a week with that long-distance siggy other. Then the good-bye for who knows how long is just awful. I sure don't miss the single days lol!

But yeah, end of chase-cation is that feeling.
 
  • Like
Reactions: JamesCaruso
May 22, 2007
132
40
6
Mesa Arizona
Thanks for bumping this old thread. I enjoyed reading old posts from like minded people. We are a unique bunch of crazies! At least here in Arizona the Monsoon season is not far away. Not the same, but it helps the post chase blues a little.
 
  • Like
Reactions: JamesCaruso

Todd Lemery

Supporter
Jun 2, 2014
485
474
21
54
Menominee, MI
I made the difficult transition back to real life and it didn’t take long for me to want to chase rain showers to cure my thirst. I’m tentatively planning on heading back down late next week when the moisture might return. It’s weird for me because after about a week or so of chasing I really feel the tug of home and then when I get home it takes me a few days and the plains start tugging me back. I think I just need the plains being home...
 
The withdrawal use to be really difficult when chasing involved photography as a very profitable living. It was also a lot more enjoyable without the convergence. I would often spend 40+ days tornado chasing. I once turned around about half way back to Tucson, deciding I was not done and it payed off about 3 days later. I was single then and had no reason to come home. There was a withdrawal period that took a couple of weeks. Fortunately for me, the monsoon season kicked in during the first or second week of July, followed by the hurricane season. By the end of September, I was ready for a vacation, but could not wait until spring.
 
  • Like
Reactions: JamesCaruso
Sep 7, 2013
571
400
21
Strasburg, CO
Monsoon is a nice transition period. Sort of helps to slowly bring down the high as we transition into having a regular people's summer filled with BBQs and tending to the garden.

And in CO...anything can happen all through the summer into fall, so sometimes there's a nice little severe treat to keep the blood pumping.
 
  • Like
Reactions: JamesCaruso
May 22, 2007
132
40
6
Mesa Arizona
Upgrading equipment, vehicle mods and looking at new technologies help keep one "connected" for awhile. I myself will be researching and building a retractable hail shield for the F 150. I lost my windshield AGAIN this year on the Fort Stockton storm.
 
Jul 5, 2009
877
602
21
Newtown, Pennsylvania
Upgrading equipment, vehicle mods and looking at new technologies help keep one "connected" for awhile. I myself will be researching and building a retractable hail shield for the F 150. I lost my windshield AGAIN this year on the Fort Stockton storm.
I hear ya’, but personally the only coping mechanism that works for me is to try to completely *disconnect*.

Apparently, I am not doing that successfully, or I wouldn’t even be on here... 😒