I'm staying in LA this year instead of doing my usual routine of going home to visit family and friends. Why? For one thing, I don't get that much time off in the new job as compared to before in other ones. But more importantly, I find that every time I do go home, I come back incredibly broke and somewhat bitter about the experience. I mean, I love my family but can only take them for about 3 days or so. As for being broke, I take full ownership but there is a lot of pressure to adhere to society's expectations of being social; I think this has to do with the mentality that I take on which goes something like 'Hey, I'm on vacation! I'm with family again! They used to pay for stuff, now it's my turn! Screw my responsibilities, besides, who knows when I will see them again? Life is short!'
And as such, I go out on the town, buy people meals and drinks out of guilt, or a feeling of obligation, or to renew friendship (as if true friends could be bought) and so on. Plus there's all that gift-getting, going to and throwing of parties, catching movies at the end of the year, sightseeing, travel, going out to eat and social events from before Christmas to the New Year. So by the end I have nothing in my wallet except tons of receipts, an overdrawn bank account (or a high credit card when I used to have one) plus I usually weigh another 10-15 lbs heavier and have some regret and resentment at not better planning my stay.
Each year of course, I vow that the next will be different, and of course, it always remains the same. That is why this year I am abstaining from travel, much to the chagrin of family and friends who don't understand that I have a long-term goal here. Many think I am being odd, selfish or unsociable when instead it's merely a vacation from the old routine which has become quite tiresome over the last few years. It's nice to stay at home in LA and do some day trips to places I've never seen due to time constraints that are fun and inexpensive, without that social anxiety and pressure which comes around family and old friends. It's not super eventful but it beats coming home broke and upset about the whole thing.
When I do travel, I do try to look several months in advance (think July) and use a metasite like Kayak.com which combs all the travel sites. But that's for down the road when money is less of an issue and the career is a little more secure. After all, what fun is it going home to family if you have to beg, borrow and steal or make excuses about money when you're in your late 20s?