A new illness has been diagnosed: Post-Paradise Stress Disorder (PPSD). The symptoms are severe and pernicious: patients suffer from depression, irritability and exquisite sensitivity to local weather patterns, especially cold, wet, or icy ones. Occurring all over North America, it’s been heavily reported in northern climates, including Ontario, Canada, where the disease was first discovered.
The cause of PPSD is not currently known, although there seems to be a strong correlation with boarding a flight home from a Maui vacation. (This specificity is notable, because there doesn’t seem to be a connection with flights coming into the island, or with air travel in general.) Experts do not yet know whether the illness is communicable and picked up in the Kahului Airport (OGG), or if it happens when susceptible persons land on their home tarmac.
There is no treatment at this time, although anecdotal evidence suggests that booking another Maui vacation can ease symptoms. Experts also note that travelers who use a certain specialty travel guide to Maui seem to be able to avoid PPSD altogether.
The sooner treatment begins the better, because as the disease progresses symptoms worsen and there is an increased likelihood of filing a lawsuit. The lawsuits tend to be frivolous and impossible to win, which is one reason experts believe this is more than just a mood disorder.
“It’s like something snaps in their central nervous system,” Dr. Robert Gould, a neurologist in Toronto said, “because normal Canadians are not particularly litigious.”
He continued, “But these PPSD patients can get downright irrational. They’ll sue anyone. I had one patient who sued his dry cleaner after he picked up his dry cleaning and found only wool suits and dress shirts. He insisted he had dropped off five silk Tommy Bahama shirts. He thought he was still on Maui. When he recovered, he had frostbite from wearing nothing but flip flops all week – in the middle of January. And he still insists on calling them ‘slippahs.’”
How to Prevent PPSD In Yourself and Your Traveling Companions
So what should Maui-bound travelers do to minimize their likelihood of getting PPSD? Experts have several suggestions:
- Make sure your Maui vacation is long enough, especially in winter months, when you may be more vulnerable to PPSD. Studies have shown that most people don’t adjust to Maui’s more relaxed, sunny climate until at least two full days have passed – and sometimes longer. A vacation that lasts less than one full week may not reduce tension in the central nervous system enough, making it prone to “snapping” later on. Ten days seems to be the ideal length of time, and, if possible, even longer.
- Take it easy. Those who are used to “doing everything” and “making the most of an opportunity” seem to be especially prone to developing PPSD. Plan on having at least one full day of doing nothing but sitting on the beach.
- Get a tan. Experts are not sure why, but good amounts of Maui sun exposure seems to have some protective benefits against PPSD. There is some speculation that this is due to an increase in the synthesis of hormonal Vitamin D, nicknamed “the sunshine vitamin,” which is only produced in the body as a result of sun exposure.
- Eat well on Maui. It turns out that eating over-priced, average (or worse) food on Maui may increase your chance of developing PPSD. Experts are not sure why, but speculate that disappointing meals lead to an overall suppression in the immune response. Also, a majority of PPSD patients (77%) surveyed reported that symptoms started within minutes of opening their credit card bills and seeing how much they spent dining out on Maui.
Travel Guide Provides Best Protection From PPSD
“Don’t risk it,” said Ed Byer, a Madison, Wisconsin native who suffers from PPSD, “saving a few bucks is not worth this hell I’m living in now.”
“I’m miserable all the time, I’ve alienated my wife … and I can’t get back to Maui for another year or two, because I frittered away $600 on stupid meals that didn’t even taste that great. That’s a round-trip ticket! I wish I’d listened and picked up Top Maui Restaurants. It would certainly have been cheaper.”
I laughed at my brother for bringing [Top Maui Restaurants] with him on his trip a few months ago, but I shouldn’t have.
– Ed Byer, PPSD sufferer, Madison, Wisconsin
Top Maui Restaurants, the specialty travel guide to Maui, seems to have a protective benefit for those susceptible to PPSD. The book features over 160 full restaurant reviews, plus tips on grocery shopping, getting around on Maui, and even activity advice. Experts speculate that the book’s superb organization, with an entire section dedicated to “just the top” restaurants listed by location, budget, and even food craving, may be key to its success as a potential treatment for PPSD.
“I laughed at my brother,” Byer continued, “for bringing it with him on his trip a few months ago, but I shouldn’t have. He re-adjusted to Madison fine when he got back. He says it’s because he ate only really delicious food, and never felt ripped off, even when he splurged on a meal. He ate all those weird tropical fruit I couldn’t figure out how to get into – he says the instructions were right in the book. He even found out where to get beer and wine for the condo, cheap. He didn’t waste time arguing with his family about where to eat – he would just flip to the back of the book and see the whole ratings section and they would agree within minutes where to go that night. Even his kids loved that book. He and his wife have already hosted two winter “mai tai” parties this year. I couldn’t go. Just the smell of rum triggers my anger so much I get nauseous, now – and then I feel like suing someone.”
Pros and Cons of PPSD Treatment
“Just get a copy [of Top Maui Restaurants],” Toronto-based Dr. Gould recommends, “because – while I can’t yet scientifically determine its mechanism or how it protects you from PPSD – the evidence so far is overwhelming. I used it, myself, when I was in Maui last year. I didn’t find out about it until the end of my stay, and I wasn’t sure it would help if I only used it for two days, but I figured it couldn’t hurt.”
Did it help? Dr. Gould thinks so.
“Apparently I was much more stressed out about choosing restaurants than I had realized,” Dr. Gould remembers, “but I noticed an immediate cessation in all thoughts related to ‘where to eat tonight.’ I really liked the writing, and I read a few reviews of restaurants I had been to, and agreed with them. Once I realized I could trust it to guide me, I just didn’t think about food anymore. It was a relief to know that I could even relax about that – the most primal human urge. This stress-reduction could be part of the book’s key to success in treating PPSD.”
Does he recommend it for everyone who travels to Maui?
Safe, Natural, Non-Toxic, and Common-Sense
“I do,” Dr. Gould said, “Because it is a safe, all-natural, non-toxic treatment for PPSD. At best, it keeps you from getting it altogether. And it costs less than one cocktail at a resort bar. Can I say scientifically that it is the cure for this odd disorder? No, I can’t. But I can certainly say that it will not hurt, and will probably help. I’ve already bought the latest edition, even though I’m not going back to Maui for at least six months. There is also some evidence that reading it in between trips helps to ease the depression associated with PPSD.”
The latest edition of Top Maui Restaurants can be found anywhere books are sold, as well as online. The digital edition, due out by the end of January, 2012, is in .mobi, .epub, and .pdf versions, and also available in the Kindle, Nook, iTunes, and Kobo stores. If you are already on Maui, it may not be too late for the book to work for you: download the digital edition or find the paperback at Whole Foods, Costco, Barnes & Noble, and many other retailers.
Is Love the Key Ingredient?
When reached for comment, the authors were pleased to hear their book may help PPSD sufferers.
“It breaks my heart to think of anyone hurting after their Maui vacation,” Molly Jacobson, who co-authors the guide with her husband James.
“We write this book as if we were writing to dear friends,” she continued, “and we think of our readers first and foremost as we write. We rate restaurants on an ineffable quality we call Love; perhaps our own love for writing about food, and for our readers, comes through. My grandmother, who taught me a great deal about food, once told me that Love is the magic ingredient in every great meal. Maybe that’s true about books, too. At least, I like to think that the love we put into the book is part of why it seems to help.”