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I awoke confused Friday morning.

To start, I was wearing pyjamas rather than approximately half of what I’d worn the day before. There was no sign of either glitter or confetti in my hair.

My sense of displacement deepened as I boarded the hotel elevator, in which not a single person was wearing sequins or high-fiving everyone else on the elevator.

By the time I made it to the lobby – which was strangely devoid of video-game-esque noises and seizure-inducing flashing lights – and went five whole minutes without anyone attempting to serve me a Bloody Mary, I realised what the problem was: I wasn’t in Vegas anymore.

It’s never easy to return from Las Vegas. I suppose it’s like Oz in that way. Two days ago, everything was in Amazing Technicolor, and now it’s back to black and white. And orange, of course. Maybe a little brown, depending on how hard the wind’s blowing.

As I sit at my desk for my first day at work in two weeks, I find myself glancing around occasionally, hoping someone will appear with a complimentary beverage.

I don’t love Las Vegas for the gambling; I’m not exactly what I would call lucky, and I fully expect the slots to eat my money. I just ask that they do it slowly and, along the way, let me play a little game or two involving Eowyn slaying the Witch-king of Angmar (ask your nerd friends) or Clark Griswold taking the family on a quest to Wally World.

The shopping is both incredible and diverse. One minute, I was mesmerised by bangles at Alex and Ani, the next I was purchasing more socks than I will ever need in my life – particularly considering I rarely wear anything other than flip-flops – from the Sock Market, and the next I found myself unable to live without a set of napkins that proclaim “I’m having some people over to stare at their phones later if you want to come by” at Stupidiotic.

The dining is also an obvious draw. Vegas has become a mecca in the food scene. I’ve never had a bad meal, only varying degrees of awesome, which hit a high point on the last night there, when I managed to get a reservation at Hell’s Kitchen. The food was fantastic; having a hologram Gordon Ramsay shout at you in the foyer that “you’ve put so much ginger in this it’s a Weasley” was equally so.

But the primary reason I love Vegas is its unpredictability. You never know what you’re going to see. You can have a basic plan of action, but it tends to evolve as you go along into something else entirely.

In a city that simply doesn’t slow down or remove itself from your personal space, I’ve found peace in a little hideaway decorated to resemble a late-‘60s, early-‘70s living room in an Irish pub that offers afternoon tea. The Irish bartenders serve up the sandwiches, scones and sweets with a side of conversation as you relax beneath portraits of Van Morrison and Phil Lynott.

The Park between New York-New York and the former Monte Carlo offers a chance to sit outside in the warm evening, enjoying a milkshake and listening as one of Vegas’s many hard-working bar bands belts out ‘90s alternative rock from a nearby craft beer house.

On this particular trip, I learned wearing a Golden Snitch necklace and carrying a Hogwarts Express purse is enough to turn bartenders, servers and hostesses otherwise playing it ultra-cool into squealing kids offering up info on their Houses and patronuses. (And keeping with the Harry Potter theme, a stop at Bad Owl Coffee in Henderson, Nev., is a must for any fan.)

A second visit to The Golden Steer – a steakhouse that once served the likes of Elvis and the Rat Pack, still holding onto its red-leather, candle-lit cool on Sahara – demanded cherries jubilee, prepared tableside by a pro who has likely being serving it up since the restaurant’s heyday.

Then you visit the Titanic exhibition and learn the young woman listed on your boarding pass – and her four children, all aged 8 and under – didn’t make it to America, where their husband and father were waiting, or you purchase Vegas Strong buttons, with proceeds to benefit victims of last year’s shooting, and you remember you’re fortunate to have the opportunity to experience all of these things.

Experience is, of course, the key word. We live in a small town, and we owe it to ourselves to get away when we can, do something fun, try something new. And I don’t just mean hitting all the attractions and hot spots that, yes, you want to and should see but that tend to have you running from one place to the next like you’re on a mission rather than a vacation. I also mean the little places that speak to you personally, that represent something you truly love, and that allow you to slow down and reflect on the moment, where you are, and what it means.

If you haven’t taken a vacation this year, try to do so during these coming ideal months, when most destinations won’t be quite as packed with tourists. And if you’re unable to squeeze it in, start planning now for a getaway in 2019.

Travel is good for the soul. And so are sequins and high-fives from strangers.

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