Vacation. Vacation. Vacation.
Before the age of 40, this word was something for other people.
I grew up with parents who camped. As in tents. In the rain. In the UK. Sure we made it to Germany and Italy a few times (still in the tent), but largely my remembrances of ‘vacation’ are of rain trickling down the inside of the fly sheet and yet another game of solitaire on my damp sleeping bag. We upgraded to an Airstream in the late 80’s but by then, all I was hankering for was some privacy and the opportunity to put on dry clothes once in a while. A pool? that was for other people and the idea of flying to another country to take a break.. well that was just showing off. We had the sea (a balmy 45 degrees) and our trusty station wagon with the 8 track tapes of John Denver and Abba. Yes, we were the British Griswolds. Vacations meant work and total relief when they were over, not least from my Dad, who seemed to spend each one with veins popping on his forehead.
By the time I reached adulthood, my ‘vacations’ typically meant a trip back to rainy Blightly to visit the ‘rents and my sister, confirming that a) I was still eating my greens, b) I was still part of the family even though I now resided 3200 miles away and c) guilt gets me on a plane.
In my first 10 years living in the US I took over 25 trips home (5 in one year)… so vacation typically involved not a lot of relaxing, but an awful lot of rain, tea and sleeping in my childhood bed.
On the good side I met my nieces and stocked up on clothing that fit, on the downside, it wasn’t what I’d call a ‘holiday’. But I considered it the price I had to pay in order to have 50 other weeks of the year to myself so I didn’t question it. Instead I squeezed in long weekend ‘vacations’ that, limited by funds (those international trips are pricey), typically involved camping and/or mountain biking. Which is cheap, fun, totally healthy but lets face it, not terribly relaxing when you spend your nights wide eyed and waiting for the reenactment of ‘Grizzly Man’. I can still can’t lie in a tent without hearing an German intonation of ‘ I believe the common character of the universe is not harmony, but chaos, hostility, and murder’. Yep, nice bedtime thoughts on vacation.
I love backpacking and camping. You wake when its light, you sleep when it dark and its totally acceptable not to shower for 3 days and live on beer. If you’re riding, there isn’t anything to think about except the trail, the mosquitoes eating your ass and whether you have enough water to make it back to camp. If you’re backpacking, its just one step in front of another for hours and hours. So kind of relaxing. I certainly wasn’t thinking about cleaning my bathroom or a new pair of Stuart Weizmanns at the time.
But then I got older and had my first taste of a true vacation. You know, the one involving a hotel, a beach, surf and that irreplaceable smell of burnt skin and suntan lotion. Kauai. My second home and the only place I think of when I hear the word vacation. I even say the world ‘vaaaccccation’ when I think of the beach, lunches of Bubba’s burgers and waking to the sound of chickens.
Sure I like visiting places, meeting new people and exploring new cultures.. but when I need to relax, all I need is Kauai. It never changes, I don’t feel weird being on my own and I’ve met some awesome people in bars, on the beach, in a kayak.. you name it. The snorkeling is unbelivable (I ran into a massive turtle last year) and there’s only on road on the island, so its hard to get lost.
One day I’ll explore China and Asia, climb a mountain or two and France is probably due for a return visit.. but for relaxing… mmmmm…. Kauai.
But, after my money pit house and my horrific year of bad financial outcomes I’ve had to swear off vacations for a while. At least the ones involving beaches and hotel beds. And certainly ones in the middle of the Pacific. Debt takes a long time to get rid of and no amount of justification will enable me to get on a plane and head west to relax. Instead it’s going to be a summer of Thermarests and sleeping bags, short trips to visit friends and lots of ignoring that ‘Kauai’ voice in my head.
On the plus side my apartment does have a swimming pool, so maybe I can scrunch up my eyes, download some ‘sounds of the surf’ and pretend like I’m in the place I want to be. There won’t be sand or chickens or Bubbas, and my chance of seeing a whale or a seal is pretty much zero.. but hey, its Colorado, you never know whats coming out of the sky next.