Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Vacating the Vacation

Do I list my "Pour the Perfect Pint" certificate under awards and honors or education?
Ian and I have never vacationed on an island. The closest we've come to a tropical locale is Disney World. If we were to visit our friends and family who live in Hawaii, we would probably spend more time hiking or museum-going than we would on the beach. This is partially due to the fact that neither of us is particularly gorgeous in a bathing suit, but that's not the whole story. Our problem with the lounge-chair vacation is that, well, it's so sedentary.

We both sit on our butts all day. He's an engineer working in an office; I'm a freelance writer working from home. Between us, I actually get more exercise, even if I don't "work out"--I do chores, play with the cat, or pace the apartment--and when he gets home, though he's just worked a full day and accomplished more than I have, he empties the dishwasher, cleans the floors, or anything he can do so as not to sit down. Since vacations are about vacating the day-to-day, it doesn't occur to us to book a room in a fancy resort, get a massage (though between his lower back and my shoulders, we could run a masseuse ragged), and spend hours in the sun with a book. He already reads news before work and novels before bed, and I make a point of reading, on average, a book a week. Plus we're pasty. We burn. If we're going to risk sun damage we'd rather do it on a mountain or in a boat.

This year, we risked no sun damage--in fact, we hardly saw the sun at all. We spent our two weeks' vacation in Ireland, starting in Dublin and circling around in a little green car (whom we named Anne Marie, after our favorite B&B owner) until we had seen all we had the time to see. Ian mastered the art of driving on the left and I mastered the art of shutting up and letting him drive. We saw castles, churches, sheep, natural wonders, more sheep, and we drank a lot of beer. At the Guinness Storehouse in Dublin, we even learned to pour the perfect pint.

Ian's pint was much more perfect than mine, but I still got my certificate.
We hiked in two different national parks, despite the rain and poor trail markings. We saw the Blarney stone but didn't venture to kiss it. We went inside gaol cells, saw bog-preserved remains, learned about Vikings, and heard traditional (or as one local called it, "proper") music. We walked several miles almost every day, even though we had a car. By the time we got to the airport to go home (a twenty-four hour trip, with three flights and two layovers) we were exhausted. We needed the cliched "vacation from our vacation."

This is what happens every time. Our trip to Ireland, our trip to England, both trips to Disney World, the road trips through California and the Black Hills--after all these so-called vacations, we're wiped. For about a day and a half, we see the appeal of the quiet hammock on the beach. If we've scheduled well, we usually get a day to recuperate, but often Ian wants to max out his paid vacation by spending it all abroad, making for a groggy first day back at his desk. I'm a little luckier, since even if I have deadlines approaching, I can still sleep in or take a nap. Despite the initial exhaustion, our active vacations make us appreciate the peace and quiet of our daily lives.

Except here's the thing: This time, after a little recuperation, I'm not feeling appreciative of peace or quiet. I'm getting restless already, wishing I had another city to explore, more history to learn. It's a good thing I have boxes so I can start packing for our move, because I don't want to settle into the same old habits I've had since graduating with my MFA. I've started applying for jobs in my new town, even though I won't be there for two-and-a-half weeks, even if they aren't the jobs for me anyway. I'm looking at volunteer opportunities, ways to get out of the house, to learn and contribute, so that when we move I won't be dragging my old solitude along with me.

This vacation helped me realize that I prefer forward motion to stasis, that relaxation is highly overrated. After I graduated in June, I applied for several jobs. None of those worked out. Because I knew I would be moving in less than a year (something I made the mistake of telling one of the employers), because the local job market was clogged with recently laid-off university faculty and staff, and because I promised myself that I wouldn't work in customer service again, I decided to stay home and work on my writing. It was a rare opportunity and I'm lucky to have it, but it turns out, it's pretty lonely. I got myself out there for a while by volunteering at the animal shelter, but interestingly enough, in a college town there are more volunteers than there are openings (plus, if you want another reason I quit, I'll show you the scar on my arm). After that, I auditioned for and was cast in a play, but of course, these things end eventually. I'm in a holding pattern right now, still too far from my new life to jump into it and wandering away from the life I'll leave behind. But I'm preparing to be busy. And one of these days, who knows? I might long for an island vacation after all.

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