Saturday, August 9, 2008

On Not Going on Vacation

This year my husband and I are not going on a vacation. I cannot remember ever going a whole year without a trip somewhere. When I lived with my parents, we went on long camping vacations every year, criss -crossing the country from one end to the other. When I was single I didn't travel as much as I should have, but I went on some really cool trips nonetheless. Since I married DH, we have gone on at least one vacation every year; many years we went on several. This year, Daughter Dear had the opportunity to go on a bunch of absolutely magnificent trips with school and with friends, so we spent our vacation money on sending her to cool places and we stayed home.

It's August in Florida. That means that the only people here are tourists. Like the French, Floridians take to the roads in August. They tend to go to places that are cool (literally), like mountains (almost anywhere), Canada, northern Europe. The upshot of that for me is that I feel as though I am the only person in my world who isn't taking a vacation this year. Because I kind of am. That makes me sort of depressed.

In fact, I find myself feeling envious, which is not one of the Seven Deadly Sins for nothing. I rarely worry about sin too much (since I'm pretty agnostic about the hereafter), but envy is one of those sins that is really, really destructive in the here and now, so I try to avoid the occasion of that particular sin.

The irony about my feeling depressed about not going on vacation or envious of those who travel is that I don't really like to travel. I don't like the process of traveling: the packing and lugging suitcases (even though I travel lighter than anyone I know); the endless hours being cooped up in a car or a plane; the hassle of flying; sleeping in strange beds; using public bathrooms; eating in restaurants. I hate all of that stuff. There is a part of me that would love to never again go outside the triangle between my house, my job and the beach. Everything I need can be found within that triangle. Why do I need to go elsewhere?

I need to go elsewhere for two reasons. One is because, getting outside of my comfort zone and having adventures is good for me, whether I like it or not.

The other is that my need to experience beauty outweighs my irritation at the hassle of traveling. I am not the kind of traveler who immerses myself in the culture of the place I am visiting. I do not interact a lot with the "locals" (I'm not much for talking to strangers). What I do when I travel is look for beautiful things to see.

Some of my most vivid and amazing memories are:

  • Coming around a corner on some road in the Rocky Mountains and passing through a tiny high meadow filled with blooming wild-flowers of every imaginable color. Against the backdrop of the grey rock and under a crystal sky, it almost hurt my eyes. I was only a child when I saw that meadow, and I can still see it. It has been my psychic and spiritual refuge my entire life.
  • Getting my first glimpse of the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, peeking through the pine forest. Tiny glimpses here and there, for only a second, but hints of unbelievable grandeur of the canyon. Actually, the entire drive from Las Vegas to the Canyon is pretty spectacular.
  • Nearly all sunrises are magnificent, but the most incredible sunrise I ever experienced was on a train from Nice to Barcelona. There were not enough seats, so my friends and I had to stand in the corridor all night long, with our suitcases piled in front of us. To the extent we slept, it was merely dozing, leaning against our suitcases. It was a long, horrible night, but it ended in a sunrise over the Mediterranean that makes tears come to my eyes just thinking about it. The sun rose red, and the black sea turned to something that looked like liquid rubies. The rocks and the cliffs in the foreground were still night-black. I think I took a whole role of pictures, none of which did justice to the glory of the moment.
  • Bryce Canyon early in the morning when the light is still soft and the rock is pink and white. Looks like a little girl's birthday cake.
  • The Grand Tetons early in the morning with the sun shining directly on the face of the mountains.
  • Almost any beach in the Caribbean.
  • Going through the Strait of Messina between the toe of the Italian boot and Sicily. Actually, the entire day when we cruised around the Italian peninsula to Rome consisted of one unbelievably magnificent vista after another, on both sides of the ship. I am such a horrible cruiser, I didn't even take time out to eat! By the evening, my eyes and my soul almost hurt. It was almost too much beauty to experience in one day.
  • Sunset over the Gulf of Mexico, from almost any point between Sarasota and Key West. R
  • Riverboats on the Ohio River, in particular the aptly named American Queen. Once, I was standing on a dock at the marina where we kept our boat waiting for my husband (who was in the bathroom or something). I was looking downstream and sort of day-dreaming. Suddenly, the American Queen came into my field of peripheral vision, and literally took my breath away. I had, at that point, never seen an ocean cruise ship. She was the biggest, grandest and most magnificent floating thing I'd ever seen up until that point. She filled up the river. Slowly and magnificently she passed by so close I felt I could reach out and shake hands with the passengers on deck, with the paddle slapping the water in a rhythm. That made me think people aboard that ship must sleep very well at night, indeed.
  • The view from the top of the Dunlawton bridge in Port Orange. Heading east, that is the first place where you can see the Atlantic Ocean. Heading west, at the end of the day, almost any day you see either fabulous sunsets or storm clouds and Florida's magnificent lightning. (Florida likes to advertise its sunshine. The fact is, Florida's lighting is totally awesome, too.)
Fortunately that last one is close to home and I can go there anytime I want.

That caused me to think about other beautiful places and things close to home. And, so.... to counteract the onset of depression, envy and the inevitable self-pity that goes with those two evil twins, I will embark on a quest for the beauty that is around me in my daily life. I will look for the beautiful things I see every day, and don't usually even notice. I will consciously savor the experience of those beautiful things.

It's not exactly a vacation but it will be an adventure... which is the whole point.

I'm excited!

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