I’m thinking about vacations because we’re on one right now, and what I think is that just as everyone has their own ideal marriage, everyone has their own ideal vacation. But in case you haven’t planned your vacation yet, I’ll give you some of the options.
The extremely noisy vacation: This is for those of yu who have kids and don’t want to take care of them over the vacation. My friend Tracy is thinking of taking her kids on a Disney vacation to Hawaii. Whether you go to a Disney resort or on a Disney cruise, you can guarantee lots of kids. As a parent, you get to turn the little darlings over to someone else and stagger to the pool where you can read, rest or drink but not too much because your adorable offspring will be returned to you. You should assume everyone on a Disney trip is going to be a parent so you can meet other parents and talk to them about your kids and their kids and other people’s kids who are not as well brought up as yours and theirs.
The drinking vacation: Hopefully with no kids involved, you can do this almost anywhere. A few years ago my hairdresser announced that she was going to Cancun for vacation, but she came back disappointed. What went wrong? I wanted to know. She had hoped to spend her time at the hotel pool lounging and being brought drinks. And what happened? Well, she did spend her vacation there, but what she hadn’t expected was that there were a lot of Mexicans. I tried not to laugh as I explained that situation is something you could expect to encounter in Mexico. But what really amazed me was that she had gone to Mexico at all. If what you want to do is lounge by a pool and drink, you don’t need to go to Puerto Vallarta or Cancun, Waikiki or the Bellagio. Find the nearest nice hotel and check in and call it a vacation. Sure, it’s embarrassing to admit you spent a week at the Marriott in Redlands, but in fact, you’ve had the same experience and without the expense of a plane ride.
The gambling vacation: I’m going to recommend Vegas. Everyone talks about how sickening the new Vegas is, and I have to agree, it is a nauseating mess of overstuffed hotels, but, it’s very American. They have all the gambling you can wish for in the dim cool rooms, and if you’re like me, and don’t care about gambling, it’s still fun. In summer, there is nothing like checking into the Bellagio and walking by the chocolate fountain on your way over to the French restaurant at Paris, Paris where you can see the Bellagio fountains and imagine you’re in Oceans Eleven. You could join George and Brad and plan the heist of a lifetime. And the pools in Vegas are the cotton candy of swimming pools, sheer over the top sugar fun. Of course, it’s not exactly relaxing because there are millions of people in the pool, but other than that, it’s just lovely.
Visiting family: Some people plan their whole vacation driving, flying or taking a bus to visit various relatives in different parts of the country. Given how limited vacation time is for most of us, this just seems plain silly, but I have gone for a weekend to Vegas or Colorado to see my Colorado relatives and we always had a good time. The key is to stay somewhere fun or do something different. We visited a zoo in Kansas with adopted family, and we always remember one lonely golden monkey stretching out his paws through the bars. In Colorado, we stayed at The Stanley Hotel, the inspiration for The Shining where the movie was on loop 24/7 in our room. If there’s one weird relative, and let’s face it, we all have one, remember, the other family members may think you are the strange relative.
Extreme sports: If you are a sports enthusiast, plan your vacation around that. My friend Gina has travelled with her husband to races in one continent after another. They go on vacation when he’s completed his race. So far Antarctica has been omitted, but who knows? I believe Australia is next. There’s spelunking, cliff diving, rock climbing, swimming the English channel, running marathons. Whatever your sport, you can plan a vacation around that.
Cruises: Those who don’t like cruises refer to them as for the overfed and nearly dead. But that’s not really fair. Sure, cruises do feed you far more than a normal human being needs, but you don’t have to eat it all. Specifically, cruises are good for people who want to write one check, step aboard and then not have to make any further decisions. Also, cruises enable you to see the world at a safe distance. Sure, you get off the boat, but not for long. On the island where we’re currently vacationing, you can always pick the cruise people out. They look cleaner than the rest of us; better dressed than they need to be; they travel in groups and tend to have fanny packs and talk to each other loudly. They all visit the same sites and go to the same shops. We are staying on a small Greek island for three weeks; they are leaving the boat for three hours. We are deciding on what to eat, where to swim, all those decisions are being made for them. They are herded around the island to the main sites and then taken back to the boat in water taxis. It has a certain restful quality if you think about it.
Fancy vacations: Whether you actually are the one in the neighborhood wearing fancy pants or whether you like to travel fancy when you get the chance, almost anyone can travel nicely if they want. It depends where you go. You might not be able to stay in a five star hotel in New York or San Francisco, but you might be able to in Bali. If what you really want is to feel like James Bond, travel somewhere that nice hotels are in your budget. That’s probably not going to be Europe. Our friends Mike and Karen love travelling to Asia and staying at high class hotels they could never afford in the U.S.
Staying local or seeing the world? Of course, a lot of that depends on how much money you have. During the years we were raising our kids, we took them camping because we couldn’t afford anything else. The decision of whether or not to travel often depends on who you are taking, finances and time.
Other choices to make on vacations: How to travel. The big question is do you want to take a tour bus or travel on your own? We never take tour buses because we don’t want someone talking to us all the time. To us, being on vacation means not having to be lectured. We take trains or ferries, rent cars, motorbikes or we walk. Do you want to eat out or eat in out? In our early years of vacations with our four kids, we got used to cooking to save money. We liked it. We don’t want to dress up and drag ourselves to some place for dinner every night.
Which brings me to our kind of vacation. The first day we were walking down the road here on Patmos to rent our motorbike it occurred to us that we didn’t know anyone else who would like our vacation besides our friend Adrianne. It’s too quiet for one thing. We arrived in Patmos by ferry, and about four in the morning, we got to the little house. We bought groceries at the small market and every night we make ourselves a little dinner. We ride the bike to beaches where I go for a swim, we take a walk at some point in the day, but most of the time, we listen to music, read and write. The first day here I read Yoko Ogawa’s book The Housekeeper and the Professor which is a quiet book about a quiet life in Japan, a life where all the best parts are behind you, and then maybe they aren’t.
The longer I’m in our friend’s house, which I call, “the house with the blue plates,” the more I can feel myself unraveling, in a good way. It’s the house with blue plates because it actually has blue plates but also because it holds blue sky on its happy plate. The tight knot that keeps me rolling at home, gradually comes undone and I can feel my neck and head relaxing. On the boat ride over, Mark kept rubbing the knots in my neck, trying to get me to relax and sleep. Here I sleep in the dry island air. One casement window holds the moon’s face each night. The same one eyed cat comes to visit each time we come to the island. We call her Godwin the Pirate. We were here when she was caring for a litter of kittens, and one of them, Baby Godwin, stays in the yard while we’re here enjoying the food and water.
You’re thinking all this sounds like we’re reaching some critical juncture. We may be too far in the zone. Can we come back out? Get revved up? Work like animals again when we get home? I’m sure we will. Our schedule when we return involves some heavy lifting. The fall schedule of books, the summer Annenberg events, trips to San Francisco,Portland, Seattle, Omaha, New York, DC, London, Brighton, Frankfurt. And that’s through October. But here, we’re in the zone. My eye has stopped twitching. The one eyed pirate cat stares at me with her one liquid eye.