Wednesday, September 2, 2009
What I Learned on My Summer Vacation
I don’t know if I ever had to write a summer vacation essay as a kid. If I did, I would have written about swimming and playing on the shores of Lake Powell with my family and all of our friends. Carefree. Secure. A tradition for 12 years of my life. Sometimes I miss vacations like that. The trips that take you around the world, in a tumble of train schedules and early morning flights and religious art and surreal architecture can be exhausting. But here are a few things I learned from that kind of vacationing:
People are generally good. Mr. Wonderful and I had several instances where we got lost or momentarily displaced, and more than once complete strangers approached us and tried to help. Even if they couldn’t speak our language, they attempted to communicate with us and help us figure out which Metro ticket to buy or which direction to go to get to our destination.
Someone should always investigate how you’ll be traveling from the airport/train station/metro stop to the hotel. Otherwise, you waste lots of time trying to figure out where you are and where you need to be. (See above).
Parks are wonderful places to read and people watch. I never go to the park at home. I always think I’m going to take a book and go sit in a botanical garden or along a hiking trail, and then something comes up. But when I was away, I did this several times and it was lovely and relaxing. I enjoyed hearing the breeze rustle my pages. I smiled as I watched toddlers run around the grass and giggle at their mommies. I paid attention to flowers and squirrels. I need to do this on a more regular basis.
Spiders like riverbanks. We walked down to a bench on the Thames one night to have a glass of wine and watch the sunset, and both of us shuddered as we looked up at the streetlamp and saw it absolutely filled with big, burly spiders. Mr. W thinks they hang out close to the river (and in houses on the river) because there are more bugs there to eat. I do not miss this about Richmond…
Wheat beer just tastes good. I have a acquired a new love of Hoegaarden and hefeweizen. They’re light and gingery and delicious.
Carrying a backpack in 95° heat is not for me. I knew I had “temperature issues”—meaning I get cold very fast and hot very fast. My internal thermometer is extremely sensitive. And it’s connected to my temperament gauge. Hot and sweaty = grouchy. Especially when carrying luggage and walking to or from a train station. I actually had a moment where I thought, “Is this what it’s going to feel like to be pregnant? Like there’s this awful thing attached to me that’s making me hot and tired and cranky and I CAN’T GET IT OFF?” If so, I may hire a surrogate some day...
When it comes to the weather and your hair, there’s no use in fighting. This is a hard lesson, especially if you have mega spastic twangy hair that is usually somewhat behaved in your home climate. You want it to be like it is at home…but you should really just accept that it’s not going to behave and try to pull off a wavy do or just wear it in braids.
It’s always smart to have a variety of medication on hand. You never know when someone is suddenly going to feel like their head or intestinal tract is going to explode. It’s good to be prepared for every scenario.
The one time you leave your camera at home, you’ll wish you hadn’t. There will always be something you wish you could’ve taken a picture of, and if you’re trying to cram in a lot of sights, you may never make it back to the one you missed.
If it’s going to result in a new life experience, spend the money. Shelling out cash can be a crapshoot. Sometimes it’s worth it (like the one-on-one wine tasting and regional information class we took in Beaune) sometimes it’s not (like the guided tour we took through the hills of vineyards). But you’ll always come away having seen something new.
TripAdvisor can be extremely handy. If you’re researching hotels or looking for a good restaurant, it’s a great resource.
Try to savor every moment because when you get home, it could all feel like a dream. A dream that took months to plan and minutes to pass. A dream that was different than you expected, but one you’d be happy to relive. A dream that leaves you wishing you were still sleeping.