Sunday, February 12, 2012

No Really, It's a Vacation

I spent yesterday reading an entire book and it felt wonderful.  It wasn't War and Peace or any other six hundred page novel; I'm not trying to sound impressive.  The act of sitting with a book all day instead of working or being otherwise productive felt great.  Weekends often end up being times when I do the things that I couldn't do during the week — buying groceries, doing laundry, cleaning the apartment, writing blog posts, etc.  By the time it's Sunday night, I'm wishing for an extra day not just because I don't like waking up early on Mondays, but because I need some more down time.  

In this way, weekends are not that different from vacations.  When you travel, you go somewhere in order to see or do specific things.  What's the point of going to France if you sit in your hotel room all day reading a book in English?  If you're in Paris, you should be seeing the Eiffel Tower and the Arc de Triomphe and walking along the Seine and eating crepes.  If you're in Montana, you should be hiking up a mountain at Glacier National Park (location of my 2003 family reunion) and trying to look at a deer without spooking it and drinking huckleberry lemonade.  It's what you're there to do.

Olympic National Park in Washington
Beautiful location of our 2008 Family Reunion

At the same time, vacations are not just about seeing something new.  They are also about taking time to actually relax and enjoy yourself.  Even if you are the type of person who wants to get up at eight every morning to set off and see all the things this new place has to offer, it is worthwhile to spend an afternoon quietly inactive.  

After my sister Becky graduated from college, she and my mom took a ten-day trip to see London and Paris.  They had a great time and still talk about the Parisian bakery that had such beautiful pastries and how, when they asked the shopkeeper if they could take a picture, she was thrilled and rearranged the entire display case so that the prettiest desserts were in the front.  My mom also talks about how trying to see two cities in ten days was exhausting.  She says that because there was so much to do, they both felt guilty if they decided to just sit down for a while.  The summer after my freshman year of college, my mom and I spent five days in London and she made a point of planning only one big event or sightseeing activity each day.  We got to see the Crown Jewels, but we also spent time sitting in the basement cafeteria/crypt of a church near Trafalgar Square drinking tea and eating scones with strawberry jam.
Gardens at Windsor Castle
My mom and I took a day trip to Windsor and just missed seeing Queen Elizabeth arrive.
Traveling with Eric has also shown me the importance of taking time to relax.  During our first trip together, I was surprised by how often he suggested just spending time outside reading our books.  I was also surprised by how much I enjoyed it and how quickly my guilt over not seeing everything faded away.  This past summer when we were in Greece, one of the best afternoons I had I spent sitting at an outdoor cafe in Chania, reading and writing.  I looked out at the harbor, sipped a glass of wine, and alternated between jotting down ideas and reading a paperback mystery.  

Two cafés tucked in under the vines in Chania
I could have done this in the United States, and in some ways that was important.  For me, relaxing means getting lost in a book, whether or not I'm at home or on vacation.  When I am traveling, I do want to see and experience what makes the place I'm in different, but I also want to do what I love and what makes me feel most unwound.  Otherwise, a vacation feels too much like a busy Saturday at home.

Chania, Crete
Another thing I love about Greece: when you just order a drink at a restaurant,
they often bring a plate of olives to go with it. Here it was olives, cheese, cucumbers and tomato slices.
How do you like to spend your vacations?
Do you prefer to be active the whole time, some of the time or not at all?


  1. I'm a fan of weekends of laziness. Also, what book did you read all day?

    1. They're great! I read The English American by Alison Larkin. It was a quick read and really fun. More about it here: