It’s Easter weekend, and the missus and I are taking the next week off for a brief vacation. We’ve vacationed before; in fact have done so with such frequency over the years that there’s not much left for us to vacate. You name the place – we’ve either been there or can find it on a map (well, a Google map).
Recently the term “staycation” became part of the lexicon. It appears to have taken root during the most recent recession when every American was suddenly laid off and/or underwater on a sub-prime mortgage and couldn’t afford $4 a gallon for gas, and was therefore unable to go anywhere. Since all modes of transportation were now priced beyond middle-class reach, families stayed at home and generated adventures in their own neighborhoods. Instead of the ocean — swim in the pool. Instead of the mountains — climb the stairs. Instead of doing something new, exotic and fun — watch DVDs all week. Fortunately, the economy appears on its way to recovery despite how much the GOP denies it, so travel has become de rigueur (from the French, meaning “trapped in the car”) again.
Some folks have their vacation “spot” – the same destination they head for during those precious one or two weeks off during beach or ski season. The advantage of this approach is that planning becomes easier over the years – you know where you’re going, you know what you’ll do when you get there, you know which restaurants to avoid. Others are more adventurous — reading travel guides and planning itineraries that will take them to far and distant lands. The advantage here is the thrill of discovery of the new; the risk is you find yourself thousands of miles from home, perhaps surrounded by people speaking a language you don’t understand and oh shit where’s my credit card??
People look forward to vacations because they claim they need a break from work. Gee, I don’t know what you do for a living, but at my job I have uninterrupted access to the Internet, get to eat anything I want for lunch for free (depending on what I find when rummaging through the refrigerator) and can sit in a bathroom stall and read without anyone clamoring to get in to grab a hair dryer. Why would I want to leave that kind of bliss behind?
Here’s an oxymoron for you: “family vacation”. Isn’t your family what you need to get away from in the first place? Much less jam them all into a 120-square-foot motel room with only one toilet? One of the strangest things I experienced recently was being on a business trip and seeing families checking into the hotel — as their ultimate destination. They weren’t staying there as a base of operations for daily excursions into the surrounding metropolitan area or zoo or museums, or because Grandma’s house doesn’t have enough bedrooms for company. No, these families would troop down for breakfast, let the kids make all the free waffles they wanted, and then the moms and dads spent the rest of the day sitting in plastic chairs while their shrieking children jumped in and out of a chlorine-saturated indoor pool. For a change of pace, their shrieking children jumped on me in the heated whirlpool. Some parents would set their kids loose in the exercise room: running backwards on the treadmill, playing giant inflatable dodgeball, or climbing on the weight station like it was a jungle gym. These families didn’t even go out for dinner; they’d have Papa John’s delivered to the hotel lobby, and then they’d sit in the dining room eating pizza and watching TV just like they would do at home. For these families, the “vacation” was a break from having to make their own beds or clean their own bathrooms.
(On a related note – don’t you find it odd when a hotel has a laundry room? If you’re on vacation and doing laundry, that is one shitty vacation…)
Anyway — next week it’ll be just us two adults engaging in some sorely-needed time away from the overly-familiar. I’m looking forward to a trip to the Cape. I wonder where Carol decided to go?