Define “vacation”

As we were preparing to leave New York for two weeks’ vacation — visiting my Dad in Ontario, doing a NYT story in Montreal with some leisure time there as well — everyone at Jose’s job was making fun of him.

“North, in winter? You’re heading north?”

Take a Vacation!
Take a Vacation! (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Well, yes. Packing hats, mitts, boots and lots of warm clothing is pretty normal for us. In our 13 years together, we have yet to take a beach vacation, mostly because Jose does not swim and money is usually too tight. (Although we did squeeze in two two-week trips to Paris in 2007 and 2008.)

Our last really big trip was three weeks in Mexico in May 2005, far too long ago. It was completely wonderful in every way: we visited Mexico City, Queretaro, Patzcuaro, Oaxaca and Cuernavaca, where I lived when I was 14. We even went back to my old apartment building there — totally unchanged.

Vacation, these days, is often a time to simply eat, sleep, read for pleasure, repeat.

Jose’s job, as a photo editor forΒ  large daily newspaper, means six meetings every day and answering hundreds of emails. By the time we take some time off, he’s whipped. My workdays are a blur of email, calls, pitching ideas, following up with editors, reading and writing.

My perfect vacation means getting off the computer, out of the car and never touching a telephone. It’s also a blend of city excitement and, when possible, some spectacular natural landscapes.

Day One of this trip meant a lot of sleeping. I read an entire book, ‘Rules of Civility”, something I have no time and less attention for at home; it’s set in 1938 Manhattan and is a good read. We played Bananagrams with Dad and his partner, and Jose took a terrible photo of me gloating when I won.

Our plans include time in Toronto and Montreal, for shopping, some good meals, seeing friends and (yes) some business meetings for me as well. It’ll be a mix of the familiar — lunch on Queen Street, upscale at Nota Bene or low-key at Prague, where the schnitzel is plate-sized and amazing — and exploring some new-to-us spots.

Last time in Toronto, in June 2012, we tried, (and didn’t enjoy), the oh-so-trendy Thompson Hotel. This time we’ve voted for the Hotel Ocho. It’s…interesting. It’s hilarious to be in a place where every single person is about 12, O.K. maybe 26. Every time we step into the lobby, they all look at us in puzzlement: “Old people, why are you here?”

We’re also here facing two pieces of Canadian currency history — the new polymer $20 bill, (which is hideous and even has the wrong maple leaf on it), and the end of the penny next week as legal tender; it’s been costing the Mint 1.6 cents to produce each penny.

We’ll be in D.C. for a few days in early May when I go there to accept a writing award, and in Arizona and New Mexico in May/June. Our big trip this year will be two weeks in Newfoundland, and I’m eager to finally visit Gros Morne National Park, a UNESCO Heritage site since 1987.

I’m dying to visit many more spots, from Japan to Buenos Aires to Croatia, returning to Paris, London and Istanbul, to canoeing in the Arctic. I live to travel and would happily spend almost every spare penny on it. The endless challenge is making enough money to be able to go far away and really relax — when every single minute not working, freelance, means not earning income.

When you go on vacation, where do you like to go?

What do you enjoy doing?

22 thoughts on “Define “vacation”

  1. I really want to revisit Putin Bay on Lake Erie. I went there on my high school senior trip and I found such a calm and joy there. I want to go there, get a lisence to fish, and just spend the days fishing, reading, writing, and (when I’m old enough) beer-sipping.

  2. Jane

    We have our own business so vacations are hard to come by. My husband is very philosophical – he says the first couple of days are the worst (for phone calls) and then everyone gets on with it without us! We’re lucky enough to be able to retreat to my husband’s family farm – instant relaxation for both of us. Time for me to sleep, read, mooch about and for my husband to spend time with his family and to indulge his newly discovered love of fossicking.

    We also love going away with good friends staying at different locations throughout Western Australia and discovering interesting things to see, and places eat & drink at. It’s a different vacation when you go awaywith friends – not necessarily so relaxing, but enjoyable all the same.

  3. I look at vacations the same way I look at life; with an open mind and heart. I love the “road trip”, that quaint, old fashioned hangover from my youth. My mother was a school teacher who enjoyed time off during the summer. My father, a farmer was too busy so my mom loaded the 5 of us into her Valiant station wagon, and we hit the road. Guess it stuck because my husband and I did the same when our children were young. The only golden rule for these trips – under no circumstances are there reservations, deadlines, or pressure to do anything other than what moves us at the moment. Second rule – no major highways or interstates. Third rule – no particular destination, if we had ten days, it meant wherever we were after 5, we turned around and went back; by a different route whenever possible. We live in Vancouver and have driven to Chicago and back via too many back roads to mention. Across Canada twice by different routes, the Grand Canyon, you name it we’ve probably driven there.
    We love cemeteries. Reading headstones is a pastime my family embraces. We make a point at visiting as many as possible on our travels. Last year after a stop at the cemetery in Havana, my 20 year old son looked at me with nothing less than joy, telling me it was one of the best days of his life.
    We’re planning a trip back to Cuba later this year. We want to take the decrepit train from Havana to Santiago de Cuba. A distance of 500 miles, on which you bring your own toilet paper and coffee cup. Almost certain to break down along the way, leaving us stranded in the middle of nowhere. I smile just thinking about it.
    Next week I’m going to Saskatchewan to visit my sister. Currently -45 with the wind chill, my only hope is that the sun throws off a geo-magnetic storm so I can once again witness auroras.

    1. Love your sense of adventure! I LOVE!!!!! road trips. Insanely so. My Dad and I did Montreal to Savannah and I still remember as if it were yesterday driving through the Great Dismal Swamp (that is truly its name) in the rain, looking out at battered old tobacco shacks. Amazing. He did the Cuba trip you plan to take and he adored Cuba. On my own, I went from NY to Charlottesville, VA and my Dad and I did Toronto to Vancouver by car when I was 15. I agree that everything needs to be 100% spontaneous. I just love that sense of exploration and serendipity. I still recall driving at night along the tiny back roads of NC and the whole car filled up with the scent of night-blooming jasmine.

      -45. OMG. You are a brave soul.

  4. I want to go everywhere. South America beckons when I’ve got enough solo travel experience under my belt, but I am off to Mexico myself in a week. For a month, and then I’m back in the USA driving, strangely enough, around New Mexico and Arizona πŸ™‚ Did you write about your trip to Mexico anywhere? I’d be dead keen to read about it

    1. As to what I like doing: I do on vacations what I do in regular life – shoot, walk, read, disconnect (not necessarily simultaneously). It’s just more pleasurable on vacation, because there’s no pointless urgency dampening the experience, or demanding that you rush back. Oh and new places, faces, mazes.

      All that said – 2013 is about turning vacation mode into regular life mode. Now if I could just win the lotto, the very pointed urgency of a bank account could be cast aside as well πŸ˜‰

    2. I didn’t write about it. I rarely write about my travels, oddly enough given I write about everything else. Maybe that’s why.

      We were talking last night about our upcoming trip to Arizona and NM and invited my Dad and his partner to join us there, as they have never seen the Southwest.

  5. Steve

    My vacation was a camping trip out to South Dakota and Wyoming with my wife. I’m 56 and this was the first time in my life I ever have taken a two week vacation. My idea of heaven is not having to answer a phone or watch television. It was absolutely great. I highly recommend getting out into nature and doing nothing. Your Arctic canoe trip sounds interesting, tell me more.

    1. It sounds gorgeous. I love that part of the country — and you were long overdue for a great vacation.

      The Arctic canoe trip is a bit of a Canadian rite of passage, esp. the Nahanni. I doubt I could get Jose to do it. But it’s long been a dream of mine to return to the Arctic. I was there once, in 1986, for 24 hrs for a story for the Montreal Gazette. It was amazing to be above the tree line.

  6. ianprichard

    Last year, the year before, this year and next our travel plans are dominated by weddings (can you guess I just turned 30?). My girlfriend and I went to college together – a big liberal arts place in the mid Atlantic – and have friends all over the lower 48, so these weddings afford us opportunities to have mini-reunions with people we wouldn’t otherwise see, and to visit some parts of the US we wouldn’t otherwise. We both usually spend some time working – Erin’s a management consultant and I take the time to get some long fiction writing in while away from my office – and then focus on stuffing our faces with local fare.

    We also try to take one trip abroad every year. In 2011, I joined a two-week pilgrimage to the four holy sites of Buddhism in India and Nepal (fantastic). Christmas/New Years 2012 was Thailand – a two-week sampling of several parts of the country with a week of volunteer work at an elephant sanctuary/reintroduction-to-the-wild program in the north. We, too, really like a mix of city walking/eating and far-out-rural/natural disconnecting, and if we can do any kind of volunteer work in either of those settings, we’re really happy. 2013’s big trip is still undecided – I’m thinking an Ireland/Wales “heritage” trip, Erin’s thinking Indonesia.

    I spent the summers of my youth on the islands of Lake of the Woods and Georgian Bay, and that – electricity-free cabins on the water, skiing glass at first light, eating fresh pike and walleye dinners, portaging from lake-lette to lake-lette, reading by candlelight, watching Zeus’s own thunderstorms through huge bay windows – I think will always be what I think of when I think “vacation.”

    1. These are really inspiring! I love the idea of the elephant sanctuary — I rode an elephant in N. Thailand and it was one of the happiest moments of my life; I sat behind his ears. What a hoot!

      Your childhood summers sound absolutely idyllic.

      We now tend to attach vacations (too much for my taste) to our work opp’s…In the past two years, publicizing Malled and on other assignments, I’ve been to Chicago, New Orleans, San Francisco and twice to Minneapolis, plus a trip to D.C. for a fellowship interview. In every instance, I add on a day or two for fun since I’m there anyway.

      But to me a “true” vacation takes me to a place I have not been before and shows me new things…so Newfoundland will fit that bill. It’s also a minimum of two weeks. I’d kill for a 3 or 4 week break!

      1. ianprichard

        Yes, I totally get that impulse to go new places and see and hear and experience new things. Having those two cabins to return to every summer as a kid was so great and I’d love for my kids to be able to do that kind of thing and look forward to a place they know so well and love so much, but on the other hand, it’s such a big and beautiful world that it’s almost a shame to return to the same place too many times.

        So, yes, of course the answer is 3 or 4 week breaks – and several of them!

      2. Amen to that!

        I think I may post in a few days about the pleasures and mixed feelings of returning to spots from your past. We just ate dinner in a Chinese restaurant that’s been open since 1976. We’ve been eating there since then…

  7. Vacations are for adventure, not relaxation. I think a beech vacation is a waste of money, there’s too much in the world to see, and I so rarely get out to see it all. My mum just retired, and she is trying to get everywhere. This week, while planning a river cruise to Provence, she started talking about booking another river cruise for next year, this time through Russia. That’s how I like to travel. Though I should point out that my mother is far better off than I will evr be πŸ˜‰

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