Oh Sweet Vacation

Each August my family descends upon the beach for a week of rest and relaxation. But as my husband ushered us out of the house a little too early so that we could “salvage” our travel day, hit the beach before traffic, and dig the sand toys out of our overstuffed car, it occurred to me that my husband’s directives were neither relaxing nor restful, and that individuals have different vacation styles, and that often these styles clash.

Commando Vacations

My husband was imitating the vacation style of my friend C: commando vacationing. Commandos have extensive itineraries. Days start early and end late. There is little time for rest. I recall a trip to London with C. several years back where we were allotted ten minutes at Parliament before we headed off for the Tower of London, which we did in fifteen minutes before running, literally, through Hyde Park to catch the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace. It is easy to identify the commando traveler, as they bark orders over their shoulders at their straggling companions to “keep a move on it.” Usually, it falls upon the commander to record the trip and therefore he can be identified by his video camera, as he narrates the trip’s highlights for future generations to watch. He will often ask one of his fellow travelers to do “guest narration” and this request is usually met with a flick of the bird in his direction. Even rest is carefully scheduled by the commando traveler. C. had it down to a science. While the rest of us would linger over our tea each afternoon, enjoying the only opportunity we were afforded to rest our weary dogs and people watch, C. would nap. In a restaurant, sitting up, surrounded by the clanking of utensils and not so quiet conversation, he would sleep. And then, as though an internal alarm sounded, his eyes would spring open as he yelled, “Let’s go! Check.”

The Executive’s Vacation

The executive resembles the Commando in her authoritative style. However, unlike the “go-go-go” mentality of the Commando, the objective of the Executive is to be as organized as possible to ensure maximum enjoyment and relaxation. My friend B., with whom we vacation each summer, is the consummate Executive. A year before departure, B. will start cheerleading. “Who is psyched for vacation?  Yeah!”  As we reach the three month mark, research begins. Babysitter services are booked along with golf outings, and dinner reservations. A working schedule is submitted for approval about two weeks before we leave, and printed in duplicate. One copy has to be displayed in the vacation house, and one must be carried around for consult at all times.  And oh the gadgets. Each year the Executive conducts an annual review of the previous year’s trip to discuss what must be purchased to make the livin easy. Last year, it was the Wonder Wheeler, a contraption that allowed us to load all beach gear and make one trip. This year, it was the umbrella anchor which will make sure gale force winds cannot send our beach umbrella flying. I have truly never seen B. so happy as when she dug that anchor into the sand. The Executive, Damm it will be the most relaxed person on the beach if it kills her and her companions.

The Weatherman’s Vacation

The weatherman is the person who obsessively checks the weather while on vacation. This is my husband. Last night, the TV was tuned to the weather channel as he simultaneously consulted an on-line weather site to keep abreast of when the first raindrop would fall. Plans are redrawn as the Weatherman creates a schedule around the weather report. “The first raindrop will fall at 2:02, so we can get our bike ride in during the AM, and then be seated with a bag of popcorn in the cinema for the 2:30 showing. Oh wait! Now they are saying the rain won’t arrive until 5:00 PM. The movie is going to have to wait.” Often, the Weatherman never leaves his accommodations as he is too busy analyzing conflicting reports. This behavior begins before the vacation as the Weatherman checks the forecast weeks before departure. His moods alternate between elation and devastation as the monthly forecast changes. There are actually two varieties of weathermen on vacation: the optimist and the pessimist. The optimist will never say the vacation was a disaster due to weather. “Well sure, Hurricane Bill hit while we were away, but after tying the children down to the furniture so they did not blow away in the 80 MPH winds, we were able to play fifteen rounds of Monopoly! Besides, that one day we got to swim for twenty minutes.” The pessimist has an entirely different approach to the weather. Upon return, the pessimist, always doom and gloom, will report to friends that the trip was ruined due to the seventeen minute late afternoon shower, or one day of overcast skies. While the optimist will call this fortunate because it kept the beach cool and skin did not burn, to the pessimist the lack of blue sky equates to a tsunami.

Other Variations on the Pessimist Vacationer:

On this, I am an expert. The pessimist vacationer is the one who mourns the end of the vacation before it has started. As the trip reaches its half way point, she will remark, “Well the trip is half over!” And upon return, the pessimist will make a mental note never to take a trip again because all the kids do is whine, and after the two days of unpacking and doing laundry it hardly feels like there was ever a vacation at all.

The Goal Oriented Vacationer:

This type of vacationer is perhaps the easiest to please. As long as she accomplishes her goal, she is content. Goals will vary, from “Just let me finish my book!” to “I haven’t worked out in six months, so I am going to run 20 miles every day we are away.”

The Wife’s Vacation:

The wife’s vacation is a farce. It consists of laundry, which magically triples on vacation, food preparation, and childcare. In other words, the wife doesn’t really have a vacation, as it is eerily similar to her life at home. In fact, vacation is worse for the wife because it has the added responsibility of packing and unpacking for her temporary relocation.

I am a little bit wife, a little bit goal oriented and a little bit pessimistic. As I finish this from the other side of my vacation, I reflect, like the Executive, about how to improve for next year. First, my husband will golf each morning. It is the best aphrodisiac for doing laundry, so I don’t need to be the Vacation Wife. Next, since neither of my goals was reached-I have fifty pages left in my book and I did not get to take that long bike ride-. I will lower my expectations for next summer. I will bring a shorter book. Green Eggs and Ham, perhaps. I can finish that! And I will get my bike ride. The other bikes can stay at home, we will bring just mine. This I decided after the rest of the family, led by my husband told me we had to turn around on our family ride. We had gone about a quarter of a mile. After a long ride, alone, since no one else will have their wheels, I will return to folded laundry and a cooked dinner. And then, I will have no reason to be the vacation pessimist. I will make sure to contact B, our vacation Executive, about putting my bike ride on the schedule. I am expecting her to call any minute now to let me know vacation is right around the corner- 355 days away.

Published in: on September 7, 2009 at 3:25 am  Leave a Comment  

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