How often does a person need a vacation? Certainly vacations are a first-world luxury, and even within the developed world, standards for appropriate amounts of time off vary from the American two weeks to countries like France and Finland where they have 10 national holidays and 30 mandatory days of vacation. Even within the U.S. there is wide variability about holidays granted by employers; my husband, the Bacon Provider, earned his keep at Microsoft for almost 18 years, never once getting to enjoy Martin Luther King Day because it’s business as usual at Microsoft on Martin Luther King Day. By my accounting, he worked 18 days that the federal government set aside to honor a civil rights leader and encourage shopping after Christmas. This is almost four weeks of vacation.
For our spring vacation last year, we planned a trip to Japan and Hawaii. The Bacon Provider has been to Japan on business a number of times, and has been talking about taking me there for years. We were also taking our two kids still in the house these days, boys aged 17 and 13. I have been looking forward to going to Japan for a long time. We bought tickets in advance to visit the Ghibli Museum on April 14th. You have to buy these tickets in advance, but it is not possible to purchase tickets from the U.S. online. Instead, you must make reservations over the phone. It is a complex transaction, where the purchaser is required to give the full name and birthdate of each ticket-holder. This memorable phone conversation took up the better part of a morning, to a local Japanese tourism office in Seattle.
Obviously, rolling blackouts and food shortages and radioactive fallout from catastrophic failure at the nuclear power plant in Fukushima Daiichi meant that we did not go to Japan for this vacation. I have waited a long time to go to Japan, and I will have to wait some more.
When I was a little kid and still believed in the possibility that the world was a very magical place, I used to imagine that nothing happened outside of what I could currently see and experience. If people went out of view, they stopped existing. Sometimes this was kind of a cool idea, because it meant that I did not need to worry about missing interesting things. Other times, this was a very scary idea, especially when my parents took me to stay at my grandparent’s house while they went out of town. I do remember wondering if places that I had never been actually existed, or if they would be conjured up just before I arrived.
One of the many side effects of being a parent is sometimes phrases get stuck in your head from books and movies and books-on-tape enjoyed by your children when they were young. My oldest (now an adult) loved Thomas the Tank Engine, and I can hear in my head, “A change is as good as a rest!” whenever I think about vacation planning. I don’t think we travel to rest up. I think we do it to get out of our ruts.
People closest to me know that this moving-to-New-York-thing has been a bit of a long, bad vacation. A number of things have not worked out how we expected, and I find myself living in a spooky and lonely rural/suburban town for which there are no freeway exit signs, as if living here means getting away from it all, whether or not you want to get away from it all. I do not have all of my clothes or books or sewing supplies. In early July I took a road trip, across the U.S., which ended with moving in to a furnished apartment. From there we moved to a furnished house. In the summer there were days when I had so much trouble getting going that I would sometimes get back in bed, fully clothed, at mid-day. The pets thought it made perfect sense. It was more of a function of needing a place to sit in a small apartment than a sign of suffering, but I did do it more than once. These days I have too much to do.
That I am ready for a vacation means that this is where I live: amongst the long drives to everywhere, the deer, and the spooky water which goes to the faucets in Manhattan. Right now, I am planning a trip to Barcelona in a few weeks. Only my youngest son will be able to come along, but the Bacon Provider has reason to go there for work and it sounds pretty interesting to me. I have never been to Spain. Those magical people better get to work building Barcelona before I get there.