Disclaimer: I’m sorry if calling a vacation a “babymoon” seems pretentious or cutesy or otherwise annoying. Before going on this little trip, I always felt immediately embarrassed when I used that word, probably because I first heard the term only two years ago on our honeymoon, and I tend to avoid trendy words for at least a decade. In retrospect, though, it’s an appropriate label, so I won’t mock you if you ever choose to use it.
So, Jonathan and I just got back from our five-day Fourth-of-July Central-Texas-Barbeque-and-Small-Town-Curiosities-Tour Vacation, and it was fun. Probably as fun as going to NYC or Alaska or any of the dozen other more expensive places we’d considered for our last big travel adventure before the baby comes in October. I’m pretty sure there will be several more detailed explanations of the trip after Jonathan processes his pictures, but I had some thoughts that seemed to transcend the details, so I thought I’d write them down. If I had to summarize them, I think they capture the ways that a small vacation can be just as wonderful as a big one in certain ways.
- Vacation is a state of mind. After getting off work on the 3rd, I resolved not to think about it or talk about it for the next five days. Furthermore, after we left the house on the morning of the 4th, we weren’t in the house, so we couldn’t do house-related things. Soooo, given that neither work- nor house-life could compete for my attention or time, I felt totally free to do whatever I actually wanted. If that was watching three hours of Pawn Stars interspersed with Forrest Gump on the commercial breaks, so be it, whereas on any non-vacation day, I would have felt rather guilty about spending my time that way. I’m not sure why it’s so hard to give myself similar permission in smaller doses on, say, a weekend. Don’t get me wrong…I still waste a lot of time in my everyday life. The only difference during vacation time is how I feel about it.
- Sometimes planning is overrated. Planning has its place when perhaps a lot of money is at stake or you suspect it’ll be 20 years before you make it back to Hawaii, but planning inevitably creates expectations. If the goal of your vacation is to do and see lots of things, then planning is important and expectations are warranted. If your goal is to enjoy a relaxing time with your husband, planning can be counter-productive because it opens the stress-inducing possibility of guilt from unsatisfied plans. It implies that there’s an ideal way to spend your time, even on a vacation, and for “optimizers” like us, that can be paralyzing. On this trip, Jonathan charted out how to fit in 7 barbeque joints in 3.5 days, but beyond that basic framework, we had many many hours to fill with whatever random opportunities presented themselves. There was no way we could fail to use that time wisely, i.e. for the benefit of relaxation. We wandered around Main Streets in several towns, watched a local fireworks show to the tune of God Bless the U.S.A., swam in a highly chlorinated hotel pool along the side of a highway while brainstorming baby names, and read 10 cent books to each other that we picked up from the bargain table at the oldest library in Texas (incidentally, I do not recommend Choose Your Own Adventure #47: Spooky Thanksgiving. I’d burn it, but now it has sentimental value).
- Quiet time is good for reflection, and reflection is good. Once upon a time, I used to think there was something wrong with me and Jonathan because we didn’t talk incessantly throughout long car trips. Nowadays, I really like that we’re comfortable with quiet. We obviously like doing stuff together, but we also appreciate the need to rest in our own thoughts at times. So, given that I’d already forbidden work thoughts and to-do thoughts, I enjoyed some life reflection thoughts on this trip. I wondered if I’d still feel like a kid playing in a hotel pool when I have my own kid who wants to play in the hotel pool. When we visited Rice, I thought about how much I’ve learned since I graduated, and I wished for maybe the first time that I could send some of my “grown-up” wisdom back to my college self…things like “you don’t always have to get it right the first time,” “smart people ask questions,” and “a majority of what you need to know doesn’t necessarily come from school.” And, “in five years or ten years or fifty years, you won’t be defined by academic successes anymore, so don’t undervalue other endeavors.” Etc. Incidentally, I wouldn’t say that these represent regrets…it just always surprises me when I realize that I AM “older and wiser” now.
I think there were other things, but I’ve fallen asleep twice while writing this, so I’ll stop here. In conclusion, our vacation was really nice not just because of what we did but because of these other things as well, and it occurs to me that these things don’t necessarily demand a vacation in order to happen. So, maybe I’ll endeavor to set aside some “vacation time” each week, to start doing stuff even when the stuff isn’t fully planned, and to think more. That sounds nice. At least until the baby comes :)