Guys, how did I miss this?
How did it take me 42 years to understand what the majority of people know, and have known for a very long time?
Vacations are supposed to be relaxing.
I just got back from Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. I went because my parents rented an oceanfront condo for a week, and invited me, my kids, my boyfriend, my sister, and her family. I had looked forward to the vacation, but there was a part of me that wondered what on earth I would do for seven days at the beach. The vacations that I plan tend to involve weeks of research, several changes of scenery, and generally aim to pack as much as is humanly possible into a given time frame.
Since July, I have been in full-blown summer mode, sleeping four to six hours a night, popping out of bed at three, two, or even one in the morning fully energized, organizing my kitchen cabinets in the wee hours, and enjoying the super-productive version of myself. Yesterday I ran three loads of laundry before civil twilight (when you get up this early you know the distinction between astronomical, nautical, and civil twilight.)
My fitness plan for this vacation was to do Beach Body Boot Camp every morning at sunrise on the beach. I made a special throwback music mix that included Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch, Kris Kross, TLC, and House of Pain. My family was less than enthusiastic about my vision of three generations enjoying burpees and plank jacks together in the sand. (Although my mom was a trooper and participated three days.) On day three, I sprinted through a sandbar and fell and strained a hamstring. Do not sprint through sandbars, people.
On day four, as I sat in my beach chair with my aching ischial tuberosity (that’s the anatomical term for ass) and dozed in and out, I realized that the vacation was Exactly What I Needed. Left to my own devices I would not be sitting in a chair. I would not be dozing in the afternoon.
It was an ah-ha moment.
Vacations are supposed to be relaxing.
The vacations I plan are not relaxing.
And there was a corollary: perhaps that is why at least one of my children experiences a meltdown during them.
I thought about the last few vacations that I had planned. In June my youngest and I went to Colorado. Although we flew there, we logged 1200 miles in seven days. We visited three national parks, one amusement park, one national monument, and even threw in an extra state (Utah) for the hell of it. It was an awesome trip. But it was not relaxing.
In 2015 I took both of my kids to Costa Rica. I rented an SUV and we hit the Cloud Forest, the volcano, waterfall, and hot springs of La Fortuna, and the beach. Since rural Costa Rica has no street signs, and since I am far too much of a control freak to trust a GPS, we relied on directions that I had printed out from Google Maps. I told my son the number on the odometer and he would calculate in how many kilometers we should expect to turn. (This worked surprisingly well!) It was challenging, rewarding, and sometimes tense, but definitely not relaxing.
In 2014 our family vacation include the Little League World Series, the Grand Canyon of Pennsylvania (yes it is a thing), Niagara Falls, Toronto, and a Hindu Temple.
And so on.
I think I enjoyed Myrtle Beach so much because I got along far better with my kids than I had on previous vacations. This is probably because my attitude was one of benign neglect. You want to sleep till twelve? I’ll be quiet. You want Pringles for breakfast? Bon appétit. You’d rather binge-watch Special Victims Unit than enjoy the beautiful warm blue-green water? Ciao.
One afternoon as I headed out to the beach, I stopped at the door of the room that my 14-year-old son and 15-year-old niece were sharing. They were propped up in their respective beds holding their devices as the television blared. They looked like geriatric convalescents with extremely good skin. In previous years this would have provoked a rant about how we came all this way and why even bother and electronics are ruining the world.
But this year I just laughed.
Because vacations are supposed to be relaxing!