Jul 172011

Around about this time of the year is the high water mark for that greatest of traditions, the family vacation. For many people this is the reward for 50 weeks of servitude in the zombie army, also known as the workforce. For all that time of work you are granted a week or two, sometimes three, of time off. Time off to do what ever you want, just be back in time to resume your post and continue making your company wealthy. I know, it sounds a bit jaded but it really doesn’t feel like a fair trade off to me. You work at your job all year, make plans for some trip or adventure that will be over in a blink of an eye and all you have left are some photos and a lousy t-shirt.
For a lot of people it winds up not being a real vacation anyways. They sit there and make plans for a trip, maybe to someplace like Disney, or a cruise, or a trip to Hawaii, but once they are there, the trip becomes a nightmare. They are out of their comfort zone, away from all things familiar. People are strangers, roads are unfamiliar. You can spot the people that are not comfortable. Sit in an airport sometime and people watch. The ones that wish they were back home can be spotted a mile away. They are nervous. They carry as much baggage as they possible can to recreate the comfort of home. There is no enjoyment in their experience. It’s almost like work.
Down here in the Keys of course we get a pant load of vacationers. It’s how the economy here survives. Some come here and fit right in, some come here and never leave, like your’s truly. Others just can’t get into the spirit of things. Back home they are in control of their lives, or so they think. They may be a manager, in charge of things and people. Away on vacation, they are just another dumb ass tourist who doesn’t know enough to pull over and ask directions.
Personally, I love to travel. Going someplace different or new has always had an appeal to me. But I have limits too. I prefer the confines of the U.S.A. I could spend the rest of my life just traveling the country and never tire of it. I have no desire to visit any foreign country at the moment. I have made small trips to Canada and the Bahamas but the U.S. is still where I want to travel.
As for actual vacations, I haven’t had many real vacations in my adult life. I seldom kept a job long enough to accrue any real vacation time. My last real trip was a short 5 day motorcycle trip with a girlfriend into the Blue Ridge Mountains. A beautiful trip with perfect weather, great scenery, and her bitching was at a minimum.

A sort of funny story aside on that trip. The girlfriend at the time worked for a film developing company as the manager. They processed all the photos for clients like Walgreens in the southeast. (This was before digital was mainstream). Anyways she had shot several rolls of film on this trip and in the process of developing the pictures all the film was exposed and ruined. She cried like a baby but I couldn’t help but laugh. We broke up less than a month later. I still laugh about it today.

As I said the trip was great but when I returned I found out my boss and the manager of another dept. had quit the same day. So I had to come back early and take over both jobs until they could get more help. It was not a fun time.
Before that the only real vacation I had, and one of the best was a 3 week, 22 state, 8800 mile solo motorcycle trip across the country. The ride itself was the actual vacation but I got to see and do some interesting things along the way and enjoyed myself thoroughly. Beyond that most of trips have been the same thing. A friend of mine was discussing it with me the other night which inspired me to write this post. Both he and I have a parent living up north who is getting up there in age so the only trip either of us has made in the last ten years has been to visit them and make sure all is well. But it is a necessary trip and I’ll keep doing it as long as I can.
Now when I was a kid, we took a family vacation every summer around this time. How does the saying go? ” it was the best of times, it was the worst of times”. Going on a trip with my parents could be a lot of fun or it could be a week of pure misery. I have no brothers nor sisters so I got all the good and the bad. My old man was the worst. We would plan a trip and as the time got closer he would get mad about something and threaten to cancel it. Finally Mom would kick him in the ass and off we would go. He would start out in a bad mood, one of those uncomfortable types outside his familiar territory, bitch the whole week, come home exhausted, and tell everyone what a great time he had. We never went anywhere exotic, usually to go visit the relatives who were smart enough to move out of the shithole where we were all born and live in someplace nice. And we always drove. In fact I never flew in an airplane until I was 27 years old.
One of the best vacations I remember was when my parents took off for two weeks and left me with my grandparents. While they were at the shore I had it made. Grandma kept me fed, I could go out all day, ride my bike, fish, swim, have a good time. Alas, it ended early when my parents came back with a wrecked car. Somebody hit them as they were leaving a restaurant. Nobody hurt but it put a damper on the whole thing. Don’t get me wrong. We had some nice trips as a family but those days are long gone.
You might say that since I live in the Keys why should I even be thinking of a vacation. I can vacation right here. Well, yes I can and yes I have. But the whole idea and concept of a vacation just seems so narrow and defined. As I said earlier, why work all year just to be “rewarded” with a finite and scheduled vacation. I like the idea of being flexible and free enough to plan a trip well in advance or pack up and go at a moments notice. I do have particular trips I would like to take sometime in the future. Hawaii is at the top of the list both as a trip and a possible future home if for some reason I had to leave the Keys. I would love to take an entire summer and explore all the historical sites I can find, battlefields, monuments, that sort of thing. There is a lot of history to see in this country. I had once planned out a motorcycle trip from Key West to the Arctic Circle in Alaska. Had the route, approximate cost, everything laid out but it never happened. It’s still possible. There is plenty to see and do out there and it can’t be done by having a fixed time and schedule, at least not done right. I understand if you are raising a family, have debt, a house, etc. Then that two weeks off at the end of July is about all you can count on for awhile. But that doesn’t mean you can’t plan ahead and be a little adventurous. Do some spur of the moment trips. Use an alternative way to get there. Get out and see the world beyond the standard vacation fare.
There way more to see and do out there than can be stuffed into a two week window. Expand your comfort zone and see what is out there.
The Fritter