This vacation has been what vacations are meant for. It’s been eons since I’ve taken two full weeks off. If a measure of vacation success is, if towards the later part of the holiday, you are chomping at the bit, as they say, to get back to work, then the vacation worked.
We did vacationy stuff, like discovering new places, meeting new people, and sleeping until whenever — which has seemed like entirely too much sleep. But I’m aching for a little routine again.
Most of the vacations I’ve taken over the years have involved touring of some sort and most of them on two wheels. The vacations that have travel throughout usually involves 1) getting up before the comfort of the sleeping quarters may have wanted you to and, 2) having at least an outline of a plan.
What kept this vacation fresh was not having plans. We tried to stay spontaneous and that meant no sleep limit. Not that I didn’t make any plans. The ticket over to Europe and back was a plan. I had booked those mileage tickets eight months ago. Hardly spontaneous. The trip dates were so planned that when the time came to go, I wasn’t so thrilled to make the trip. I had other priorities in mind. But because it was planned so long ago, the least I could do was make the guts of it unplanned.
For the most part, we tried to make sure we didn’t fall into any routines. No pre-booking of hotels, tours, or any such stuff. No day the same as any other. No repeating of eating places and no plans to visit anyone or anything. While in Barcelona we decided one day to go to Mallorca for a week. The person who owned the apartment where we stayed tried to plan things for us. As our host, she wanted us to get to know Mallorca. The generosity was very nice and we let her jabber on at times, but we kept changing any plans she made at the last moment to keep her off guard. She had a hard time understanding that we didn’t want “the plan” thing going on.
I dug deep into the mental archives of past vacations to locate one that, 1) I didn’t think about the wake up time and, 2) one that stayed un-planned. There weren’t many that didn’t involved using an alarm. There were the occasional beach trips but they were never longer than one week and the waves always called early. The dozens of cross country motorcycle trips always meant hitting the road early. One vacation that does stand out is when I was in my 20’s, when a brother called. He was in the Air Force stationed in Iceland.
He called and said, “yo Freddie, I have some home leave coming up. I could come home, or, you could come here, we could rent a car, and we could tour around Iceland.” I think I was on a plane the next week. Most servicemen stationed in Reykjavik get the hell out when they have leave. Bro P had the right idea. Since it was the end of June, we had more than a week of total daylight. We had no idea what we were in for, but what we experienced was worth more than most any other vacation I have taken to date.
As a taste, our first night (we only knew that by looking at our watches) we climbed halfway up a snow-capped mountainside (leaving the car at the base) and pitched a tent. Out the front of the tent was an expansive view of the Atlantic Ocean below. Looking up above us was a crystal clear glacier wedged between two peaks. On one side of our tent was a glacial stream running down to the ocean. On the other side was a naturally steaming warm pool. Although it was cold enough that we could see our breath, we shed our clothes and hung out in the warm pool with a daylight, breathtaking view of glacier to ocean — and it was midnight. When we got warm from the pool, we’d run to the stream and dunk ourselves in glacial ice-water — which shocked us into knowing we were not dreaming. We were dumbstruck that there was no one else was around this pristinely beautiful place.
The rest of the trip around Iceland was spent at equally beautiful and memorable spots. We didn’t know where we were going and didn’t really care. And it didn’t matter when we decided to go to sleep or wake up. The night we camped on a cliff on the northern part of the island and watched the sun set but never touch the ocean at the horizon told us it was nighttime, and then morning. But it really didn’t matter — at least to our body clocks.
As I’m writing this at the Barcelona Airport today getting ready to head back, I am reminded of one more trip I made in my early 20’s that also fit the spontaneous, no alarm clock criteria. I went with a friend to Saint Thomas in the Caribbean where we met another couple of friends. We joined with the rowdy owner of a 36-ft sail boat without a working motor on a 10-day sailing trip around the British Virgin Islands — spearfishing for our food as we went. No plans, no watches, no other people for 10 days. But it’s not my intention to bore post readers with details of past trips. And it’s certainly not my intention to write about experiences which may come across as pompous.
Many vacation trips, for most of us, are by nature spontaneous so it’s not a new idea by any means. It’s only in the spirit of catching and digitally inking a few grainy thoughts from the throat that perhaps pricks the writer into coughing up those thoughts.
Right now I’m ready (and very much need) to get back to the routine of productivity. As I wait for the return flight home, I’m so relaxed and tranquil I could punch someone. (please spell the work: joke). Two weeks of tapas is enough already.
If I had to complain, and I won’t, it’s that my tongue is at a stage of perpetual soreness. And my throat still feels like it has a choker collar wrapped around it. And the one tooth that hasn’t had a root canal in the lower left quadrant has been treating me with a low dull throb. There is nothing spontaneous about any of that. Using the tongue and managing the throat is all work. But I won’t complain and will stop here. Just let me get back to work.