Inching Toward Simplicity: Pragmatics and Prose

Friday, September 21, 2007

In Praise of Simple Vacations

Note to readers: This is a late post, as the week following my weekend away was super stressful. Note to self: grab those mini-vacations when you can!
One of the tricks in planning a getaway is making sure your travel plans stay as simple as possible. Here are some links on the importance of vacations, as well as practical strategies for keeping things simple:

-True magazine offers some thoughts on curing "vacation deficit disorder" in the healthiest way possible.

-Here's Lonely Planet's take on packing, including some useful tips for foreign travel.

-Here are a fellow blogger's thoughts on vacation, in the "take back your time" vein.

-Yet more thoughts on taking back your time--with some sobering statistics on the great American unrest.

-A vacationer fresh from Hawaii penned these helpful suggestions.

-I like this take on bringing vacation attitudes home.


I am writing from Kent, CT, which means we finally got a family weekend away. Why Kent? We had strict criteria: we needed a place less than 2 hours away, immersed in nature, and with a good village for strolling and snacking. My vote for Kent is swayed by the 3 bookstores (if you count the library’s expansive, every-weekend, outdoor book sale) and the local parks. We spent Saturday afternoon at Bull’s Bridge, climbing down enormous, water-molded rocks to the bottom of a waterfall’s cascade. We walked a short arm of the Appalachian Trail there. Second to that was the simple moment of Gavin delighting in the oversized bubble wands that the toy store leaves outside. It was clear he appreciated the bubbles more than the toy we had just bought him.

Gavin has no memory of being here, but I recall him toddling around all of these places during an earlier day trip. I marvel at how much he has grown, climbing large boulders with ease and much better at mastering bubbles, or sitting through a restaurant meal. Sunday is stretched before us. We will probably do a light hike at Kent Falls, maybe check out the local train museum, and still have plenty of time to meander home.

Our attempt to plan a simple getaway was almost comedic. We hadn’t traveled in so long and were paralyzed by the array of choices. Tom always votes for Woodstock, NY, also a delight but too far for our traveling after work purposes. He also voted for a camping cabin or a pop-up trailer rental, both great ideas when you have more time to plan and pack cooking gear, sleeping linens, food, etc. I felt a little guilty countering some of Tom’s earlier ideas, but I knew we would all benefit from a place that we could get to early, leave late, and for which only a suitcase was required. It also helps that there is not too much to do in the village of Kent. Several interesting stores, some tempting coffee and confection stops, but not the jam-packed tourist trap sort of place. This helped us avoid pounding the pavement to shop, an old habit that sometimes eats away at our time and energy (not to mention our money!).

I turned 40 last week, and hope this new decade will be one of wise decisions. My selectivity with our trip reminded me of another revelation I had recently. I realized that my passion for writing has me running in circles. I get tons of daily e-mails on freelance markets, for example, but have no time to pursue them. I am overwhelmed by possibilities. This doesn’t mean I’ll give up on my writing; it just means I’ll be more realistic in what I entertain and pursue. I’ll subscribe to less e-mail lists. Until 2008, my House Party Discussion Guide (to be part of the Get Satisfied Web site), online writing class, and 3 or 4 well-chosen essay submissions will more than fill my plate. When you consider that my plate also contains freelance medical writing and the usual regular job and family needs, that’s a large enough helping.

All the right passions can drive less than wise decisions. Our love for camping could have had us tangled in gear on this short, precious weekend, and our love for several, much farther away towns could have left us exhausted from our highway driving time. It helped to think about what we really needed: rest, ease, moving slowly. For Tom and me, lovers of adventure, it’s been hard to recognize that the spontaneous 3 or 4 hour drives of our youth, like driving from New York to Pennsylvania for a late night coffee, no longer fit into our lifestyle. But our reward for this recognition is feeling relaxed this Sunday morning. Tom is sleeping in, an almost unheard of phenomenon. Gavin is watching PBS cartoons while I type. I slept from 8:30 until 6 last night, a near miracle for my increasingly insomniac self. We’ll greet the day in a fresh place, end it in a familiar place, and savor all of that time in between.

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At 9/22/2007 2:37 AM, Anonymous Linda said...

After reading your excellent blog, plus each piece in the "pragmatics" section, I've determined one thing: I need a vacation!


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