How To “Vacation” Every Day

I walked in the door and the sandy, muddy shoes would tumble to the floor. The carpet—soft beneath my bare and tired feet—felt absolutely luxurious. I immediately started to run hot water in the tub while peeling off the rumpled clothes of the day. Sinking into the warmth that soon enveloped this weary traveler, I felt both cleansed and relaxed at once.

My toes wandered to the spigot, playing peek-a-boo above and beneath the water. Staring at and beyond the mirrored reflection of my brightly-polished toenails was my only entertainment … and it was more than enough. “Ahhh sweet, sweet vacation”  I thought to myself and closed my eyes while the stress of the days leading up to these precious few just melted away.

And then it occurred to me. This isn’t some fancy jacuzzi with high-powered jets and a special tray for trashy novels and fruity cocktails. It was a standard, run-of-the-mill bathtub… and I have the exact same one at home. AND, I just happen to have hot water and carpeting too. So why don’t I indulge in this most glorious and peaceful of practices more often?

That’s a really good question. Why don’t I?

And for that matter, why don’t I also…

Drive with the sunroof open and the windows rolled down? Enjoy more wine with my meal? And take my time while eating it? Listen to my favorite CDs instead of the crap they offer up on the radio? Go for a walk and leave my watch at home? Eat ice cream from a sugar cone? People watch … and then laugh at them? (Oh wait, I already do that.) Discover the beauty in the common intricacies of nature? Put my feet up, sit still and turn my face toward the heat of the sun? Set down the remote and pick up a book?

I guess I think I’m in a hurry. There’s always too much to do and not enough time to do it. I couldn’t dare pause progress in order to do such frivolous things. But here’s the truth … there IS time, and I CAN do these things—I just don’t arrange my life in such a way as to make them a priority. For some reason, Americans tend to believe that we must take time off from work, spend money, pack our bags and disappear to some far-flung corner of the globe in order to truly “get away from it all.”

Not that there’s anything wrong with THAT. I happen to adore far flung corners of the globe.

HOWEVER… a few weeks ago, while on vacation, I learned that many of the BEST things… many of the most treasured things were the things I could have been doing all along… If only I made the time.

I Hate Camping

I remember the day with startling clarity. It was the day that I finally accepted my disdain for camping. I was in the mountains of New Mexico, gazing out across a picturesque valley with a deep blue lake surrounded by lush pine. The water was sparkling in the sun like a thousand white diamonds while a cool breeze caressed my face… and I was elbow-deep in nasty, tepid, grey water… washing dishes.

“I think I hate camping.” I said to my friend who was sunning herself on a nearby picnic table. Now, to convey the actual weight of this statement coming out of my mouth you must understand something. My ex and I owned a camper. A REAL camper, loaded down with all of the trappings for camp life… from the fireside cookware to the pump-it-yourself travel toilet (which never got used anyway because no one wanted to clean it). And the friend that I was speaking to was one-half of the couple that we always camped with.

“Seriously?” she asked me. “You don’t like camping!?” Her voice raised an octave and cracked as though I had just confided in her that I was, in reality, a Russian spy working undercover in America’s desert southwest.

“Yes. Yes I do.” I said matter-of-factly with a growing air of confidence. “I mean, look at us. We are on VA-CA-TION (said extra slowly and loudly for maximum emphasis and effect). We took actual time off from work to come all the way up here, set up camp, don filthy flannel and sport greasy hair only to do DISHES in nasty water, sit in the dirt and stare at one another. IT’S WORK. It’s all work (again with the slow yelling for effect). And I can be doing this WORK at home. Except that at least there I have hot running water and an actual toilet that flushes and clean, soft things in which to wear, sit and sleep on!”

She sat on the picnic table staring at me in utter shock and disbelief while I poured out my dirty little confession. I didn’t care if she disagreed. I didn’t care if I offended her. It was my moment. My epiphany. WHY must I love camping? Who decided that humans should just LUUUUUUUV camping? Because it sure as hell seems like everybody does. Or at least that’s what they tell you. It’s what they want you to believe so that you will think they’re this outdoorsy, tree-hugging, adventurous individual capable of just “goin’ with the flow” and bein’ “one” with nature… Well, it’s a load of crap. And if they think it, they should just admit it. Like I did on that day.

It was a thing of beauty I tell you. Making peace with the fact that I did NOT enjoy this thing that I was supposed to enjoy and not being afraid to say so.

So today, for anyone reading this, I’m going on public record and proclaiming that I DON’T LIKE CAMPING!!! Why should I set up an entire HOME outdoors when I already have one indoors? Why should I wash my dishes in gross, tepid water, carry a damp roll of toilet paper under one arm and a shovel under the other while trotting off to the bushes to “do my business,” sleep downhill with my head or other critical body parts on a rock (when tent camping at least), schlup around camp all dirty and smelly with nappy hair and covered in scratches and bruises from aforementioned bush-peeing or rock-sleeping? Hmmmm?

I love to do all SORTS of outdoorsy things. Fishing, hiking, mountain climbing, whitewater rafting, horseback riding, SCUBA diving… the list goes on. In fact I’ll try just about anything… once. But when I am done with my adventure for the day, I want to order dinner from a menu and for someone else to set said dinner on a warm plate in front me. I want to sleep in a fresh bed surrounded by endless, fluffly layers of down-filled goodness. I want a hot shower and clean underwear. I don’t think this is too much to ask.

In one way or another, if you are going away somewhere, camping or otherwise, you are most likely taking time off from work, packing your things, and spending money. Therefore, why shouldn’t my precious time and money be spent paying SOMEONE ELSE to do the dishes?