When I was younger, I believed vacations were for being busy. There was plenty of time for rest at home. Vacations were for waking up early, going to sleep late, being constantly on the move, memorizing the early open and late close days of every tourist attraction to squeeze the most new experiences into each day. For many years, I was one of those people who come home from vacation and need to take another vacation to recover from vacation. I thought I was doing it right.
And then I traveled to a remote jungle hotel in Mexico that was accessible only by boat and mule. I knew there wouldn’t be much to do, but I assumed the nearby tiny village would offer some interest and that there would be hiking paths through the jungle and along the beach. People lived in the tiny village and fished in the tiny village and ran a couple of restaurants on the water by the tiny village to cater to the tourist boats that came in. But there were no tourist attractions, unless you counted the guy who walked the beach every day charging people to take photos with the iguana who rode around on his shoulder. There were no hiking paths through the jungle. And there was no beach. Picturesque rocks, yes. Sand? No.
But there was a view. And there were comfortable chairs. In the morning, I sat in the chairs in front of the palapa and watched the sun rise over the hills and ocean. In the afternoon, I sat in the shade behind the palapa and watched iguanas sunbathe. I carried my notebook and stack of books from one chair to another, and I did write and I did read, but mostly I sat and stared.
I came home, truly refreshed from travel, and realized what I’d been missing in all those years of frenetic activity.
For several years, sitting and staring became my philosophy of vacation. I needed a view and a comfortable chair to engage in the only activity I planned to pursue: contemplation.
And then I became a parent and discovered that family vacation and contemplation aren’t that compatible, at least not in my family. We are back to nonstop activity and outings and experiences and expeditions when we travel. Activity has its charms, and I enjoy hearing my son talk excitedly about all we’ve done after we’re back home. But I’m back to needing a second vacation to recover from the first.
I love being along for the ride as my son discovers the world, and I’m in no rush for family vacations to end, but that hasn’t stopped me from planning my very first vacation as an empty nester (still years away!). I’ve got my eye on this remote AirBnB property in Iceland. There is nothing but hills and grass and wild horses for miles around the cottage. I sat and watched the sky, one reviewer writes. There was nothing to do except take photos, writes another. The chairs look comfortable, and there are sweeping vistas in every direction.
“Huh,” my husband says, when I show him the listing. “What’s there to do?”
“Absolutely nothing,” I promise.