Why I Fail at Vacations

Why I Fail at Vacations August 30, 2012

For the last five years or so, I’ve completely failed at vacationing.  I get grumpy and annoyed. I have stress dreams.  I feel guilty about being grumpy and annoyed and having stress dreams when I’m supposed to be enjoying myself and my family.

It’s a problem.  My husband notes that he spends most of the year stressed and then worries about NOTHING during vacation.  I spend most of the year relatively unstressed, and then act like a fiend the whole time we’re supposed to be resting.

Some reasons I think I’m a bad vacationer include:

  1. There’s no such thing as rest for parents: Same problem with Sabbaths—what does it mean to rest a day a week when there are still children who need to be fed, entertained, and watched after?  Vacations are worse because they’re like many “Sabbaths” in a row.
  2. Everyone wants a part of me:  True confession, I kind of just want to be left alone.  On vacation, my husband and kids actually want me to relate to (or serve) them.  I end up getting less rest than when everyone’s working.
  3. I just want to read a book preferably cover to cover in one sitting.  One high school spring break I read 17 novels.  By Friday when I finally emerged bleary-eyed into daylight, I realized it probably would have been good to move my body a little during that week.  On our honeymoon, Scott and I sat by a pool with our books.  30 minutes later, he said, “OK, let’s go do something.”  I said, “But I have 350 more pages until I finish. . .”  There’s a lot of negotiation between 30 minutes and however long it takes to finish my latest novel.
  4. My perfectionist tendencies: As a “P” on the Myers-Briggs, I can gather data forever, spend hours on Yelp searching for the best bike shop, the best activities, the best ice cream, the best lobster roll.  It’s exhausting.
  5. My “Pake” aversion to spending lots of money.  Vacations take money—I feel guilty spending money.  (Pake is a derogatory word that means both Chinese and cheap in Hawaii, click here for a blog explaining the concept and a great recipe for mango lassis)

A friend, hearing about my vacation problems, once said, “It’s not vacation, it’s a trip.”  That helped.  “Vacation” connotes rest.  Trips connote a lot of packing, planning, problems and inconvenient bathroom breaks.

This year, our vacation plans in Maine fell through last minute, so we ended up having a week long “stay-cation” and finding a little bungalow on Cape Cod for our 2nd week.  I found that when I embraced the “trip” analogy, my grumpiness went down.  So even though the whining and complaining were astounding when we hiked 3166 feet up Mt. Monadnock, biked 24 miles on the Cape Code Railways Trail and 21 miles on the Shining Sea Trail—hey, that’s what a family adventure’s all about.

I did manage to read 5 novels (never cover to cover), found the very best clam shack, and 2 very good homemade ice cream shops.  There was only one night when my grumpiness sent everyone out to mini-golf while I stayed home to finish a novel.  I’d give myself a B-/C+ for this year’s vacation.

But can I say how excited I am that summer vacation ends and school begins next week?

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