The Secret to a Long Vacation

Some time ago, I can’t remember when, I figured out the secret to a long vacation: It lies in when you start it. Mentally.

Some people manage to stretch a weeklong trip out for months, treating the planning, and then the preparation, as all part of the trip. (I’m talking about you, Steve.) Less advanced but still sage fellows start at least at the packing stage. This holds true for trips of all types, but I’ve become especially aware of it around the water, because the contrasts are so great.

Throw two men off a pier. One flails and sputters and tries to bull his way through the waves, ending up exhausted, even if triumphant. The other relaxes and floats, lets the waves push him gently to shore. The second one is the small boat sailor.

It’s easy to spot the unenlightened. They tend to be power boaters. No offense intended, and there are many exceptions – it’s just that you need a fast boat to get clear of whatever they’re running from, and a quiet, slow moving anything just won’t do it for these guys. They arrive at the ramp with the gravel spraying from their tires, visibly annoyed that someone else is on the ramp ahead of them. They pace and scowl, barking at their wives and kids, who stumble about with heads cowered as they duck and dodge the captain’s wrath. Even the dog, if there is one, isn’t spared.

The boat launched and the trailer parked (often across two spaces) they gun the engine, squatting the stern like a bucking horse, and charge off across the water. To where? Trying to outrun their annoyance, presumably.

Now, I’ll be the first to admit that high speed, like firing a gun, has a way of washing away stress. It’s just that under normal conditions you’ve got limited occasion to do either. This poses a problem, if that’s how you get your yah-yahs out. On the water there is the appearance of no rules, fewer lines you have to color between, so it invites this sort of wild-eyed abandon you just can’t achieve without jail time on land. That place, shut of rules and bosses and bill collectors, must be where they’re trying to get to so fast.

Sometime during the trip they usually succeed. Maybe hours later, miles away after careening across the water at 40+mph, they finally get the monkey off their back and chill out; but their whole vacation has been compressed into the brief moment they’ve outrun whatever ails them. The family is clearly more relaxed when they return, or at least tired, but the harried look and scowls return as repacking and reloading progresses, already hardening up for the trip home, to what must be very unpleasant lives.

Small boat sailors are generally a different lot altogether. They’ve accepted the notion it’s all out of their hands, after all – they simply let go and quit kicking. They tend to take whatever comes their way with the same equanimity. Relinquishing will to the whims of wind and weather, they make do with what’s at hand, adapt and go on, knowing the only thing that changes when you stamp your feet and swear is you end up with a sore foot and a sour attitude. They’re defense is to start the vacation early, mentally, taking whatever comes their way as part of the adventure, and are content to get there, or not, in due time.

In fact, don’t even try to rush them – you might make them angry.


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