GratiTuesday: No more vacations

Vacation \ vāˈkāSH(ə)n \ n1: a period of suspension of work, study, or other activity, usually used for rest, recreation, or travel; recess or holiday  2: freedom or release from duty, business, or activity

 

I remember what taking a vacation meant when I was working full time: I’d decide on a destination, figure out how much time I needed to take off work, consult my schedule and my boss to make sure the dates were OK, fill out any necessary H.R. paperwork, work extra hours before my vacation so that I didn’t leave any loose ends while I was gone, then put in even more hours when I returned so I could catch up on all the work that wasn’t done while away.

After one or two days back in the office, it hardly felt like I had been away at all. In fact, I was often twice as busy and felt more stressed than before I left.

relaxing

Now that my husband and I are retired, we no longer take vacations. Packing our bags and leaving our home for a few days, a few weeks, or a few months, isn’t a “release from duty or business.” We might need to stop our newspaper and mail deliveries, have a neighbor watch the house and water a few plants, or arrange for friends or family to stay in our home while we are gone, but, our time away is no longer “a period of suspension of work or study” nor does it require prior approval. Instead, it is a continuation and enhancement of our retired life.

Rather than take vacations, what we do now is travel. We take road trips. We visit. We tour. We go on great adventures. Sometimes we aren’t 100% percent sure of our itinerary or when we’ll return home. If we decide to stay a little while longer somewhere, no problem. If we see a road less traveled and decide to take it, fine and dandy.

I am so grateful that our retirement has given us the freedom to stop taking vacations from something and instead be able to say “yes, we’d love to,” “yes, we’ll go,” “yes, we will be there.”

Practice Retirement

Several months ago – back when I thought I’d be retired by now – I happily volunteered to go on a two-week road trip with a dear friend. She used to live in San Diego before moving to Pennsylvania, and now drives west each winter to spend several months seeing friends and avoiding the snow. I thought it would be great fun to join her on her journey back home.

Just like this, except in the snow and without Brad Pit to entertain us.
Just like this, except in the snow and without Brad Pitt to entertain us… and no cliffs.

I am fortunate that I was still able to arrange a two-week block of time off work, and lucky that I have a husband who understands the importance of the trip and is OK with me being away for that amount of time.

We planned this trip before the dreaded polar vortexes (vortices?) hit, so I’m now questioning the wisdom of leaving sunny southern California and heading to the east coast. To avoid as much cold weather as possible, we’ll take a mostly southern route before heading north once we reach Alabama. Since I’ve never lived in the snow, I don’t have the proper clothes, nor do I have a clue how to drive in the stuff. I really hope that the worst will be over by the time we head out in a few weeks.

Remind me again why I'm leaving the orange and yellow part in the lower left to drive to the dark blue and purple parts in the upper right?
Remind me again why I’m leaving the orange and yellow part in the lower left to drive to the dark blue and purple parts in the upper right?

I’m also nervous because I’m an introvert by nature and crave a certain amount of alone time. The thought of being with someone other than my husband, in close quarters, all day, for two weeks is somewhat unsettling. Fortunately, my friend and I share similar interests, and our taste in food, music, books-on-tape, etc. is close enough so I’m fairly certain we’ll be fine.

Although a two-week trip across country could be called leisurely, we won’t make many site-seeing stops. We’ve identified a couple of points of interest that will require longer stays, and plan to see a few friends along the way, but mostly our overnights will be in small towns, strategically spaced to break up the drive into reasonable chunks.

This trip is the type of adventure (albeit with my husband) I am looking forward to the most in my retirement. Without any hard deadlines or schedules, I hope he and I can take off when the desire hits us, and stay away as long as we want. I have no idea how often we will actually do that, but just having the option feels very freeing.

This road trip with my friend will give me a chance to practice being retired. Along with as many warm cloths as I can stuff in my suitcase, I will take my journal and my camera, a commitment to be flexible and open experiences outside of my comfort zone, and, most of all, my sense of adventure.