Normally, I work whenever I travel, part of the job of a freelance journalist. But for the first time in my adult life since leaving school, I took a long vacation. Six weeks to be exact. No, I didn’t turn socialist and move to France (although I did gorge on fresh croissants at Paris-Charles de Gaulle Airport). I left my computer at home and took time off work, as in no money making activities. Occasional blogging and twittering don’t count because they’re fun, and I don’t get paid.
I went to the Mainland, South America and Europe….for fun! Sounds suspiciously bourgeois, I know, because few self-respecting, hard-working Americans would contemplate going so far away for so long unpaid. Best to save that amount of time off for new babies and illness. (But I also hate ketchup and ranch dressing, so there’s reason to be suspicious.)
Even if they wanted to, many said hard-working Americans, including the self-employed like myself, couldn’t finance such a European-like endeavor in this economy. But with the help of my partner, lots of accumulated frequent flier miles and favors from friends in faraway places, I pulled it off. I visited a long list of US cities: Boston, Dallas, Miami, San Diego, Los Angeles and Portland. I flexed my passport outside the country as well: Rio, Iguazu Falls, Argentina, the Amazon Rainforest, Paris, London (St. Albans to be exact) and the Netherlands.
Six weeks of traveling has been exhilarating, which smells very European (literally, I washed all my travel clothes on “sanitary”). And now that I’m home and officially back to work, I can honestly report that I have been transformed into a slightly fatter and slightly less motivated version of my previous self.
Somehow by trapsing around the world and back, seeing several “wonders”, and trying to understand who other people are and what’s important to them, I feel more whole, happy and human. Friends who haven’t seen me in a long time notice how relaxed I am while they green with envy and express feeling miffed that I “disappeared” for so long. If only a long vacation got rid of wrinkles and gray hair, too.
Money still counts to provide some of of the daily needs, but on the whole, it’s visiting friends and experiencing other cultures that made this vacation liberating fulfilling. It’s been decadently wonderful to be off exploring for so long, except my inbox is crammed. Now back to work.