What I Learned On My Summer Vacation

Vacation. 
 
The word conjures visions of “National Lampoon” style roadtrips in the family truckster.  “See Rock City”.  Endless queues of sweaty people in stupid t-shirts waiting for hours to board a thrill ride that lasts all of three minutes.  Long days in an increasingly gamey car, bickering over which exit should have been taken to avoid the construction zone ahead.  Games of mini-golf, with dinosaurs and windmills springing from Astroturf that is warped, torn and stained by god knows what.
 
Not a bad thing, mind you.  These are some of my favorite childhood memories.  Visiting the “Ripley’s Believe it or Not!” Museum in Gatlinburg, TN.  Camping at Santa Claus Land, Indiana.  My all time favorite – visiting the NASA Space and Missile Center in Huntsville, Alabama! 

Six of us crunched into a 1964 Ford Falcon station wagon – with me wedged between my parents in the front seat, my siblings shoe-horned into the back seat.  No one in my world flew anywhere back in the 1960’s and 1970’s, so the summer vacation was built on where you could get in a car. 
 
When my children were little, we did a lot of tent camping – that is, when we weren’t burning our precious vacation days visiting family over the holidays.  Exploring the wilds of the upper peninsula of Michigan.  A two week, 5,000 mile camping trip through the Atlantic Provinces of Canada.  Most of our time was spent on logistics – getting there, setting up the tent, sorting provisions, unpacking “the kitchen”, deciding who slept where – but we also did a lot of hiking and regional exploration, too. 
 
As the kids grew up, i wanted them to see more of the world.  So it was off to Germany, England, San Francisco.  The great “Skate Park and Thrift Store Tour of the Southwestern USA” to Arizona one year.  These trips were pretty amazing.  My ex-husband had no interest in going anywhere other than our vacation place on the Great Lakes, so i went without him, assuring that the kids got to experience an expanded bubble, and do things they couldn’t do at home**.
 
For me, the essence of “vacation” has always been “doing”. 
 
Until this year… i’d never visited Greece, and looked forward to being a tourist in Athens.  Once we got to the island, and settled into our apartment, there was simply nothing much to do.  Companionship was center stage.  A leisurely ten minute walk into the village of Skala Eressos from the rented apartment.  Stop at the bakery for fresh bread.  The green grocer had fruits and vegetables, and other provisions* were available at the general store. 
 
After breakfast?  Walk to the beach, toss down a towel and dip in the sea.  Try not to be obvious when gawking at the naked people.  Become a naked person.  Dry off in the sun – reading or not.  Repeat through the week as necessary. 
 
Siesta.  With a book, a magazine or a laptop, waiting out the hottest part of the day.  Napping.   Nibbling on fruit, or tasty treats from the bakery.  Easy conversation or companionable silence.  Listening to the birds, the buzz of bees feasting on the flowers on the mimosa tree, or the sound of bells on the goats in a distant pasture. 
 
Getting to know “locals”*** over the course of the week.  Seeing the woman who operates the bakery every day – and eventually explaining our ‘story’ to her.  The Dutch woman who manages the local travel agency – complaining that she hadn’t seen those photos she’d heard about on the internet yet!  Seeing the same couples on the beach during the early afternoon.  The proprietors of our favorite restaurants welcoming us back.
 
This trip wasn’t about “doing”.  It was about “being”.  And that’s a pretty damn cool thing to do…


* Beer. 
 
** Alcatraz.  The Grand Canyon.  Horseback riding through the desert at the old Tucson Movie Studios.  Castles.  Learning to ride the tube in London.  Hanging out on the village square in small burgs in Germany.  Watching surfers in St. Ives.  Getting a much better idea of what “Old” means.
 
*** The managers at the apartment were simply marvelous!  They host a barbeque every Friday night for guests and friends from town, providing an opportunity to better connect.  We would be dining in town the next day, and see people we knew – giving us a sense of welcome and belonging.  Never mind the fact that we presented a bit of an enigma – those three women from Australia, South Africa and The States who met on the internet and were photographing themselves in corsets!  When our cleaning woman found the edible underwear we’d collected on the kitchen table for possible use in the photo shoot, she was MORE than a little vexed trying to sort out which bed was being left unused in the apartment….  Are they fresh meat for the beach or not?  i’m pretty sure most of them never really sorted it out…

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30 thoughts on “What I Learned On My Summer Vacation

  1. What joy it has brought me, living vicariously through this series of posts. The photos? Outstanding! And the tales? Lovely, as always.

    So, slides then when we next get together? That would be so cool . . .

  2. tysdaddy – it was a grand adventure, with only minor expenditures of energy (travel on the front and back end of the holiday). will be organizing and processing photos for a month…

    jenny – it was. i’ll still have trips where i want to “do” things, but there will be at least one a year with not much on the agenda… helps to be in a gorgeous place, surrounded by amazing friends and good food opportunity.

    headbang8 – it would have worked out well, so long as you don’t mind three sluggish women, lounging around in knickers and towels for a good portion of the morning…

    tNb – it’s a tough regimen, but i’m going to be training hard from now on!

    DP – the confusion and befuddlement was a bonus. we work hard, master, at doing nothing. we will achieve your level of nothingness someday!

    kyknoord – ‘guilt-free’ nothing to do. try as i might, when i’m home i can’t get my sloth on for very long. i had a bullet-proof excuse over there. i couldn’t clean out my home office, or re-arrange the crap in the garage, or… because it wasn’t there!

  3. Welcome home! So glad you made it back despite the strike nonsense and also glad you and your companions had such a nice time. Couldn’t you just chuck it all and move there? Or would you get bored? Could you live like that until your number was up? Years ago I couldn’t have sat still long enough to appreciate it but now? Do you see that look on a cat’s face when you scratch under his chin? That’d be me.

  4. That sounds like an excellent trip, i’ve always liked the doing but as people have told me over the years, i got an old soul, i’ve always been more about the “being”, that’s the part to the trip you should put in to practice back in the grind, though i think you’ve got a pretty damn good grasp on that concept and don’t need a drunken, drugged up monkey like me to tell you. 😉

  5. unbearable banishment – could i do it for a longer time? gonna do it for 3 weeks next May. same place. the caretakers have invited me back to help out a bit around the place and immerse more fully in the bohemian lifestyle. nursemyra and dolce both think i’ll go batshit stir-crazy if it’s more than 3 weeks, and i’m inclined to agree. but who knows? gonna find out…

    kono – i still like ‘doing’. will never give up my love of being ‘in the shit’, as being a spectator is not my gig. and i’ll take any advice from you, mr. kono. one of the smartest, and most insightful, human beings i’ve ever stumbled upon in my life!

  6. That has got to be my absolutely favorite kind of vacation. Eating fruit and soaking up sun, relaxing to the max. And getting naked in the ocean. I need to go to this place. For real.

    So glad you made it home safely.

  7. great reading, sugar. i truly understand the joy just being can bring. i’m seizing my little moments as often as i can. (yeah, ok, they ain’t in greece, but gimme a break!) ;~) xoxoxox

    (y’all have given me more support than y’all know and i will always be grateful for that, sugar!)

  8. Ah, yes the eternal conundrum: to do or to be.

    “To be is to do”-Socrates; “To do is to be”-Sartre; “Do Be Do Be Do”-Sinatra; “Scooby Dooby Do”-Scooby Do; “Yabba Dabba Doo!”-Fred Flintstone

    Your trip sounds divine…

  9. We had an Impala station wagon. Countless trips to Florida, a couple to historic sites, and one to the New York World’s Fair. We camped all the way there and back. I think our week in Tulum may have finally cured the wife of her desire to do things on vacation.

  10. Your vacations sound absolutely delightful, from the shoe-horning of siblings, to the edible underwear quandary of cleaning ladies. You never know when you’re making a memory. Greece sounds spectacularly relaxing and the kind of stay that makes one want to remain longer. Well done!

  11. I enjoyed this right from the opening paragraph where I thought you were miraculously recounting my family holidays, to the excitement I had reading that you went on a Thrift Store holiday as a family (what a dream, love it!), all the way to the joyful reminiscence you invoked of my own Greek Island holiday some moons ago. Lovely.

  12. stephanie – ‘let go and go’. that’s exactly it… big damn fun!

    healingmagichands – you would have enjoyed the gardens! fruit trees EVERYWHERE (cherry, plum, fig, pomegranate, grapes), plus a veggie garden – where you could help yourself. if you’re interested in going, we can share all details – worth a trip. i’ll be back next year.

    savannah – a cocktail on a shady patio is a moment. sneaking out with a book while your ‘charge’ is napping. find them and grab them. because i’m pretty sure you need a few! hugs, ms. savannah…

    rassles – The Girl was in her ‘thrifting’ phase, and The Boy had become a decent skater. so i let them do some research and add stops to the trip. i’m thinking there are skate parks and thrift stores in Iowa…

    renalfailure – larry king is an enigma. ’nuff said.

    texastrailerparktrash – HA! love it! i’m partial to a little ‘scooby doo’ myself. will add that to the ‘to do’ list!

    syncopated eyeball – i’m still a bit of a ‘do’. always will want to get in the shit and play. but adding ‘be’ to the bucket? a good thing!

    chris – a quick bus tour to get oriented to a new city can be helpful, and i’ve found one tour company that leaves a lot of “on your own” time (Gate1 Travel), but other than that? i’d rather get lost…

    carla – turns out, i’ll be going back to greece next year. if things work out, i’ll be spending 3 weeks there again. let’s see if that’s enough!

    ruby – glad you enjoyed the flash backs. i will forever want to go to new places, and experience new things, but i’ll have to return to greece. it got to me…

  13. dolce – me too. i just started the last load of laundry, and as i threw my big green towel into the washing machine, i smelled the salty remnants of the aegean one last time. well, for this year…

  14. nursemyra – sorry it’s cold there. it’ll be close to 38C here today, and my household air conditioning has taken a dump! waaaaah!

    dolce – twas cool, ms. dolce! so glad you were able to come along and play! gotta figure out how to do it again!

  15. FJ – i’m going to add a little more ‘being’ along with my usual ‘doing’ to the vaca planning. not going to give up the adventures of scuba diving and whatnot, but sometimes that flipside of the pillow is really cool!

  16. I can relate to the station wagon and the astro-turfed putt-putt golf. After reading about the Greecian portion of your journeys, all I can think of is one giant relaxed exhaled “Aaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh.” Hope you enjoy your 3 weeks next year as much as your trip this year.

  17. squirrelqueen – i still adore putt-putt, with or without windmill hazards and giant fiberglass gorillas! the next visit to greece will be quite different, but i expect it to be an opportunity to ‘stretch’… can’t wait!

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