I have a magnificent schedule. The combination of self-employment and shared custody mean a week of predictable variety: good solid blocks of interaction with all kinds of people from academics honing an argument to ten-year-old soccer players. I can be on any committee that meets on Wednesday nights and have regular Girls Night Out Without Guilt (to some of my peeps, tho’—Yoo hoo! Can we work something out? I can have you home by 10).
It means fodder for the Muse in a regular way (a lot of those creativity workshops look pretty similar to my engagement calendar) but it also can mean no down time (those unallocated slots get spoken for in a hurry). Therefore that problematic construct, the vacation.
Not to say that all y’all aren’t working hard, but the trouble with being self-employed is that the more you work, the more you get paid. So while those around you are planning the family trip, it can seem like a brilliant idea to go ahead and bring that project along. You won’t work full-time, of course, but while everyone else is frolicking around you can at least log a couple hours, right?
After several years of this kind of brilliance, I am now a brain-dead zombie. I have to take the family vacation a little more seriously as a moment to get a real break. It means deciding, along with work, what kind of writing I want to get done in the time frame. Does being on vacation mean taking a break, or does not working mean getting extra written?
This summer we’re going on two trips: one to someplace none of us have ever been, just on our own. The other is to someplace we always go and there’ll be extended family around to divvy up the chores with. One was unwired and camping, the other is wired and town. One I end up having to take work because of how the deadlines lined up, and a meeting with a writing partner when I get back means progress on a particular project, not just responding to what’s around me.
Nevertheless, even that trip will be a break and refreshing. It’s a totally different climate and ecology. Our diet changes substantially while we’re there; I sleep long and hard. We walk up and down the main street between library and beach, chatting with in- and out-of-staters and deciding which firemen’s supper or pancake breakfast to get a meal at. Since I know I need the break, I can be careful about keeping the work in its slot and be sure the recharging stays in the schedule. Being Someplace Else is a chance for the dust in my brain to settle and look at something fresh, somehow all easier when I’m not in my house, my town.
Rules of the Road Trip
- It’s okay to buy beef jerky.
- Yes, take the other road.
- It’s going to take longer than Mapquest says.
- When “Tainted Love” comes on the radio, you have to turn it up. Also any country song with the word “gone” prominently featured.
- Don’t pass trunks near the on-ramp—you trap them in the merge lane.
- Have a glass of water now.
- Vacation reading is stuff outside your usual genre, not duty reads.
- Take pictures of signs with your friends’ names in them.
- If you can book it on the Internet, it’s not the seediest place in town.
- Cheer when you cross the state line.
- Stiff-soled shoes, squirming, and polarized sunglasses help delay road fatigue.
- Carry some petty cash in case of toll booths and parking meters.
- The restaurant with the most cars in the parking lot is the one to go to, especially if they are in-state plates.
- No, there aren’t napkins already in the car.