Vacation, basically, is an act of vacating the routine of daily living for a period of time. My daily routine of living no longer includes a 9 to 5 job; of course, my daily routine of living hasn't included a 9 to 5 job since the 1980's. My jobs have always been 7 or 8 to, well, 7 or 8- sometimes later. That is the life you take on when you become a litigation attorney.
However, now, I have no job, no work hours, and no externally forced routine of daily living. I have self-imposed routines, which are flexible, and involve high minded activities such as: morning coffee and electronic cigarette; walking the dog, Sami; making the bed and doing the dishes; running errands for myself or for Laura; taking Sami to the river for a swim (her); writing and editing my books; and recently, planning for a long trip to Southeast Asia.
However simple this routine might seem, it is, regardless, my routine of daily living.
So, when I got on a plane in Newark, New Jersey, headed for San Francisco, California, I considered myself to be embarking on a vacation. Of course, Laura made fun of me - "what, a vacation from your vacation." However, and all teasing aside, I do not consider myself on an extended vacation from the "normal" routine of workdays and weekends. I am in the process of completely shifting away from that paradigm.
This paradigm shift is taking time, and reflection, and a lot of metaphorical nail biting. It's scary to jump off the ledge - or more aptly, to step to the sidelines and watch the rest of the rats race. Fear, even when you're facing it, can be exhausting. I actually needed a vacation.
I arrived in the Bay Area on a Monday night and was warmly greeted by my friend Liz' friend Ivan, who picked me up at BART, and dropped me at Liz' house in Oakland. Liz was out of town for the first week of my vacation, and I was therefore able to stay at her house, for free, and keep company with Lucy the Adorable Monster dog.
The first evening and the following day were nice; I snuggled with Lu, took a yoga class at Yoga Tree in Berkeley and a walk/jog at the Berkeley Marina.
And, then, as so many of us do on vacation - when the built up stress and strain of our daily routine has a chance to catch up with us, I got sick. Very sick. Some sort of flue and cold combination that knocked me out for a week. I was out of it, and therefore got a street sweeping ticket on the 3rd morning - a good lesson in paying attention to local rules on vacation, regardless of distraction (or illness).
I did manage to get to the optometrist to pick up my repaired glasses - the optometrist who is located in the same building where my ex works - I got in and got out and avoided any unnecessary complications. It was stressful, though. I really never want to see her again. Sad. But true.
After days of cancelled plans with friends and family, I was finally ready to enter the world again on Sunday. I had a nice brunch with my friend and coven sister, Alexis on 4th Street in Berkeley.
Liz came home the next day, and we caught up before I left for dinner with my friend Vashti at the Lake Chalet restaurant on Lake Merritt in Oakland.
On Tuesday night, I had dinner with Shaana at Credo, a good restaurant with a very beautiful, Irish bartender, on Pine Street in San Francisco. Liz' friend Joe arrived on Wednesday, and all was merry at Liz' house. I also had a yummy dinner with my old friend and colleague, Bruce, at Burma Superstar, a Burmese restaurant with various locales - this one on Telegraph in Oakland. I highly recommend the sesame beef and the pumpkin curry. The rainbow salad is pretty delicious as well.
On Thursday, I hung out with my sister Sarah and her four amazing children, Eli, Diego, Faith and Shabria.
Thursday night, Liz, Joe and I entertained our mutual friend, Harris, who came by to pick up his "try not to be a dick" bumper stickers.
Friday morning rolled around quickly, and I packed it all up to get ready for my midnight flight home to New York. I really missed Laura and our 4-legged menagerie, and was ready to go. I spent the evening with Jennnifer - my beautiful and amazing friend and ex-roommate. We ate Noodle Theory (corner of College and Claremont, Rockridge area at the Oakland/Berkeley border). I had the beef udon noodle soup. It was so good, I had to pick up the bowl to slurp out the last drop.
And, then, there I was riding the BART train once more, on my way to SFO. My trip home was uneventful, but very long. It was a cheap ticket, and the return leg was payment to the piper. Three flights and 15 hours later, I was safely in Laura's car, Sami licking my cheek, as we got on the Thruway headed home to New Windsor, New York.
It's been about a week since I got home. I have returned to my routine of daily living, and have finalized my big trip.
I finally heard from a friend who has done extensive traveling in Southeast Asia - and, well, everywhere. He suggested I do the big Trans-Siberian/Mongolian adventure in the late Spring when the cities on that trip really shine. He also suggested that a trip to Burma is really the thing to do before it gets all weighted down with tourism.
So! I decided to abide by Peter's advice, and a piece of wisdom from a travel blogger I read a while back who wrote, "this is not the trip, only this trip."
I booked my airline tickets: I leave December 4 for Taiwan where I will stay at the Dharma Drum Monastery for a week. On December 11, I fly to Yangon, Burma for a solo trek. On December 26, I fly to Bangkok to meet up with Kelly and have a great almost three weeks of sun and fun. I fly home to New York on January 13 (and 14th).
I don't think of this trip as a "vacation." I think of this six week journey through the unknown as part of my training for living a life less "normal" than the average American. I feel scared and totally lucky to be able to pull this off at the age of 46.
When I was in Maine with my Aunt Jane, we got lost off the beaten path and ended up in a creek bed. Yes, literally, up the creek. I had to drive my Subaru Outback down that mostly dry, and rock strewn creek bed for several miles. It was harrowing, but I acted the part of heroine - my own savior. I am looking forward to meeting up with that heroine again, on the road, somewhere in Southeast Asia...