On Vacation

We’ve been asked a fair number of times, during the course of dinner at a hostel or speaking with various people around town, whether we’re “on vacation.” Now this is all meant very informally as a social icebreaker of sorts, but frankly, I find that question hard to answer. Almost as hard as the “so where are you from” question. After a five year residency, are we from DC now? Even though we’re not returning there? Is Theresa from Kentucky and I from Seattle? Either way leaves out the explanation for the Texas accent I’ve managed to acquire or why my passport says Sweden. Just answering that question leads to a half hour discussion … which I suppose, in the end, is the point.

Anyway, I digress. This question of vacation comes up a lot. And frankly, my answer is usually, no, we’re traveling. “On vacation,” implies a absolvement of major thought and an indulgance of relaxation. An escape from the busy-ness of life to refresh and renew. And believe me, I do love a good vacation. This, however, is not what we are doing.

We posted awhile back, when this whole plan was somewhat in its infancy, about the comforts of home versus the lure of the open road, so to speak. And what you come to quickly realize is how complicated things become when you don’t have those comforts. At home, you know where you will be sleeping at night. You know you have food in the fridge, or if not, you have solid knowledge of the network of nearby groceries, restaurants and fast food joints ready to serve you, and in addition, your means of getting there. You know how to use your shower, what key goes where to open your house, and whether you should put the toilet paper in the toilet or the trash bin. You have a system for cleaning your clothes, be it your own laundry machine (I yearn for the day I own my first washer and dryer … how simple life will be), or something nearby.

When traveling, none of these things are ever abundantly clear. Life is a neverending series of decisions, often dominated by where do we sleep tonight, what do we eat tonight, and how can I clean my clothes? It’s amazing how much time you can spend on these basic questions, especially when you are as over-analytical as Theresa and I are. Just this morning, we spent almost four hours at the grocery store, with another evening trip tonight (in our defense, we were planning our meals for our five day trip into Torres del Paine starting Thursday).

Now, I don’t want this to seem like a complaint, especially this week, as I truly enjoy every bit of what we are doing. But I do want to draw the distinction between vacation and travel. I think of our traveling as basically, what I do. It’s my “job” for the next year. This is what I put my energy and focus into. This is what I will need a vacation from every once in a while.