In April, my husband Scott and I - along with 2 friends, Nate and Annalisa from The CoLab, went on an honest to goodness Vacation. That's right, folks - Vacation, with a capital V. A premeditated adventure away from our home town, without our glorious children, leaving our task lists and contracts (both signed and yet-to-be-signed) at the office, and turning on those email notifications to tell the beckoning world that We Have Made the Choice to Take a Non-Commercial Break. Catch'ya Later.
Even as I imagined the trip, long before we left home, there were great plans. Great plans that included a zen-like mastery of the art of decompression, while gaining valuable insights into the surely improved productivity upon our return. It was going to be an investment in ourselves, giving us perspective on our lives back home and allowing us to redirect our energies and find a more sustainable balance.
Now, if you asked my husband, he would surely tell you that he just wanted to take a trip. Because it sounded like fun. Because we hadn't gotten away in way too long and life is short. It's not that Scott didn't care about what he was leaving behind or think about why he Should or Shouldn't go - but somehow he has
this innate awareness and comfort level with the idea that one needs the other - work and play. But for me, there was all this required pre-justification: for spending the money; for taking the time away from the burgeoning businesses and the unceasing expenses; and for leaving the little people behind - who can really stress out when their parents aren't within hugging distance.
Eventually I could see that I just had to get on the plane. So we did, and we flew to New Orleans to experience a new place, a different culture and Jazz Fest! On the second night, I started to notice how quickly I adopted the new routine. However unstructured, it still had its own rhythm and pace, its own cornerstone activities - a kind of ritual.
One of the many things I love and appreciate about Scott is that he is my perfect traveling companion. Both of us enjoy the absence of any conspicuous plan while we're traveling; we revel in the lack of "Be Here at This Time", and we're both perfectly happy sitting in a coffee shop, reading the local paper and watching people going about their daily business.
We woke up without an alarm clock every day, sometimes early-ish, sometimes late-ish; I read in bed some mornings, where the sheets were clean and white; we made coffee and sat on the front porch before we did anything else. We listened to music coming from all directions: from neighbors' homes, from bikers and walkers passing by, on the streets and spilling out from the windows and open doors of restaurants, pubs and upstairs apartments. We'd immediately bought a couple of used bikes and a bike lock the morning after we arrived, so we had the freedom to hop on the bikes to explore in any direction. And we made decisions in the moment, about which direction to head toward or away from.
In this way, we experienced a lot. And we missed things too. Because we headed in one direction, we didn't head in the other. So, there are many things we thought we might see but didn't. Which means we'll need to go back - sometime soon.
We spent some unexpected time getting to know Nate and Annalisa in a different way than we know them at home and at work. We met and spent time with their extended family, played board games, drank wine and told stories. Scott and I got to be adults together - not just parents, but whole people. And we missed our children. Scott described it as a feeling akin to having left home without one of our arms. It was hard and good.
And then, after days of music festivals and late night bar-hopping, brass bands and zydeco, beignets and chicory coffee, eating out and riding it off - we were ready to come home. And that was also hard and good.
Now that we've been back in the swing of our previous lives, the lives we lived before the Vacation - I don't really feel all that zen. But there is a peaceful recognition of something I think I'd forgotten. Because when I look back at the Vacation, there are so many pieces of that ritual that I can place gently into my everyday routine at home. I can do that with relative ease, partly because I live in a place, a community that values these simple pleasures in life. All the things I so enjoyed about being Away, are the same things I've noticed myself edging out of my life in order to make room for Productivity.
As I look back on those 8 days in April, I'm asking myself - do I want to be Productive or do I want to be Content? Can I have both? The Vacation didn't answer those questions for me. But I do ask them more often now.