I Don't Know How To Take A Vacation

I've been wanting more than ever to take a real, not-visiting-people-I've-known-all-my life, totally superfluous trip.
Publish date:
November 4, 2013
travel, work, vacations, personal time

Read more from Marci over at xoVain!

Before the age of 10, I'd been to Puerto Rico four times. My parents loved this one family-friendly resort in Dorado Beach, and it became a place of firsts for me: I tried spinach, touched a mimosa pudica plant (the leaves close as if it's scared -- very cool), went down a multistory water slide, heard a cockatoo squawk without it making me cry, etc.

I spent a lot of time on the beach, but swimming in the ocean has always scared me a little, so I was thrilled when, before my last visit, they built an amazing river pool. I would spend all day in that thing, sometimes with my parents, sometimes with other kids at the resort, sometimes alone (it was a very safe resort, and also the '80s).

It started with three small pools connected by slides that were carved out of rock. After the third slide, you'd come upon a bar with stools in the water, which I thought was the coolest thing ever. My parents gave me permission to order myself juice -- I'd get pineapple every time -- and charge it back to our room. After the bar, the current would pick up and the pool narrowed into a stream, gently pulling you along its course -- including a grotto with a hot tub -- until you reached the huge, final section of the pool with a volleyball net and a gigantic, twisty water slide.

And that was the last time I ever enjoyed a vacation.

I haven't exactly had too many opportunities to enjoy one, though. My parents and I didn't go on any vacations for the rest of my youth; my father had a heart attack a couple years after the last Puerto Rico trip, and then we moved from New Jersey to Florida so he could retire and basically be on vacation for the rest of his life.

In college, I never took a spring break trip. In my 20s, once I'd moved to New York, I used any time off I had from work to visit family in Florida and DC, or my then-husband's family in Nebraska and Kansas. The only exceptions were two cruises -- two terrible cruises.

My parents kindly paid for my honeymoon 10 years ago. I hadn't really wanted to go on a cruise, but we couldn't afford any elaborate travel plans and neither of us had passports, so we gladly accepted their gift. Despite really hoping to enjoy myself, I almost immediately started having a terrible time. It never felt as private or romantic as I was hoping a honeymoon would feel. At one point, I broke down and sobbed, calling my parents from the ship to tell them how guilty I felt for not having a good time when they had been so generous.

Two years later, my parents invited the then-husband and me on their 30th-anniversary cruise (the first vacation I remember them taking in more than a decade). Ironically, as we celebrated their still-going-strong marriage, I decided to make my then-husband my ex-husband. The relationship hadn't been working, and after spending an evening in our stateroom watching "Finding Neverland," we both cried and decided to start the divorce process when we got back on dry land. Basically, at this point, I associate cruises with crying.

I haven't taken a vacation since.

Here are my reasons/excuses:

  • I still don't have a passport. (I realize that can be easily remedied.)
  • I don't have anyone to go with. I've been alone for a long time; I don't feel like I need to be alone somewhere prettier for a week. I'd rather go with a friend or a boyfriend, but most of my friends are more likely to take vacations with their signficant others, and I don't have one of those.
  • I get nervous about being out of the office for more than a couple of days. At every job I've ever had in my adulthood, I've never used all of my allotted vacation days, even to just hang out at home.
  • I have two dogs; one is really old, and the other is really rambunctious. Being away from them for one day stresses me out, so the thought of being away from them for a week -- and asking friends to take care of them, or paying for boarding -- gives me all the tsuris.
  • I don't want a few thousand dollars of debt on my credit card. It's hard enough to save money when you live in New York, and I definitely don't have enough just lying around to use on a trip.

That said, I've been wanting more than ever to go on a freakin' vacation; a real, not-visiting-people-I've-known-all-my life, totally superfluous trip. I'm not sure if it's hearing about my friends' travels or seeing every other dude on OkCupid posing in Machu Picchu, but it's starting to creep really high on my to-do list.

I don't know if it's irresponsible for me to put money toward a vacation, or if it's even more irresponsible to keep denying myself the mental and physical respite a vacation could offer. Obviously, it's a luxury; no one's owed the experience of travel. But it's gone from something I'm indifferent about to something I want to something I almost feel like I need.

How often do you take vacations? Am I missing out, or is traveling overrated?