Real Life…Interrupted

by Liz Caskey on February 1, 2010

At this time of year in Chile, Santiago becomes a ghost town and everybody heads to the coast, far flung latitudes, or the countryside on vacation. In January and February while Chileans head off on summer vacation, we are in full swing with our business. I relish the city: exquisite dry heat and cool nights, no traffic jams, pool parties, cocktails on terraces, and no traffic jams (did I already mention that? It is a biggie).

On my recent Holiday visit to the US, which did not feel like vacation since I was remotely working most of the time, I really gave some serious thought as to when travel for me (anywhere) is truly vacation. What sets it apart, how am I different, how does it feel. And then I made a pact with myself and my husband that no matter what, we would always take a real vacation every year. Read on…

“Here I am in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, land of my childhood and snowy cold from December-March. This is my first trip home to celebrate Christmas with my family since I moved to Chile nine years ago. Everybody here seems to be asking me how my  “vacation” in Pennsylvania has been so far. I try not to refrain from outright laughter. This has not exactly been what I qualify as vacation. We are  visiting, i.e. enjoying family, friends, and holiday cheer but this is a far cry from vacation, for me at least.

On this trip, I started to really analyze why a visit does not feel like real time off. What does constitutes being “on vacation”? It’s a fair question considering our primary business is planning luxury food and wine trips for other people (errr, their vacations!). The first tennat for any trip to be a vacation is 100% disconnect. Yes, that means shutting down and disconnecting from everything. Turning off my Crackberry (better idea, bury it), putting on the “out of office” email responder and voicemail. I don’t even consider turning on the TV. I conveniently forget about being “on line”, even if just a little bit. Internet is a drug—and an addictive one.  I don’t worry about taking any calls, answering any emails, and delegate all pressing issues and projects in our office. This has to happen to really, really enjoy vacaction. I am a self-confessed workaholic and this all has been a very hard process to assume that 2 weeks per year, I need to let go, turn off my work brain, and go away where nobody can find me. Well, obviously my husband, and maybe my Mom in the event of an emergency. If I don’t make that distinction and keep checking email, even on the beaches of Turkey, what’s the difference between that and my business trips to cool locations like Buenos Aires? Really?

On vacation, I realized I also need to forget about my family, friends, cats, and general life responsibilities for a long period (more than a week). I only need to focus on pleasure, my wants and needs, and having a sacred non-business space with my husband (who’s also my business partner and photographer for this blog). The benefits are clear: relaxation and a mental break. But they are not immediate. Going “off” modern life has a withdrawal component. The mind will protest and create a kazillion reasons why not. At first I would freak out. What do I do without a blackberry? Is life possible? It is, I assure you. By the third day, I usually forget and don’t even care. It’s the only way I can get the necessary distance from my life as usual. So I guess that’s it. In essence, vacation is leaving my daily life aside for a little while to gain another perspective of me. The Liz without a business, a blog, work, engagements, responsibilities, and stress. Ironically, pulling this off for two weeks straight takes a hell of  a lot of leg work prior to departure!

Personally, I am into two types of vacations. Give me total relax any time on some beach in a far-away paradise where I don’t have to move from the hammack if I don’t want feel like it. The only vital decisions may be: what massage I’d like today at the spa; reading my book; catching some rays by the pool;  definitely a sunset walk on the beach; what time should I do yoga;  what and where can I eat; when is it siesta (length unimportant); and some frothy cocktail or cold beer to chill out. Tranquility and not a care in the world by the sea. Only my husband and a very comfy, well-appointed hotel (or house). The options are unlimited but usually, in my world of “need that for yesterday”,  I work on perfecting the art of doing nothing. That is serious therapy for a habitual multi-tasker.

The other type of vacation I adore is adventure-driven; urban or nature. On these vacations, I find the disconnect in putting my physical and mental limits to the test trying new experiences in a foreign region, country, or city. It could be a hard core trek over a glacier in the Torres del Paine park in Patagonia; powering over mammoth sand dunes in a 4×4 in Lencois Maranhenses in Northeastern Brasil; or diving into a new city where I don’t speak the language. It doesn’t matter, the thirst of exploration drives me forward (and good sign language).

This past year, we organized a record amount of vacations for other people.  To be honest, when it is my turn to go on vacation another critical component is that I want to be on the other side of the table. I want to be served, not think about the details, not worry about the logistics, have no need to think about what’s next. Just be present, sit back, and enjoy. I let the local experts guide me to the best colloquial places, yummy joints, and get a handle on what’s most interesting. And not a single drop of news from the office. Only time together for me and my husband. Those two weeks are sacred, untouchable. They are the sap that nourishes our souls during the whole year and gives us the juice to return with our batteries charged. Ahh…”

Published in the Chilean (Spanish-language) magazine, Revista Placeres, in January 2010.

{ 2 comments }

Margaret February 1, 2010 at 8:08 pm

Ahhh… vacation… I remember that concept! Back before the days of freelancing in Chile…

Rupert Jones February 11, 2010 at 11:50 pm

Game. Set. Match. Excellent online free article!

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