I’ll never be accused of wanderlust…

A million years ago, when dinosaurs roamed the earth, I would burn off vacation time to go places and do things. It could be as simple as taking an extra-long weekend at the beach or as involved as heading to the Caribbean or spending the better part of two weeks knocking around Europe. It’s been a decade at least since I used my vacation time to really “go away.”

There are lots of factors intervening. Buying the house put a real stretch on finances there for a couple years. The idea of finding someone I trusted to take care of the various dogs, cats, and tortoise in residence for more than a day or two away was always daunting – and often nearly as expensive as the trip itself if I opted to hire it professionally versus relying on the less budget busting kindness of local friends. Added to that, the recent experience of returning home to find Hershel unexpectedly hovering just short of death’s door despite all reasonable precautions and care has left me more than a little angsty every time I need to leave the house to get groceries, let alone think about being away for days or weeks at a time.

The other insurmountable problem with going places is that when you arrive where you’re going, they’re inevitably filled with people. I can muster up the patience for dealing with the masses in small doses – perhaps the length of a concert – or a bit longer if really pressed. Contending day after day with long tourist lines, jostling for every meal, and a sea of people milling around oblivious to everyone and everything around them simply doesn’t sound restful or relaxing. Maybe I’ll be motivated to do that kind of travel again someday, but 2023 doesn’t feel like the year.

I’ll be using my upcoming time off to launch some strategic day trips to a few of the Mid-Atlantic region’s great used and antiquarian bookshops, get some vetting done for Anya, and otherwise just knocking around the house a bit. It’s not a plan smacking of wanderlust, but it feels like precisely the level of peace and tranquility I need at the moment.

I’m making a list and checking it twice…

I probably put more effort than is strictly necessary into traveling. Even a million years ago when I was traveling for work on a regular basis, I was the guy who showed up at the airport with a giant suitcase that pushed the 50 pound weight limit for a four day trip. It got exponentially worse when I lived in the center part of the country and most of the trips suddenly because reachable if I were willing to put in a long day’s drive. Then I’d fill the bed of the truck with all manner of stuff that I might possibly need, or more often just things that would make the hotel room feel more like home. If I couldn’t actually be at home, that was the next best alternative.

Seriously, I’d show up at five star hotels, slide into their valet line, and proceed with an unpacking experience that looked like a cross between the arrival of a gypsy caravan and the journeys of Lawrence of Arabia. What can I tell you, I’m believe in my own comfort… and for me, that generally means having the right things on hand whenever I might want or need them.

Here we are many years since those trips of old… but the impulse to take the whole house with me is as strong as ever. That’s why I’ve been working on my Christmas List for the better part of a week now. It’s not a list of presents, of course, but rather my planned packing list.

The list these days is a little different. It consists mostly of dog beds, dog food, dog toys, dog medication, crates, bowels, leashes, harnesses, and then the usual allotment of books, electronics, charging cables, and a few changes of clothes. In other words, mostly things that I could personally live without, but would really prefer not to if it’s avoidable.

This year I’ve gone so far as to have some of the requirements shipped ahead. Yes, thanks to Amazon I have pre-positioned certain dog related items at our holiday destination so we can just fall in on it when we arrive. Then all I’ll have to decide is whether to abandon it in place or repackage it for backhaul. It turns out you can take the boy out of logistics, but you can’t really shake the logistics out of the boy.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to start thinking about the Tetris-style load planning I’ll need to sort out to make sure everything is safely stowed in the truck cab or at least protected from the weather under the bed cover.

Obviously I have no idea how normal people travel.

I should have hired a Sherpa…

I’m good at a lot of things, but as I’ve mentioned previously, packing judiciously is not one of them. In fact, you’d be hard pressed to see much difference in how I prepare for a 4-day trip to a location less than 100 miles from home as compared to let’s say a 2-month expedition to the source of the Amazon. I’ve spent a very large percentage of my years acquiring items that bring me comfort, make life easier, or that I otherwise just enjoy having around. In setting up shop in a home away from home, I’m basically of the opinion that as many of those items as possible should make the trip with me. My packing calculus recognizes no actual difference between being gone overnight or wandering off for a year.

The good news is that whenever I get where I’m going, I almost always have what I need – sometimes (often) to the point of being duplicative. The down side, of course, is that since I don’t have a Sherpa, I’m the one who ends up toting and hauling this mess from Point A to Point B and back again to Point A with whatever additional provisions I’ve laid on during my stay. It’s particularly bad when I’m driving from place to place with basically unlimited capacity to tote more “essentials” with me. The $50 a bag fee on most flights helps keep my over packing in check when I fly, but certainly doesn’t eliminate it.

I’d like to say I’ll try to change – that I’ll try to mold myself into that kind of traveler who can set off at a moment’s notice with just a carryon bag and a passport, but I know that’s not me. That’s never going to be the way I travel. Traveling with me is always going to be more akin to supplying the Normandy landings than it is to backpacking across the Continent with a Eurail pass. Sherpa or not, I’m totally alright with that.

Missing out…

I realized yesterday that the unremitting focus on finding another job and launching my escape from Memphis has had yet another unexpected victim. This is usually at this time of year when I’m in the final stages of plotting a trip that will take me somewhere with warm sea breezes, palm trees, and a rum economy. With the unknown costs of a long-hoped for move to consider and the more recent threat of a government shut down, it’s probably for the best that I overlooked this annual ritual. Still, though, there’s something about those trips that’s good for the soul. Or maybe it’s just the breakfast mimosas on the beach, rum punch and bushwhackers on the pool deck in the afternoon, and a bottle (or two or three) of good wine at dinner that helps slow the brain down a bit and lets the relaxation set in.

It’s too late for this winter, but here’s hoping that the six directions I’m going in currently will settle themselves into a new normal by this point next year and I’ll get my toes in the sand sooner rather than later. In the meantime, I still have an escape left to plan… and maybe I can sneak away for a long weekend in Vegas. It’s not exactly relaxing, but it’s always fun.