Vacations always turn out unexpectedly flavorful and flawed, which sends you home with stories and memories to boot, if not the “perfect” vacation. If anyone tells you they had a perfect vacation, I can promise you they are leaving out the story of the hissy fit because they couldn’t find gelato, or the story of the hailstorm that came out of nowhere, or the day everyone hated each other’s guts and skulked around the beach without speaking. It’s funny how pristinely perfect we imagine our vacations to be before we leave home, as if being in a new geographical location will suddenly create the utopian life you’ve always knew you could live out if you could just see palm trees every morning or just get to the West Coast! or just live in a warmer climate!
Maybe it’s just me- but my expectations for getting away are sky-high and never account for real life fatigue, moods, weather changes, or other people. Usually by the time the plane lands in whatever place I’ve formulated a to-do list (a to-do list! On vacation!) which is beyond impossible:
• read all 12 books in my suitcase, and make note of good ones. Note to self: you lugged them this far. You better make replacing clothes with books in your almost-too-fat suitcase worth it.
• keep up current events, and read all the interesting articles I haven’t had the chance to read lately.
• learn, memorize, study, recite, and quote the history and significance of the place, landmarks, and neighborhoods in which you reside.Teach family. Take new knowledge home with you to educate other would-be travelers.
• develop an insanely dark tan, like a Hispanic. If English/Irish pigmentation does not cooperate, tan longer and harder. Maybe try permanent markers.
•buy souvenirs for friends! Postcards! Find eclectic buys in locally owned shops!
• run every day along the beach: GO FOR THE BEACH BODY!
• people-watch at coffee shops over mocha and biscotti while writing a poem a day. Visit local ice cream and cupcake shops, consume products, revisit above resolution.
• rest. Sleep!!!
• sightsee! Try new things! Take advantage of all tours, shopping, plays, museums in area.
• bond with family trying new experiences.
• spend quality time with Jesus. Memorize scripture!
• be charming, loving, carefree, and unselfish.
I promise I’m not as psycho as I sound, and I apologize if just reading the above list exhausted you so much you wished for a week off.
Here’s what I’ve learned: until I’m perfect- perfectly energized, perfectly good, perfectly like Jesus- I will never achieve lists like that.
Packing for La Jolla early this week (which took hours, as I have no non-essentials as a girl and on top of that had to fit almost everything in a CARRY-ON), I visualized our trip: dazzling sunshine, energetic runs on the beach, sitting at a tiny coffee shop, nearly empty, nibbling scones and suddenly hit with the inspiration for my first book.
Who doesn’t idealize vacation? We forget that vacation is a change of scenery, but not a change of ourselves or life. We still have allergies, annoyances, and unpredictable weather- not to mention we travel with people we love, which means there is always conflict and squabbling.
The last three days in La Jolla have been wonderful, but they have not been “perfect” by any means. For starters, its been chillier than expected and I left essential clothing for changing climates at home, like my black sweater I love that goes with everything. And a white tank-top. I’ve worn the same sweatshirt every day (thankfully we have a washer and dryer) but am starting to tire of it.
Colder weather meant I wore jeans to the beach today. Colder weather means we shiver in our sun dresses we packed and eat inside when we’d visualized outdoor dining.
Then, we’ve been struck with family indecision when presented with loads of free time. (“Somebody just pick!”) Everyone has different things they want to do here… Dad wants to deep sea fish. Ashley wanted to do Disney (check). Mom wants to go to the beach and ride the trolley. I really wanted to go across the border. It looks like we’ll fulfill all those wishes except mine (longer post on that later…) Balancing all our ideas of the “perfect trip” honestly requires a paid trip planner that we did not hire. So we do it ourselves and try. We’ve done a pretty good job, I’ll admit.
But in the midst of California beauty and relaxation, we get upset if things don’t go as originally hoped… Like the weather being in the 60s and cloudy. And speaking for myself, I get low on blood sugar before you can say where’s the closest In N Out Burger. and also speaking for myself, being on vacation doesn’t prevent tiredness or crabby spells or irrational frantic searches for things you thought you lost, like the key to the beach house or your contact lens or your favorite clicky pen or your library book.
I think I will laugh at the flawed moments – the ugly boat-sized rental car, how we left the airport and I guided us (with my iPhone GPS) so helpfully right back in one giant circle to the airport. How Matterhorn was closed at Disney, and I almost cried learning that Tower of Terror was at the other park.
They will be unforgettable moments after the fact, the cracks that make the masterpiece even more lovable and beautiful. Because there’s no such thing as the perfect vacation, because life isn’t ever going to be perfect until heaven. And until then, I’ll deal with my own imperfections and those of life, and remember that when we don’t meet our expectations, there’s grace and love, more sand and sun and ice cream cones.
And a new day to try again.