A (Weird And Strange) Sentimental Journey

When Max and I travel, our destinations usually have a wholly “vacation” vibe.  We are always visitors, not residents.  There is no overlay of “real life” on our trips.  There isn’t any consideration of work, chores, obligations, or normal day-to-day routine.  As a result, our usual emotional experience of vacations is fairly one-dimensional- pleasure, relaxation, excitement, fun.

Our recent trip to California was a whole different beast.  Some of what we did on the trip did constitute “vacation vibe.”  We stayed in a hotel with a jacuzzi, took a side trip to Nevada to go to the casinos, and didn’t worry about responsibilities.  On the other hand, we did a lot of things that recalled the time when California was our home- went to favorite restaurants, took a trip to the San Diego Zoo, visited friends.  Being in a place where we spent most of our lives made it impossible to escape the impact of the remnants of our past. Things were pretty much as we remembered, but not quite as we remembered.  Everything seemed too familiar to truly feel like “vacation.”  The rub, though, was that everything also seemed a little too stylized to feel like “home.”  California probably didn’t change.  It is more likely that the different lenses through which we now look- ground by our new lives- are the reason for the differences we sensed. Reconciling those feelings of “home” and how they have changed was a huge theme of this trip.

This nostalgia created by a vacation tangled and snarled up with the memories and associations of “home” produced a much more complex series of emotions.  It was fun and wonderful, but also complicated.  Yes, we originally decided to vacation in California precisely to experience some of our old favorite haunts and activities that we have missed since moving to Florida.  I was just unprepared to still feel so connected and, yet, so ephemerally connected to California.  It was almost as if my old life in California was covered in cobwebs and I had managed to get tangled in some of those silken threads.  I was always aware of the sense of being attached and always equally aware of how easy it would be to pull away from the thread.  Still, I was not sure that I wanted to completely disengage… either from my California connections or the Florida connections that are just starting to form.

It was a very weird sensation that overwhelmed me several times during the trip.  Everywhere I looked, I remembered the best of my times and the worst of my times. I remembered who I was and how I perceived the world during the nearly fifty years I lived in California. I remembered the experiences I had with people who are either gone from my life or who have changed radically. I remembered how satisfying it was to regularly and routinely see my friends in California.   I think I felt more nostalgic and mournful about moving from California during this trip than I did when we actually moved. On the other hand, being in California didn’t feel quite real… or quite right.

The last time I went to California was a little less than a year after we moved.  At that point, I was still somewhat of a stranger in a strange land in Florida.  The brief trip back to California was a welcome, comforting dose of familiarity.  It was really too soon for California to not seem like home any more.  At that time, I had sketched in the outline of a life in Florida, but there was still a lot of blank spaces.  Since then, I’ve grown and expanded my Florida life.   I’ve colored in the blank spaces and the Florida life is more dimensional now.  As familiar as California felt to me on this trip, it also felt weirdly unreal.  It was hard recognizing that I am losing my attachment to my old home, especially when it still all felt so familiar.  Familiar… yet more faded, kind of like the way a copy of a copy of a copy used to look in the days before we had digital images.  Maybe it isn’t really that I am losing the attachment to California, but just redefining that attachment.  California may represent my past life, but it is still my life. Surely that means there is still some kind of attachment.  Besides, people I love are still part of the California life that is unfurling each day.  I think that means that California life is still a present part of my life, too.

When I went to church the Sunday after returning to Florida, a friend asked me how my trip was.  I replied, “It was wonderful, but I am glad to be home.” She looked at me and said, “so, here’s home now for you, is it?”

As soon as she asked the question, I realized it was true.  I had said “home” referring to Florida without thinking, but I knew I meant it.  California still houses a lot of the artifacts of my life- the memories and experiences that brought me to where I am now in my journey.  We revisited many of those memories and experiences during our trip, sort of like the way you might go to a living history museum to discover how people used to live in the “olden days.”  Then, after soaking up a dose of yesteryear, you go home and go on with your own present and future.  That’s what I did. After our trip to California, I went home to my present day real life.

Have you ever gone “home” after moving away?  What was that experience like for you?  Please share your perspective by leaving a comment.  In the alternative, you can email me at terriretirement@gmail.com.

Have a great day!

Terri 🙂

Can You Still Call It A Vacation After You’re Retired?

A few months after I retired and we moved across the country, Max and I took a trip to Colonial Williamsburg. We were looking forward to exploring the Historic Triangle of Williamsburg, Jamestown, and Yorktown. We would see the remains of the first English settlement in what became the United States of America.  We would watch artisans make glass, silver products, and clothing as it was made in the 1600s.  We would take a carriage ride around the perimeter of the first capital of the Virginian colony and attend a re-enactment of a colonial officer’s treason trial.  We would eat gingerbread made as it was in the early 1700s.  We would stand at the site of the decisive battle of the American Revolution.  Our plans were packed with educational and culturally enriching opportunities.  And shopping.  Besides the numerous gift shops adjacent to the aforementioned educational and culturally enriching opportunities, there was a large outlet mall, a huge Yankee candle megastore, and at least four multi-level shops devoted to selling Christmas decorations.   Scenery, history, and shopping… what more could a girl ask for from a vacation?  Maybe an amusement park?  Oh, there’s a Busch Gardens in Williamsburg, too. 

As we awaited the day of our departure, something was still bothering me, however.  Before we left, Max kept a countdown on the number of days until our “vacation.”  Every time he used the term “vacation,” something just didn’t sit right with me.  I asked him if it was still called a “vacation” since we no longer had jobs and, thus, really, had nothing from which to vacate. 

We tried to think of something else to call this event, but were not successful.  We tried “pleasure trip,” but that seemed too cumbersome.  We tried “getaway,” but thought that didn’t seem completely accurate, as there was no one chasing us.  Besides, there were no criminal activities, machine guns, or speeding cars involved.  Finally, we gave up and stopped calling our impending trip anything at all.

This issue of what to call this trip begged a bigger question.  When we were working, this sort of trip was incredibly fun, partly because all the time spent in this riot of entertainment was time not spent working.  I was worried that the trip would not hold the same appeal and enjoyment as past “vacations” now that the guilty pleasure of playing hooky from our jobs was no longer a component.

On the Sunday we arrived in Virginia, it was drizzling.  We had planned to go to Busch Gardens for part of the day, since I had not realized until a few days before we left (and AFTER I had already purchased online admission tickets) that the amusement park was only open on Saturdays and Sundays at the time of the year we were going.   Something weird happened, though, and I made an uncharacteristically spontaneous decision.  I decided that, instead of braving the rain and racing around trying to get to Busch Gardens to use those prepaid admission tickets, we should just let it go.   Max and I have a tendency to overplan things.  I still refer to our first visit to Disney World as the “forced march across central Florida” because of my obsession with planning the heck out of stuff to avoid missing anything good.  This fateful decision to throw Busch Gardens to the winds ended up setting the tone for the whole trip.  Our pacing turned out to be just perfect.  As we pursued our fun, we did not run; we meandered.  Over the next five days, we saw all the sights we intended to see and more.  We walked aimlessly and endlessly through beautiful, tree-lined paths and reconstructed colonial towns. We absorbed the wonderful atmosphere with the very oxygen that we breathed.  We stopped at the College of William and Mary bookstore several times to browse, bask in the energy, and linger over a beverage.  I spent some time each day in the hotel’s indoor pool.  We ate well.  I managed to purchase goods from all four of the Christmas stores.  We both slept soundly and peacefully every night.   Although I was not aware I was feeling any stress before we left for Virginia, I became acutely aware of the complete absence of tension during this trip.  I was completely in the moment and enjoying everything as it happened. 

Maybe it was a vacation after all.

A few months later, we decided to take a trip to Las Vegas, which rekindled the whole debate.  This trip would not be the lazy, spontaneous type of trip Williamsburg had been.  We had tickets and dinner reservations and had a pretty strict schedule of touring.  As we bounded through the four days in Las Vegas, our steps were springy and our eyes were wide.  Everywhere we looked, there was something different to see and everywhere we went, there was something different to do.  It was like an unending buffet of activity- even when we started to get full; we gulped and savored one more bite.  Still, I found myself still wrestling with the question of whether or not it is still a vacation when you no longer work for a living.  I was able to resolve the dilemma by asking myself a few simple questions:

  •   Was I cooking, cleaning, or doing laundry?  No.
  •  Was I suffering through some new house-related disaster?  No.
  •  Was I hauling my mother to medical appointments or evaluating health insurance plans for her?  No.
  • Was I evicting less-than-cuddly wild animals from my garage?  No.
  • Was I on vacation?    YES!

So what are your thoughts?  What makes a “trip” a “vacation” for you?  Please share your perspective by leaving a comment.  In the alternative, you can send me an email at terriretirement@gmail.com.

Have a great day!

Terri 🙂