I guess I haven't mentioned that I'm going to Alaska in two weeks. (Yes, I know, I just did. Smart aleck replies are not required.)
When my trip to Arizona was postponed until September, I decided that I would still take the time off from work I had already scheduled. I asked my parents if they wanted to take some vacation time with me.
To be honest, I'd rather have gone somewhere on my own, but my parents rarely go anywhere unless I'm with them. They haven't taken a holiday since the cruise to Mexico in April 2000, and they're too old to be working as hard as they do for as long as they have without a break. They won't take time off during the summer because that's that's tourist season, the busiest one for the store, so now is as good a time as any for them to go away.
A cruise to Alaska seemed to be the perfect choice, since many of the cruise ships come practically to our doorstep here in Vancouver, so we don't have to worry about the hassle of flying anywhere. As an added bonus, the rates at this time of year are the least expensive.
We'll be leaving on Monday the 21st on the Norwegian Wind, for a seven-day voyage. The downside is that I'll be sharing a tiny room with my parents again. But I get to travel to a new place, and that's something I always look forward to.
* * *
It seems as if I'm always planning for my next vacation. My next destination of choice is never far from my mind.
I'm looking forward to seeing Alaska, but it's Arizona that has been occupying my thoughts lately. Actually, I've been planning this vacation for the past two years, so it wouldn't be too far off the mark to say I've been obsessed with it.
Several weeks ago, the tour company sent me a list of things I need to bring with me on the trip, and I've been buying one or two items at a time every weekend, even though the trip isn't until September. It goes without saying that I've been spending a lot of money on this vacation even before I finish paying for the tour itself. I could be in one of those MasterCard commercials: "Hiking boots, $190. Duffle bag with wheels, $150. View from the rim of the Grand Canyon, priceless!"
I don't doubt that it will be wonderful. For pure scenery, the places I'll be visiting sound breathtaking, especially the Grand Canyon. But part of the thrill will come from being there on my own. Sure, I'll be joining a tour group, but it will be the very first time I've left the province, or even gotten on an airplane, without a companion.
Being completely on my own this time really makes this my vacation. I've been trying to do this unsuccessfully for the past few years. I was planning on going to Banff alone in 1998, but Richard and Nora happened to be there at the same time and so we arranged to meet. While I enjoyed the time I spent with them, the experience turned out differently than I'd envisioned. The following year, I'd planned on going to California by myself, but my parents ended up coming with me. Again, it was nice, but not what I was hoping for.
I've made solo trips to Vancouver Island, Salt Spring Island, and Harrison Hot Springs, but those places were still within the province and did not feel like too much of a departure.
I have all the usual reasons for enjoying travel. Taking time off, geting a chance to relax, seeing someplace new and different, trying new experiences and activities.
But travelling, and in particular, travelling solo, also means that I get to escape from me, from all the things, big and small, that I don't like about myself.
I know it isn't a cure, and going away isn't going to change the life I'll return to. For a few days, though, I get to leave it all behind. Once I've arrived at my destination, nobody knows who I was before I got there. I don't have to worry about the impressions I make on other people because I won't be there long enough for them to remember or care. I can be a different person, if only for a short while.
Until I'm home again, and I start dreaming of my next escape.
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