Essays About

The Labor of Vacation

I never work so hard as on vacation. For weeks before my departure, I cannot relax on weekends because I must research and plan. Hail to the free spirits and gypsies who can find their way as they go. I have learned that any decision I neglect to make in advance, I will have to make in the moment, when time is scarcer, stress higher, and strangers waiting for my answer. My task—from a starting point of zero knowledge, to determine what to do, how long, and in what order—appears conquerable from a distance, but the more I learn, the more complexities emerge. The restaurant and theater I have chosen for Wednesday night are not in walking distance. The museum for Saturday is closed weekends. Research, before it yields solutions, multiplies problems.

On arriving, I tighten into a state of poise and tension: heightened alertness must compensate for heightened ignorance. Hailing a taxi, ordering food, and talking with a hotel receptionist follow rules and conventions I am oblivious of. I am reborn into childhood, my decades of education and social instruction made irrelevant. I revert to feelings of self-consciousness not felt since adolescence.

Finally, my vacation is over, and I can go back to work and rest.