Monday, February 11, 2013

A Vacation That's Just for Me

I recently made the decision to give up my upcoming spring break because of personal obligations. Without going into too much detail, the "obligations" aren't based on an emergency. But it was "expected" that I would help, and because of that, I will not get a spring vacation. And I can't help feeling just a little bit unhappy about it, especially because I am "expected" to sacrifice the little free time that I do have more often than not.

As a workaholic, I don't typically take vacations. Partly it's because despite the fact that I work multiple jobs, I can't afford to take a vacation because none of those jobs pay very well. Also it's because I like vacations as much as the Lohan family likes being out of the spotlight, or as much as certain celebrities like to wear outfits that don't just happen to "slip" whenever paparazzi are around (cough, cough).

When I do get a break from school, I don't spend the time relaxing. For me a "relaxing" day is getting a lot of things done, because how relaxed can I be when I go to sleep at night and think of all the things I didn't get done? I had this nightmare once where a tour guide was showing me around some weird place I'd never seen before and saying, "And in this life, no one EVER works! Isn't that great?" And I woke up thinking, Oh, NO! Did I just have a dream about what hell is like?

I'm all about multi-tasking. Even when I watch TV, I'm usually ironing my clothes, dusting my furniture, or writing a manifesto that's directed towards my neighbors and titled something like, "How to Be Less Annoying. Tip #1: If you're going to invite your dates over, at least put some music on first (but try not to blast it as you normally do, especially if it's the middle of the night). And also lower your shades. If you refuse to lower your shades, at least remember that it's really not necessary to dance around naked and sing bad love songs at the top of your lungs for the next two hours after your date leaves." (I'm not a peeping tom or one to eavesdrop, but some of my neighbors like to announce to the whole building how active their social lives are. That's why I have to keep my shades down.)

For example, during my last winter break, I spent part of the time visiting family. I spent the rest of the time doing research for my dissertation, cleaning out and reorganizing my apartment, working out at the gym, running errands, etc., etc. I did also take some time to do fun things, like fiction writing, going to the movies, and spending time with an old friend. But the point is that that time was mine, to do with as I liked. And it felt good.

If I did take a "real" vacation, though, I'd want it to be a writer's retreat. Fellow blogger Julie Dao, who writes the blog Silver Lining, recently wrote a post about solo writing retreats. I like the idea of being able to spend the whole day writing, because I've never been able to do that before. Rather than stay in Chicago and write, I'd like to go away somewhere (preferably somewhere that's far, far away from my neighbors) and just write all day, every day. Technically I'd still be working, but writing has always been a different kind of work as far as I'm concerned. For one thing, when I'm writing, I never end up pulling my hair out and saying, "Yes, you really do have to read the book in order to write a paper about it," or "The next time you ask me to write a recommendation letter for you, please give me more than two hours' notice before the deadline," or "Would you like to sign up for the store credit card that will make a lot of money for the, that will save you a lot of money?" 

I think it'd be nice to go somewhere that's near the ocean or a lake, so that I could look out at the water when I write. I'd also like to go someplace that's quiet and peaceful, because then I'd actually be able to sleep through the whole night without waking up a bunch of times to scream, "KEEP IT DOWN, DEVIL'S SPAWN!" out my window.

It would also have to be a place with good coffee shops and restaurants nearby, because what kind of vacation is it if the food isn't good? And of course there would be someplace nice to take walks in, like a park or a beach, so that the long walks will make me feel less guilty about eating that good food.

And I'd want a room with a nice writing desk and space for the books I'll bring along. It would be wonderful if there were bookstores nearby so that I could buy more books; I've always felt happiest in bookstores.

But most of all, it would be nice to have a vacation where for once I'd get to write without thinking about all the other work that I have to do or without anyone else pressuring me to give up my free time (so that they can do what they want to do) and trying to make me feel guilty if I don't want to do it.

Someday, when I have more money (and more free time), I'm going to take that writing retreat. And I'm going to develop more of a backbone so that I can learn to say "no" when it's necessary, so that I won't always cave in to pressure and give up the limited free time that I have. I'm still willing to help others; I'm not completely selfish. But I think I've earned the right to take my own vacation, especially because I really do work hard. And I think I have the right to say no, at least once in a while.

What about you? Have you ever taken a writing retreat before? Other than a writing retreat, what else is your idea of a dream vacation?


  1. Thanks for the shout-out! I hope you get to take a writing retreat. We definitely need time to relax and just focus on our writing!

    1. Hi Julie,
      You're welcome! And I do plan to take a writing retreat someday; that's my idea of a dream "vacation". I've read of other writers who took writing retreats, like the novelist Elizabeth Berg, and they always said that the retreats were good for them.

  2. I'd love to take a writer's retreat. I'm hope to when my kids are older.

    You should try it! Go for it!

    1. Hi Emily,
      I'm definitely going to go on a writer's retreat once I finish grad school. I hope you get to go on a retreat too!

  3. You sure we don't live in the same building,lol. My neighbors are always playing music at all hours. It wouldn't be bad it it was music I liked listening too, but when all you hear are the beats and no rhythm its not fun. Although I don't have the naked neighbor dancing,( most do it in the elevator or lobby) the music at 1 am can be too much.

    I am also in school getting a degree and being able to just spend the day writing what I want would be great..... That day will come- to both of us. As my signature on my email says , never stop dreaming.

    1. Hi Connecting to the soul,
      Last night one of my neighbors kept me up again with one of their "sing-a-longs"; I'm thinking of getting a white noise machine to drown them out.
      I think that dreams are what keep me going, especially in grad school; I do a lot of academic writing, but it's not as much fun as fiction writing.

  4. I just coughed up some of my wine reading about your neighbour's dancing!!

    I love the idea of a solo writing retreat. I'd probably take mine at a spa hotel so I could spend my non-writing time having massages and other treatments! In fact, why am I not there already??

    1. Hi Annalisa,
      I tried getting a massage once, but I am very ticklish and kept giggling the whole time. But I wouldn't mind going to a spa if they gave pedicures; it can be very relaxing to get one of those. And I like the idea of a solo writing retreat too because I think it would be less distracting.

  5. I'm sorry you're losing a vacation. I know how important it is to recharge and have those dates to look forward to.

    I'd love to go on a writing retreat, but I would want other writers to be there to check in. Yes, water would be nice. Maine and Vermont are big writing retreat locations by me.

    I love vacations of all kinds, if only my wallet would allow it. I want to see more of Europe, but even spending a few days on Cape Cod is nice.

    1. Hi Theresa,
      I really was looking forward to that spring break, because I would have used the fun time to do fun Chicago stuff, like go to the Art Institute or walk around interesting neighborhoods.
      I've heard of writing retreats where you get to spend most of the day writing, but then you meet up with other writers at the end of the day for dinner, writing workshops, or readings. I think those kinds of retreats would be nice too. And yes, Maine or Vermont would definitely be good. I've never been to either state, but I've heard they're both beautiful.