Vacation: a period spent away from home or business in travel or recreation – Merriam-Webster
A day at the beach. Kicking it in your trailer for the weekend. Chilling on a cruise. These are the hallmarks of ordinary vacations: rest and relaxation. Sometimes I wish I could do this: sit in the sand with a book in hand and wade into the cold ocean when my eyes need a rest. I have fantasies about this. But my vacations aren’t restful.
According to Merriam-Webster, at least one definition of vacation says nothing about “rest,” it’s just a break from the familiar, typically involving travel.
My boyfriend and I took a two-week road trip two months ago, during which we saw a number of amazing places and visited friends. We also spent roughly 6 to 15 hours driving every day. It was fun but exhausting, nothing like rest, but definitely something different from the ordinary. More adventure than vacation.
On “vacation” I try to enjoy myself, but the travel writer never rests. A friend told us about the Poe Museum in Richmond, VA so we went. When I saw a family preparing for a wedding there, I started taking notes and pictures, planning my pitches to a variety of magazines (wedding, recreation, literary, family, architectural) before we commenced our drive. When we stopped for gas a while later and I was alone in the car, I drafted a short pitch for each magazine genre on my phone. This sort of planning keeps me on task and makes me feel alive.
I also feel insurmountably guilty. I mean, you aren’t supposed to do work on vacation, right? Aren’t we supposed to sit in a hot tub all day long, eating Twinkies and drinking red wine or iced tea? I need to pull back and remind myself I’m allowed to do it my way, as long as it doesn’t inhibit my boyfriend’s enjoyment.
So I’ll keep enjoying my vacations with an eye always to the story and the pitch. There could be something amazing, and even if I never sell the idea, isn’t it wonderful to just know things?
Like Devil’s Tower National Monument in Wyoming is 867 feet from ground to peak. Roughly 5,000 people climb the tower every year and there have been only five climbing deaths since 1893. I’m not sure I’ll ever write a story using that knowledge, but isn’t cool just knowing? So next time you’re vacationing, look around and take some notes; maybe ask an official some questions, and you might have a story without even planning on finding one.
Have you ever found a story without meaning to? What happened? What did you do with it? Did you journal, share it with a friend, or go further?