I have vacation left, more than I thought. The realization was the sigh of damp spring air. The days needed to be spent by early summer. How do I have too much vacation left? I blew my nose at the uncertainty in the pace of spit fire too soon allergic sneezes. It wasn’t summer yet.
The radio was the first to answer.
Baby, what do you say we just get lost
Leave this one horse town like two rebels without a cause
I’ve got people in Bostin, ain’t your daddy still in Des Moines
We can pack up tomorrow, tonight let’s flip a coin.**
Over the weekend, I enjoyed a video chat with my sister-in-law. Sometimes I struggled with conversation topics. Vacation was as good as any. She had to be a more reliable ally than the radio.
“I need to spend my vacation,” I told her.
“You’re always welcome here.” She paused, “But I don’t know why you would choose to spend it here. I’ll meet you in Europe anywhere Beyonce is in concert.”
I Googled the European tickets. As much as I could tell, the tour was sold out except for a couple of cities. When I clicked to learn more, the language changed from English to French. Then, from English to Dutch.
“How about a place you’ve always wanted to go?” Her eyes were on the nails she filed. I stopped looking up concert venues.
I asked Google, “Where do people go when they have no idea?” My thumb skimmed. The list looked pretty much the same as the Beyonce tour dates in Europe. Still, I was intrigued by the business that was willing to plan a surprise vacation for the customer.
The whirring of the nail machine stopped. She ran her thumb across the ridge checking for cracks. “What about a friend? Don’t you have anyone you can travel with?”
I did a quick list in my head of possible compatible travel companions. The list was short. Time and money would certainly make it shorter. “It’s hard. They have kids.” But maybe short was what I was selling them, short.
Sometime mid-week in a slow moment, I started on that list.
“I need to use vacation and I don’t know how. . .” I texted to my retired friend.
“You sound like me. I just don’t go anywhere really. You could use them for appointments. I try to make sure I use more before December.”
“My deadline is June 30.”
“Take every Monday or Friday off? I’m saving money because I have my trip to London to visit my daughter in June.”
There it was. The money. The time. The already made family commitment.
I started a message for a second friend, this time the same age as me but with a husband and children. “I have far too much vacation left to spend by June 30. I never plan right.”
“Pick a place you’ve always wanted to visit and get an air bnb for a week.”
“My sister-in-law asked me where I REALLY wanted to go. I’m like (shrug emoji). I don’t have a place I’ve always wanted to go.”
I was not unaware that many of my transitions had become the norm, a way of not choosing, not moving on. Vacation was a symptom of the bigger issue. I had no direction.
She continued, “Then you should investigate. There’s got to be someplace you’ve been curious about.”
That sounded like work. “No.”
“That makes me sad. I’m just shocked that there’s no place you’d like to visit.”
“I don’t think about it.” Because I know I’d go alone. I let the memory of the song chorus finish my answer.
Heads Carolina, tails California
Somewhere greener, somewhere warmer
Up in the mountains, down by the ocean
Where it don’t matter, long as we’re goin’
Somewhere together, I’ve got a quarter
Heads Carolina, tails California
I likely wouldn’t be going anywhere ‘together’. That was the part, I knew I wanted the most. Would I enjoy using them alone?
Another friend on my short list answered that not quite formed question without being asked. Her photos in reflection framed by the familiar white oval made a surprise appearance on her Facebook feed. I knew she was on vacation, but I had no idea she had boarded a plane somewhere.
“Maryland?!” I typed. “How did you choose?”
“I went to visit friends.”
Ah. That was the other list I could make. Still, was it really that possible to be accommodated for up to a week? It was basically the same as planning a vacation with them except the cost was lower. “I’ve considered D.C. Never been.”
“There is a lot to do and see. More fun to do with someone.”
And we were back to that. Unless I was about to be a Netflix romantic comedy, I needed vacation help that was under my control. I asked, “Why do people not spend their vacations?”
Google answered with a travel blog. Too Many Places: Overcoming the Paradox of Choice.
The answer, The Paradox of Choice by Barry Schwartz. Analysis paralysis. Too many destinations to choose from, and not just for my days off. If nothing else, I had a topic for my Hebrew homework. Write a dialogue between two people who are planning a trip. Use verbs in future tense.
I searched for the book in my library’s catalogue. It was checked out. I sighed and put choice on hold.
If you don't want to wait, check out the TED Talk.
**Song Credit Jo Dee Messina