“Travel or vacation?” he asks.

I stall, knowing I can’t possibly get the answer right. What am I being tested for?

The act of choosing defines you. Like a signature drink or favorite song. Something cool and organic for the travelers. Vacation pop for the common folk, a secret shame and guilty pleasure.

“I have commitment issues” I joke “Do I really have to choose?”

“Tell me about travel then,” he suggests, leading me onto more solid ground.

“I travel to bring back clarity,” I say.

It’s more of course.  Each fresh jab of the unfamiliar cuts away the cataracts on my soul. Travel makes me better able to see and feel.

How do you explain what it is to see a ghost, or read minds? I tell a story.

“Riding on the subway in Greece, I spotted two lovers.  I could feel their whispers and hand grazes on the back of my own neck.”


He nods his approval.

“On a rainy shell strewn beach in Costa Rica last month , I sat and watched the lightning.  A solitary swimmer remained in the water, belting out hymns in Spanish, pausing only to dive under the waves. I held my breath each time he went under, counting the seconds between the flash and the boom.”

We both hold our breath for a beat.


“One day at a crowded Jerusalem bazaar I saw an old man shuffling slowly over cobblestones. He had a mesh bag filled with bruised peaches. As he passed by my table at the tea shop, I smelled onions, stale smoke and fresh grief.”


“This is why I travel,” I try to explain without sounding unhinged, ” When I travel the world blooms in colorful stories all around me.”

My passion makes me blush.  Even when I hate travel, I love it.  He offers to get me a drink but I pass.

“So, what about your kids?” he asks.

“Life is not so simple.” I sigh.

“Back home there is laundry. School. Work. Traffic. Socks and toilet paper and the terrifying news. Every single fucking day.”

He nods but don’t think he really gets it. How could he? His life is nothing like mine.

I can feel truth about to bubble out of me.

“I travel to check in, but I also need vacations to check OUT.”

His eyes glaze over and I can see my stock falling. Does it even matter what I do on vacation or what I see? To either of us?

“Vacations are permission to take a break from the goddamned daily decisions” I state, a too bit defensively.

“And snack on frozen grapes?” he teases. So he has seen my feed.

frozen grapes

“Yes of course,” I recover,  “On Fantasy Island  I am greeted with fresh, cool eucalyptus scented washcloths. My bags are carried and my hand is gently held as I step nimbly between the worlds of land and sea. You should try it some time.”

I  can’t picture him at a luxury all inclusive. My mental travel agent checks him into a decent airport hotel.

I don’t tell him about how I used to fantasize about airport hotels when my kids were infants. Anything with blackout curtains, a good mattress and a “Do Not Disturb” sign.

“When I am on vacation at a nice resort I sleep like a child in the back seat of my daddy’s car.” I smile. ” I unplug. I don’t read newspapers or listen to the news.”

“Really? But isn’t it all a little pretentious? Fake?” he drains his beer and scans the party, getting bored with my packaged escape tales, I assume. There are prettier, more single girls waiting to be chatted up.

Please. I know my room attendant, who has so lovingly crafted my towels into animal shapes, will probably forget my name as quickly as I will forget theirs.

Other tourists will eagerly take my place, snapping the obligatory poolside-pedi photos and posting them to instagram. Our streams will overlap briefly and we will like each other’s photos before slipping back into strangers garb.

I know it’s not real, this game in which I pretend to be special, safe and loved.

“Of course it’s fake,” I shrug. “But honestly who cares? What’s wrong with a little fantasy?”
vacation feet

“And the other people? You know the cruise ship types? Aren’t they….?”

“Some of them,” I nod. “But some of them are great. We’re still Facebook friends.”

This is true.  We may not have had much in common, besides the will to escape but for the time we were together we were like complicit drunks, content with our shared buzz.

” I can’t choose one or the other,” I say.

“Ok, ok. But tell me… What’s the best vacation memory you’ve got?” he challenges me.  I know this is a trick. No posh vacation memory can top seeing the northern lights, scaling a peak, witnessing history. I won’t even try.

“I don’t know if I can say, ” I raise an eyebrow,  “but it probably happened in bed.”

I’m bluffing of course. It might be true. Unfortunately I can’t remember a damn thing about my last few non working vacations. Good vacations are a pleasant sexy dream you hope to doze off and return to. They leave a hazy residue – the scent of clean sheets and the shafts of sunlight that woke you.

Travel is the real romance, but I’d like to keep vacation on the side.

The conversation is over. I am not cool.  We haven’t discussed anything real. Choosing between travel and vacations is sport. Real life is the tricky gray area.

There my reality sits, seeking meaning, wedged between hi def snapshots and luxurious hallucinations.




  1. paula schuck November 19, 2014 at 5:46 pm #

    This is glorious and beautiful. You are a magnificent word wrangler.

    • admin November 19, 2014 at 6:21 pm #

      thank you!

  2. Bret Love November 19, 2014 at 6:01 pm #

    Beautiful piece! I think I’ve forgotten what a real vacation is, but I wouldn’t trade our exhausting adventures for anything. I’m not sure I’m capable of sitting still long enough to enjoy the mythical relaxation thing I hear people raving about. I’m weirdly wired…

    • admin November 19, 2014 at 6:21 pm #

      Relaxing takes real effort Bret. Particularly when you (or maybe it’s just me!) feel so compelled to document and share. Travel will always be my first love, my true love.

  3. Amie November 19, 2014 at 6:15 pm #

    Oh this was so delicious to read!! And I am with you. Need both and hate being made to feel I have to choose. The right person for you would love that about you.

    • admin November 19, 2014 at 6:24 pm #

      Thanks Amie! It was an imaginary conversation, but you are right. Sleeping in alone is less dreamy than sleeping in together.

  4. Alana - Paper Planes November 19, 2014 at 7:25 pm #

    Lovely piece! I’m so over the traveling vs. vacationing, tourist vs. traveler bullshit. They’re all the same – going to a new place opens up your mind to different people, things and ideas whether it’s in the Australian outback or an all-inclusive – it something different than your everyday routine and allows you to connect with yourself and others in new ways.

  5. Aliza November 20, 2014 at 11:44 pm #

    Oh, C, I felt like I was watching a scene in a movie as I read this – so beautiful. If money were limitless, I’d travel all. the. time. Also, a transporter would help… 🙂

    • admin November 21, 2014 at 10:19 pm #

      thanks Aliza – means so much coming from talented YOU! xxoo

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