“Why have you been acting so weird ever since we got here?”
My wife had grown concerned. We had been on vacation for three days, and I’d spent the majority of my time sitting on the dock reading a book or swimming. We hadn’t talked very much. It just never crossed my mind.
I assured her that nothing was wrong per se. I wasn’t angry or stewing on something.
However, I was acting odd—at least odd toward her. Speaking for myself, I felt perfectly fine. I don’t typically read books all day, since there’s work, laundry, and cleaning to be done. However, on vacation, I welcomed the opportunity to shut down and immerse myself in a good book.
With the understanding that some conversation would be necessary each day, we started to call this my “clam” time. I’d just sit on the dock or in the water not talking, and we could all know that everything was fine.
I was just getting some clam time.
* * *
A few years later we took a vacation to Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island. I ruined part of that vacation.
I didn’t give myself clam time.
I don’t know if you’ve ever done this before, but this has happened to me several times. I read guide books and view websites about places I want to visit, and when we arrive, I spend my time searching for the places I saw in the guidebooks. And if the places I see don’t measure up to the marketing pictures, I grow restless.
For instance, when we moved to Vermont I tried to find views of the fall colors that matched the calendars and post cards all over our tourist town. I never hit the look outs at the right point. The trees were either just starting to turn or on the brownish-yellow end of fall colors.
I spent weeks in a frustrated sense of discontent that prevented me from enjoying the perfectly fine orange, red, and yellow trees I saw every day.
Similarly, at Prince Edward Island I grew obsessed with finding perfect beaches rather than, you know, just settling down at the really nice one by our camp ground and reading for a bit.
IF WE CAN’T FIND THE BEACH THAT LOOKS LIKE THE ONE ON THE BROCHURE I CAN’T BE HAPPY!
I didn’t fully understand what was going on in my head. My vacation idealism had been warring against my need to sit and recharge.
* * *
I like to think that vacations have a way to stripping away all of the stuff we hide behind.
Other things fill up our time and we need a vacation to simply escape them.
Removed from those things, we have a chance to face ourselves as we truly are.
I’ve come face to face with my restless idealism that keeps me from enjoying the wonderful things around me.
I’ve also finally realized a few years ago that I really am an introvert—a somewhat outgoing introvert mind you, but an introvert nonetheless. My clam time on the dock helped me accept that my latest Myers Briggs score, moving me from ENFJ to INFJ, had something to it.
OK, it’s true, I really do recharge best when I’m by myself.
I make lists of things to do every week. Vacations shouldn’t require lists every day. At least vacations for introverts.
I finally realized what I wanted out of a vacation: I want large chunks of time where I don’t have to talk.
* * *
My parents took me on all kinds of vacations throughout my childhood: Disneyworld, California, Lake Tahoe, and Niagara Falls. They were fun trips. I cam home with some pretty impressive stories, like ice skating at a rink on top of a mountain while wearing shorts and a t-shirt.
Still, the point of those trips was to keep moving from one interesting or fun thing to another.
I hope to travel and visit interesting places with our son Ethan.
However, when I think about what a vacation is, I keep looking back to that dock by a lake in the Adirondacks and a good book.
If all goes according to plan, I’ll be there each summer.
Much like this year, I hope to shut myself down, letting a talented author take me away to a different world.
I won’t be an author with a long to do list or a freelancer with a pile of assignments.
I’ll just be immersed in a book. Quiet, content, and free to let my mind wander off to wherever I am.