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My Travel Guidelines: How to Balance Work and Play

The biggest challenge, I think, that most people have with traveling, is finding the ability to strike a healthy balance between squeezing in all of the high-energy sightseeing they can possibly manage and actually getting a little R&R.

If they’re not careful, their vacation can turn into work.


I don’t have that problem.

I know when I’m feeling energized, and I know when it’s time to stop, find a cafe with outdoor seating, and sip a glass of wine.

Striking this balance can be particularly difficult on a road trip when, if you’re spending extended periods of time in the car, it can feel like you’re resting because you’ve been sitting for several hours, but in reality you’ve been a highly concentrated ball of compact energy — shifting music whenever the mood strikes; passing, passing, passing on the left; belting out the lyrics you remember to Billy Joel’s “My Life;” almost peeing your pants when you pass a cop and realize how fast you were going; spending the next half hour daydreaming about living in Europe and doing nothing but driving the Autobahn for days on end; telling yourself you don’t need any more homemade trail mix; and matching your vibrations to those of the vehicle while guzzling your double-shot skinny mocha.

When I left Angie’s place in Virginia, I felt refreshed.  Energized.  Her perfect energy of physical labor combined with wine-laced porch-sitting was exactly what I needed to rev up for the second leg of my trip.

I knew Erin would still be at work when I arrived in Annapolis, so I took my time getting there, opting for back roads (Hwy 310, anyone?  Highly recommended if you’re making a journey up or down the east coast.) over the congested interstates with never-ending repeats of McD’s, T-Bells, and Flying J truck stops.

My method for road trip food selection is simple:  If I see a place I like the looks of, I stop.  If I see a sign that catches my attention, I stop.  If Urban Spoon happens to tell me there’s something along my relative route that’s worth stopping for, I stop.

No need to overthink it.

That’s how this happened.

When I arrived in Annapolis, I decided to stop at a Trader Joe’s for the first time ever to pick up some of their infamous “3-buck Chuck” wine to bring to my compadre’s place.  I wandered the aisles, impressed-yet-refusing-to-be-sidetracked by the numerous offered delicacies.  I finally asked a sample girl where a sister could find some booze on this lovely afternoon, and she looked at me with what can only be described as an expression of the sincerest empathy.  “In Maryland,” she said, because clearly I was a foreigner, “grocery stores can’t sell alcohol.”

Say what?

Having lived in various states and counties south of the Mason-Dixon line for quite some time, I thought I’d already witnessed the gamut of restrictive alcohol sales.  In Georgia I performed the grocery store walk of shame on more than one occasion — carrying my case from the registers back to the darkened shelves on a Sunday afternoon.

But this?  This required people to make a whole other stop.

“But I just came from Virginia,” I whined.

She looked at me like I probably should’ve stayed there.

No matter.  I stopped at an upscale winery and delicatessen where they wearily eyed my selection, poised to judge.  “Hey!”  The counter lady’s eyes lit-up.  “This one’s a very popular choice!”

Apparently my skills are improving.  Or rather, my luck was improving, since I randomly selected the bottle based on price and the label.  But I smiled anyway, like I hear that all of the time, and went on my merry way.

Now let me just say this.  Erin doesn’t actually live in Annapolis.  She lives on an island just across the Chesapeake Bay, on the other side of one of the coolest bridges I’ve seen in my life.  I’ll have a photo in another post, but hear me: If you have a chance to cross this 4-ish mile bridge in your life, do it.

That is all.

I arrived at her adorable house, ready to curl up on the sofa with a book and a beer I knew she’d left me in the fridge.

But then I saw it.

Her view.

I was shocked.

Not just by the generosity of the Red Stripe, but by the fact that she lives on an inlet that leads out to the Chesapeake Bay.

In fact, if I would’ve stolen her canoe and paddled out just past that last house you see on the left, I would’ve had a spectacular view of the Bay Bridge.

Then I probably would have drifted out to sea, never to be seen or heard from again since I have zero upper body strength, but at least I would’ve died happy.

Instead, I spent the rest of the afternoon curled up in a lawn chair alternating views of my book and the water.

Hey.  Don’t judge.

I’d already had a long day driving and shopping for wine.

And that’s the thing — when you find yourself alone in a new place, or especially with people in a new place, it’s easy to run yourself ragged trying to do all there is to do and see all there is to see.  At some point, you have to force yourself to accept the fact that you’re never going to do and see everything.  That life is an ever-changing kaleidoscope of actions and reactions, mirage-like events that sometimes you see and sometimes you don’t.  And sometimes you just have to sit back and enjoy the ride.

So to me, I wasn’t wasting time.

I was enjoying the moment.

As Billy would say,

I don’t need you to worry for me cause I’m alright —
I don’t want you to tell me it’s time to come home.
I don’t care what you say anymore, this is my life —
Go ahead with your own life, leave me alone.

Thanks, Mr. Joel.  I’m glad someone gets me.

What’s your travel style?  Would you have camped out with a beer and a book, taken the canoe, or hopped back in the car to explore the town?  How do you strike a balance between work and play when you’re on the road?


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Solitary Diner

This is very good advice for me to read, as I’m about to head to New Orleans for a conference, and I’ve been trying to figure out how to cram the maximum number of sights into my limited free time. A very good reminder to pace myself.

As for my travel style, I have a bad habit of being very go-go-go at the beginning of a vacation and eventually wearing myself out from trying to do too much. As I get older, I am gaining a bit of wisdom and learning to slow things down, which definitely makes for a better vacation. Sometimes lying in a chair drinking beer and watching a river is the best possible way to spend time off.


Yes! It’s sometimes hard for me to accept the fact that I might not get to see everything I want to see — but then I figure, if it’s worth going back (like NYC), I’ll go back. IF you rush around everywhere, you never get the time to truly enjoy any one place. And that, I feel, is a wasted trip.

Have fun in New Orleans!!


Great story Katie. Enjoy your travels!


Thank you! I did! (And will.)

Bex Hall

I absolutely love reading what you write! It’s always a joy to see a new post! Look forward to “hearing” what you have to say. If you’re in the Chesapeake Bay area, check out Tangier Island. Lots of great history, nice people, quiet beaches. Golf carts are involved. As they only have a few actual cars on the island. There are a few fire trucks, in the event. There are two ferrries that can take you there. Worth checking out. Slow and easy. THAT’S my vacation/travelling style! You are doing it well!!!!


Thanks, Bex! I’m no longer in that area, but I am definitely adding Tangier Island to my list for the next time I visit my friend up there. Thanks for the tip, and thanks for reading! :)


For me, I think the answer would be to stay in one place long enough to be able to leisurely do all 3.

My niece drove to San Francisco and did all the touristy things, then went on to Vegas to play, and back to Washington, all during her one week of spring break…then right back into the classroom to teach. It exhausted me just to read about her frenetic travels on Facebook. –And she’s not even blood-related to the grandpa who wanted to travel at warp speed, see one thing, and jet back home.


Good answer.

And oh. no. way. That is one whirlwind trip!

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