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.”
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.
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?