I know what you’re thinking, and you’re correct. Something about this week’s blog post is different. I’m typing it up about 2,000 miles to the right of where I normally write it. I didn’t think it would be that noticeable. You’re very good.
I’m in Washington, D.C., on a business trip because I am a business person. I can’t prove that, because my business cards slipped my business mind and I left them at my business house, but you’ll have to trust me.
I flew in on Tuesday, I went to a one-day conference on Wednesday, and I’m flying back home on Thursday. Every time I say this to someone, they go, “Wow! Short trip!” and then they make a pitying face.
That’s nice of them, but I’m totally fine with a short trip for two reasons:
1. I miss my cat.
2. Going on trips makes me feel so, so guilty.
I’m not feeling guilty about missing things in the office this week (unless my boss, Ike, is reading this. In that case, I am wracked with guilt about what I’m missing in the office this week! I can hardly function! See you bright and early on Friday morning!). It’s actually travel itself that makes me feel guilty.
I’m not sure who to blame it on — childhood vacations with Type A parents? Travel blogs? Books about women finding themselves far from home? My own crazy brain? — but I always feel like I should be getting more out of traveling.
Things I Feel Like I Should Do on Trips
1. Wake up early to better seize the day.
2. Create an efficient plan that enables me to see the sights — the tourist traps, the hidden gems, all of them. The sights will never have been seen so hard.
3. Be adventurous and try new food I couldn’t get anywhere else.
4. Buy meaningful souvenirs that I will someday pass on to my grandchildren.
5. Immerse myself so deeply into the local culture that no one can tell I’m not local.
6. Take an exotic lover or three who would annoy the old, straight-laced me, but will totally open my new, well-traveled mind.
7. Have an incredible epiphany about the nature of humanity and my role in the universe.
What Actually Happens
1. Exhaustion from a full day of traveling, combined with a new time zone, combined with the 30 pillows apparently required by hotel beds means that if given the opportunity, I will sleep through alarms, wakeup calls, and repeated knocks on the door from housekeeping.
2. I only see a tiny percentage of the places I thought I’d visit because I get turned around and distracted a lot. If I’ve been to a city before, I often see the same things a second or third time because I liked them the first time.
3. I plan to eat new food in a new place, but due to time crunches or hypoglycemia, I wind up stumbling into the nearest Subway. Sometimes I get a new vegetable on my sandwich, though!
4. When my late grandma went to Scotland, the only thing she bought for herself was a small keychain. “It was sad,” my dad said.
“…Was it?” I said, and turned the water bottle I bought in Seattle so he couldn’t see the front. This time I bought earmuffs from the Smithsonian. It will be like culture is hugging my head all winter!
5. I think it becomes pretty clear that I’m not local when I take five minutes to look at a map of the subway system and still walk to the wrong side of the station. But it also might be the way I keep getting parts of myself caught in turnstiles.
6. It’s hard to pick up exotic lovers when you’re nervously avoiding eye contact with every single person you pass. I did fall asleep while eating a candy bar earlier today. You know. In bed.
7. I don’t have time for incredible epiphanies because I spend all of my trips worrying constantly about everything. Money! Safety! Travel plans! Losing my way! Accidentally cutting off a finger in a turnstile!
Every single second that I’m not having an Eat, Pray, Love moment, I’m feeling crushed by guilt. Clearly the universe’s splendor is wasted on me because I’m not present enough or not evolved enough to enjoy it.
These feelings don’t make any sense. It took me 15 stressful hours to get from my home to my hotel yesterday and to make it to my nine-hour meeting today, I had to get up at 6am. That wouldn’t be too bad except that my brain thought it was still in Colorado, where it was 4am. That’s a long couple of days. If this happened at home, I wouldn’t think twice about staying in for the night after work.
But since I’m not at home, I feel like a monster. “You’ll be dead one of these days,” my brain says. “Then you’ll feel bad about the time you could have seen the pandas at the National Zoo and you chose to stay in and watch Seinfeld reruns instead.”
I love DC and I’ve had a good time. The conference was lovely, the city is beautiful, and I can’t say enough about the hotel shower. But I can’t wait to get home tomorrow to my cat and my roommate, my boring city and my inconsistently lukewarm shower.
And I really can’t wait to get rid of this overwhelming vacation guilt and get back to the things I’m usually feeling bad about, like not returning phone calls, or the number of times I go to Taco Bell in a month.