28 March, 2016

Ontology and Texas: Vacationing and the Traveler

 There is nothing more grotesque to me than a vacation. - Dustin Hoffman

How often I found where I should be going only by setting out for somewhere else.  - R. Buckminster Fuller 

My angel asked me if I miss being on the road.

"I know you miss it," she said. "But..."

"I do miss it," I told her. "But I'd miss you more."

Anyone who has met me in the last couple of years has only heard me talk a little about my urge to travel. I don't get out as much as I used to, and when I do there's more of a deadline than when I was chasing after the Nomad Nation a few years back. I suspect that many people who have only known me over these past couple of years have a difficult time imagining me wandering across the country and the countryside, with only one more temporary destination in mind, but open to the possibility that another will be just as fine or better.

When Amanda asked if I would switch up how I portioned my time and stay with her more than I was on the road, it was an easy decision to make, and I don't regret it. I like to think she doesn't, either.

But when we announced our intention to go down to Austin and visit her brother and his family, a few people who DID know me back when I traveled pointed out that I must have been excited to travel again. My mom, knowing full well that my itchy foot* hasn't dulled, it's only semi-restrained, asked if flying to Texas would quell the itch that apparently everyone including the eerily accurate Pandora algorithm noticed.

It was a good visit. We arrived in time to see my sister-in-law Cassie's movie, The Liberators premiere at SXSW. We were able to visit a tiny house village for the formerly homeless being built by Mobile Loaves and Fishes.  I was able to touch the first draft, with author's revisions, of Gabriel Garcia Marquez's One Hundred Years of Solitude. Most importantly, we were able to spend time with family that we don't get to see often, and I was able to meet more of the extended relatives in Cassie's family.

The truth is, though, that while I did enjoy the trip and enjoyed Austin** mightily, the trip did nothing to scratch my itchy foot.

I could blame flying***, or I could blame my perpetual (and familial) issue with the freestanding Republic of Texas. The problem is much less dramatic, however. After the third day, I pointed out to Amanda that I was starting to feel like we were there too long -- you know, Dear Friends and Readers, that old rule about visitors and fish -- she clarified the issue in her usual direct manner.

She told me "You don't vacation very well."

It's true. The problem presented itself even before we left River City, when I was trying to pack. How does one pack for vacation? I understand how to pack to live out on the road for 3 or 4 months at time, or longer. But vacation? You're generally expected to have enough clean changes of clothes, optional nicer looking clothes for special occasions. Right? Swimsuits? Flip flops? Where do I stash my emergency fire starter? Oh, right, that doesn't fall under the list of acceptable items for carry-on luggage. Pocket knife? Nope? Medicinal bottle of bourbon? No bottles bigger than 3 ounces. What about my blanket, and emergency warm layer in case I hit cold weather, and my poncho that can also double as tent (with camping rope or clothes line... neither of which is TSA approved for carry-on luggage.)?

There is an ontological difference between traveling and vacationing that many people take for granted. Traveling is, in itself, the purpose the trip. It's true that travelers stop places and see things and meet people, but the momentum is the point.

Other the other hand, the destination is often the point of a vacation. Also, the fact that a vacation is, by definition, time taken away from something else -- from job, from the usual schedule -- places a different premium on the time. An hour is always just an hour, but that hour earned (or stolen. or bartered for) on the job creates a focal point for energy and intention. You're supposed to fill the hour with as many activities as possible and take pictures so that you can go back to work and show your co-workers, many of whom were probably cussing about you since they had to pick up your slack. Vacation implies a finite amount of time during which the vacationer "de-stresses" or "re-centers" or "drinks like the fish he was born to be."

Traveling may include any, all, or none of those things, except that the time isn't taken. It isn't earned, stolen, or bartered for from your boss, your co-workers, or the grand capitalist system in which we are all replaceable cogs and nothing more. Traveling means embracing the notion that your time is yours, and when you stop, or work, or don't work, it's your time to do with what you want.

This is why most people aren't travelers. There's more freedom and fear wrapped up it than many are capable of or will to handle. And it's probably why I don't vacation well, though I do enjoy any time I get to spend with My Angel. And I still had a great time.
 * itchy foot, n. ph. - a disposition to desire momentum that sometimes presents as a need to travel for its own purpose and value, regardless of final destination. (Parsons Dictionary of Oft Used Words and Phrases, Electronic Desk Ed.)
** I've never had luck with Texas while traveling. I either get side-tracked, searched, derailed, or stuck at the bus stop in Amarillo during a police siege... which happens more than you might think. Also, I have it on authority of an over-told family story that my Old Man also had problems with Texas... to the point that former Governor Ann Richards wrote him a letter promising a long prison term if he was ever to return to the state. To my knowledge, he never did return. Austin, however, is a nice enough town if you can afford it and there is more beer -- by sheer volume and label options-- than any other place I have ever been.
***More undignified than riding bus, but faster... which, in my experience, is the only thing it. I have it on authority of my older brother, who has flown First Class before, that it is much better. This does nothing to endear it to me, however. 

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