The word “vacation” means different things to different people. When we travel, Dan loves to visit famous geographical and historical landmarks and take in all that they have to offer. I, on the other hand, like to talk to the people I encounter, read, nap, linger over meals, get up late, go to bed early, and relax.
Dan and I have made two extended tours of the West and have traveled in the East more than once. We have seen all of the main attractions in Washington, D.C.; visited Jamestown and Colonial Williamsburg; walked along various beaches; toured multiple national parks; and viewed many deserts, canyons, mountains, forests, rivers and plains. It is just that “seeing” these things means something different to Dan from what it means to me. He cannot get enough; I fill up quickly.
When we travel, Dan spends weeks preparing an itinerary. He knows in advance the order in which we will visit our selected destinations and the exact routes we will follow to get to them. He knows how early (very) we need to leave our motel each morning and how late (very) we will return to a motel that evening. He leaves very little wiggle room in his scheduling because there is much to see and he doesn’t want to miss a thing.
Dan cannot understand why I might choose to spend time chatting with local people or other tourists we meet along the way. In Yosemite I came across a man with two sweet dogs on leashes. I struck up a conversation and, according to Dan, we stood and listened to the man tell us his dogs’ complete life histories, plus the histories of the dogs he owned before he got those two. All of this took place while Half Dome stood only several hundred feet away, begging to be admired.
In Arches National Park, while waiting for Dan to make the long and difficult trek to photograph Landscape Arch, I met a recently widowed English woman. She and I shared the one tiny area of shade that exists in the park while she told me how she and her husband had planned a trip to the American West for many years and when he died, she decided to brave it on her own. I admired her courage. Besides, I will talk to anyone with a British accent in the hope that he or she will say the word “bottle” (bo’ ul) or mention the trunk of a car (boot), riding in an elevator (lift) or using a flashlight (torch).
At the Lincoln Memorial, Dan was incredulous that I preferred visiting with a Japanese woman near the Reflection Pool to climbing (again) the memorial’s steps and reading (again) famous quotations of our sixteenth President. Afterward, I told Dan that even though the foreign woman and I struggled with a definite language barrier, I learned quickly that the words “children” and “grandchildren” are spoken with the same facial expression in any language. I laughed as I told him that when I asked the woman if she had experienced Washington D.C.’s subway system, she at first looked confused. Then she smiled in comprehension, spread her hands about one foot apart from each other and asked, “Subway? Sandwich? No like. Too much bread.”
Of course the natural and manmade wonders that Dan exults in seeing never disappoint him. They are predictable and safe. Conversely, the people I meet along the way may or may not be pleasant and entertaining. In Arlington National Cemetery, I declined walking up the steep slope to watch the Changing of the Guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier (again), telling Dan that I would rest in the shade of a large tree while he did his thing.
The day was clear and breezy and the cemetery was peaceful. Soon, using my purse as a pillow, I stretched out to nap for a minute and recover from a day of hiking. I awakened to see a stern-faced, official-looking man wearing a black suit and sunglasses looking down at me. He asked, “Are you ill, Ma’am?” I replied, “No.” “Have you been injured?” he queried. Again, I assured him that I was fine. Then he asked me, “Have you been drinking?” At this point I sat straight up and declared that I was entirely sober. “In that case,” the man said, “I must ask you to remove yourself from this area. We cannot have people lying around in Arlington National Cemetery.” As I stood, embarrassed, I was tempted to tell the man that, in truth, most of the people in Arlington National Cemetery were lying around, but the eyes behind the dark glasses did not invite humor. I removed myself.
That’s about it for people and places. As for things, the main thing that must be remembered is that every long-term relationship is a give-and-take business. Dan and I, each giving and taking a bit, always enjoy our trips together. He relishes the places he sees; I savor experiences with the people I meet. I’m sure you get the picture.
In case, however, you don’t “get the picture,” Dan has a well organized collection of over 700 picturesque vacation slides that he will happily show you if you come to our house. Don’t expect me to be present for the slideshow, though; I’ll be out somewhere with friends.