I was suffering from an acute case of vacation envy.
Symptoms included pronounced restlessness, intermittent depression, mild anxiety, cabin fever and an obsessive attraction to travel guides.
Seemed like everyone I knew was headed or had just been to the mountains, lakeside or seashore for rest, relaxation and recession-be-damned fun.
My green-eyed monster was foaming green at the mouth.
I had resigned myself to the fact that there’d be no summer vacation this year. Deadlines in my husband’s job and other family demands precluded it.
That’s OK, I thought. We’ll plan a nice holiday in the fall for our 30th anniversary. A lovely, second honeymoon where we’ll do what consenting adults our age do when traveling without children from one motel to the next — become mutually orgasmic over spectacular autumnal foliage.
Meanwhile, however, I was cranky. And with every souvenir Colorado T-shirt I spotted on the street, the crankier I got.
“You should take a staycation!” one of my well-meaning but misguided pals said last week.
“Staycation?” I asked. “Isn’t that one of the stupid new words just admitted to Merriam-Webster Dictionary? Like ‘frenemy’ and ‘locavore’ and ‘waterboarding’?”
“Who cares?” she said. “You take a few days off and pretend you’re on vacation at home! No responsibilities, no housework. Go to museums. Go out to eat. Go to the pool and have a swim.”
(She sounded enthusiastically earnest. Of course, she had just returned from 10 days in Aspen.)
“Listen,” I replied. “I know you mean well — and don’t you think it’s time to take off that “How’s Your Aspen?” T-shirt? This is the third day in a row you’ve worn it, but that’s not exactly my idea of a vacation. First of all, I don’t do museums, even when I’m out of town. Secondly, we go out to eat all the time already. And third — I’m sorry — but ‘go to the pool and have a swim’? If you think I’m going to put on a bathing suit within 100 square miles of my backyard, on the off-chance that any of the 800 people I know in this town won’t see me — you’re still Rocky Mountain high!”
She was undeterred.
“Then, take a day trip somewhere. Go see the world’s biggest ball of twine. Or, the Bridal Cave. Ooh! Or, go to the zoo! Someone told me it’s all happening at the zoo!”
(Omigod. She WAS still Rocky Mountain high.)
“Been there, done that. And I think I’ll wait till I have a slew of grandkids to do the zoo again, thank you very much. I haven’t fully recovered from the 1989 feces flinging incident in the Great Ape House.” I shuddered at the thought.
But, then it hit me! The thing I love most about visiting unfamiliar places: Going to the grocery store!
Call me crazy, but there are few things I like better when traveling, besides pilfering those tiny bottles of shampoo and conditioner from the maid’s cart, than wandering through an unexplored supermarket.
It’s thrilling on so many levels. First, there are the exotic names: Food Lion, King Soopers, Dominick’s, Schnucks. Then, there’s the produce section which, no matter how similar to my own local market, always seems different and just, well, better.
Best of all, there’s absolutely no danger of bumping into someone I know in the aisles. No chance of forgetting someone’s name or yacking for 10 minutes about the weather while my Edy’s Butter Pecan melts all over the Charmin.
I can saunter into an out-of-town grocery at eight in the morning looking like hell warmed over — mascara under my eyes, hair a god-awful mess, still in my pajama bottoms — and squeeze cantaloupes with no fear of being spotted by a familiar pair of disapproving eyes. That, my friends, is vacation.
And that’s how I’ve decided to cope during the long summer months before my real getaway begins. I call it the “Great Grocery Store Tour of 2009”; my own “Producepalooza.” Every Saturday morning, I’ll get in my car and drive to foreign supermarkets in far-off places like De Soto, Olathe and Ottawa.
I won’t give a thought to what I look like. I won’t wash my face. Heck, I might even wear pajama bottoms!
And, to top it off, I’m going to borrow my friend’s “How’s Your Aspen?” T-shirt. That is, if I can peel it off of her.
— Cathy Hamilton is a 53-year-old empty nester, wife, mother and author, who blogs every day at BoomerGirl.com.