It was during our honeymoon that I realized that J. and I have very different definitions of ‘vacation.’ We were at a posh Hawaiian resort, and he was standing in front of me, soaking wet, and blocking my sun.
“I’m gonna go down the slide again,” he said. It was roughly his seventeenth time going down the slide. I watched each time as he climbed, without a wisp of self-consciousness, to the top of the twisty blue water slide and waited, the lone 6-foot-tall adult in a line of giggly six-year-olds.
Me, I was content to sit in the cabana, devouring piles of US Weekly and Vogue. I lazily lay on my back—flipping like a burger on the grill every so often—and every movement I made seemed momentous: arm drifting over to turn the page, head slightly lifting for a sip of piña colada, finger slowly twisting a lock of hair. Time was standing still, things were quiet, everything moved slowly, like we were all in a big vat of jelly.
But J. was antsy. He wanted to move, go, do something. We were doing something, I told him. We were relaxing.
“I’m bored,” he said. “Like, we’re just supposed to lie here? All day?”
By 2 p.m. on the third day of our honeymoon, I was lying by the lazy river, a quiet, secluded, ultra-romantic part of the pool area. Meanwhile, my husband of four days was in the other pool, playing water basketball with a group of Russians.
I wonder about people who can’t sit still. Most people view unbridled energy as a virtue. I think it’s a royal pain in the ass.
“That’s why Tom and I went to Europe for our honeymoon,” my friend Bridget said. “I knew he wouldn’t be able to sit on a beach for more than a day without getting bored.”
“I hate going to the beach with my husband,” said another friend. “He wants to play all day, and I just want to sit in my chair and read my book. It’s like, no, I don’t want to play paddleball with you now. I’m busy doing nothing.”
There seem to be two types of vacationers: those who like to relax, and those who want to explore. It comes up the most when you’re planning your honeymoon. Everyone is suddenly bizarrely interested in your travel plans: “So, are you going to do a beach or sightseeing?” And, naturally, everyone has an opinion. Still, while J. and I knew we wanted a quiet beach getaway, I don’t think he realized just how quiet it was going to be. Enter Russian basketball players.
Some have the whole travel thing down, though. “We travel together better than we live together,” said my friend Jess. “At home, I get up every day at 6 a.,m. and go, go, go all day, and then I’m burned out by the time I get home. He wakes up at 10 a.m., moseys around all day and then wants to go, go, go at night. But when we travel, we’re both on the same page—we get up early, go all day and night, and do it again the next day. It’s like a marathon.”
Jess and her husband took a three-week honeymoon. Only three days were spent relaxing on a beach. The rest of the time, they were exploring: Paris, Prague, Vienna, Budapest, London. By the time she finished telling me about their trip bouncing around the world, I was exhausted. I wondered if she even had the chance to read any trashy magazines.
This summer, J. and I are heading to Chicago for a few days. He wants to go to Wrigley; I’ve heard about a cluster of vintage shops I’m dying to visit. We’ll try the deep-dish pizza, sneak in a Cubs game and a concert at Wrigley, take an architecture tour, and play tourist. I’ll even pack my walking shoes. It’ll be less lazy vacation and more city exploration, and we’ll probably come back to the hotel each night completely spent. It was fun talking about it, until I took a glance at my planner. The weeks book-ending our trip were jam-packed with meetings and photo shoots and deadlines. I started to worry: Will I need a vacation from our vacation?
This morning, I was lying in bed, awake, at 5:30 in the morning. It was the kind of awake that comes on suddenly—one second you’re asleep, and then the next second you’re wide awake. I started ticking off the things on my to-do list in my head, and then I was awake and in a state of panic. I gave up on sleep and was on the train to work at 6:15 a.m.
J. called me a few hours later to see if I’d been productive, if I was still stressed, if I’d crashed yet.
“No,” I told him. “I just need a vacation.”
He was quiet for a few minutes. “You know,” he said. “There is a beach in Chicago …”
We didn’t quite get it right on our honeymoon, I guess. But I think we’re getting there.