I'm bad at vacations. Sad, but true.
Last Thursday was the lunar new year, or Seolnal (설날), so for the past five days I've been off work. Great. Awesome. Time to rest and relax, right? Well, for most. Instead of taking the time to sleep in, fix my sleep schedule, and get work done, I decided that it's high time to party like it's 1999 and get absolutely no sleep. Not only that, but I went on the longest walk I've been on since leaving Pohang.
Since the vacation began, there has not been a single night where I've gone to sleep at a reasonable hour. On top of that, I've been waking up early. I've been averaging about 5 hours of sleep a night. I've been walking for miles and miles every day. I've been drinking like a fish. I'm more tired at the end of this vacation than I've been in a long, long time.
But this is the norm for me.
In the summer of 2013 I went on a month-long road trip through 5 national parks. Almost every morning I woke up before sunrise. I would then spend the entire day driving, hiking, and taking pictures. Long after the sun had gone down, I would eat my dinner and go to sleep, only to repeat the experience again and again for nearly a month.
On one day alone I drove over 550 miles from Grand Teton National Park to Cedar City, Utah. This day included taking pictures for a few hours after sunrise, a stop through Fossil Butte National Monument, a long conversation with a nice lady in Jackson, WY, bad traffic in Salt Lake City, UT, and stopping periodically to take pictures of the beautiful Navajo Sandstone red rocks in the area.
Two years before that, I went to China for a month (including a short trip to Thailand). Every day it was the same story: wake up, walk for ten-twenty miles, drink, and go to sleep late.
Seven days before the China trip, I finished a bicycle tour. I rode my bicycle 1,257 miles through six states in about 5 weeks. That's right, I exercised for a vacation.
I don't know how far back this goes, but I suspect that I can blame this all on my parents. I remember every family vacation we took, be it to Europe or just to see the family, the entire trip was planned out from hour one. Early in the morning, we would have to leave the hostel to see thing one. We had to see thing one early so we could see thing two in the afternoon. We had to see thing two in the afternoon so that we could see thing three at night.
"We have to see [thing three] at night. The tour book says that's the best time to see [thing three]," my mother would say. I think that will reveal why I hate guide books.
Even as a child, vacations were not relaxing occasions, but grueling endurance trials. Even visiting relatives could be a chore because we couldn't just hang out, we had to do things with the relatives. We had to go to the museum, to the zoo, to the park. Then we had to drive the 14 hours from Denver to Dallas in a day.
The only place where vacations were remotely relaxing were at my grandma's near Houston. The drive down was only about four hours, and once we got there, there was nothing to do. She lived (and still lives) in a secluded house on 17 acres of piney woodland. For most of my childhood, the closest store of any significance was 45 minutes away. Most of the time at Grandma's was spent cooking, eating, or sitting out on the porch while the adults smoked cigarettes and got progressively more drunk as the night went on.
At grandma's, there were not museums. No parks. No schedules. There was a pond to fish in, and trails to walk down. When you heard the bell, you returned to the house for food.
I haven't had a vacation like that in years. It wasn't how I was trained to vacation. Now vacations are tiring ordeals. At the end, I'm drained and need to sleep for days. And yet, I have to be at work in less than 12 hours.
I'm so bad at vacations...