It’s summer vacation, and for weeks now, I’ve been packing for a trip to Ashland, though I don’t have my suitcase out yet.
In my mind, I go over what I’ll need and what the hotels will look like. Anticipating a vacation makes travel fun, because there’s the promise of adventure. Psychologists claim that having something to look forward to makes us happier.
Except that the experience can fall short of expectations.
In “The Art of Travel,” Alain de Botton notes that “the reality of travel is not what we anticipate.” The palm trees come with a rainstorm, or you have a fight with your spouse – then the thick towels don’t matter.
You may arrive at your destination only to find that the room looks nothing like the online photos. That’s the reason for websites like www.seeyourhotel.com, which post actual room photos without hotel PR sugarcoating.
And it’s bittersweet to leave home. Somewhere in the back of your mind lurks the suspicion that you’ll miss your routines or your coffee, or the airline will lose your luggage. Such worries alert you that you’re leaving your comfort zone.
Despite my anxieties, brochures appear in my mailbox daily. They show glossy photos of cottages, ocean-view inns and Shakespearean theaters. Images fill my mind.
To ensure that I travel lightly, I bought the Simple Packing Travel Kit ($25 at www.simplepacking.com), which shows how to pack less so that you don’t have to drag along a clunky, oversized suitcase.
I visit Sephora and stock up on short travel-sized Firebrand Mascara and small perfume sprays that the store stocks by the cash register. The packaging beats plain plastic mini-tubes at the drugstore.
My adult children left the nest long ago, so my definition of a good vacaton has changed. I used to try to elaborate on school curriculum by marching them along Boston’s Freedom Trail in oppressive heat, for example, or visiting California missions.
These days, I can consider places that the kids would have found boring, like remote but romantic oceanfront inns without televisions. Back then, the most successful trip we took was to Puerto Vallarta’s La Jolla de Mismaloya beach. We loved playing pool bingo, because winners won piña coladas and strawberry daiquiris – kids got virgin drinks.
This memory came to me at the El Camino YMCA recently, when I overheard two young mothers discussing how much children change our lives.
“We just always travel to places to watch Justin exercise at soccer or baseball, while we sit in the stands, passively,” said one mom.
They commiserated about the difficult task of breaking away from their families’ needs to get their own time at the gym. Time changes that.
In the play “Enchanted April,” recently produced by San Jose’s Northside Theatre Company, two British women who meet in 1922 discover their mutual boredom. Unhappy with their husbands and wishing to escape neglect on one hand and too much control on the other, they answer an ad for a summer rental in Tuscany.
Headlined “For those who appreciate wisteria and sunshine,” the ad persuades Mrs. Wiltens to rent an Italian castle. The two women discover a renewed passion for life while lounging in the castle, and return rejuvenated and with renewed love for their husbands.
Travel can do that for you.