Most travel bloggers reflect on past travel or write round-ups about future travel plans from the vantage point of January first, the same square on the calendar from which people state with grim determination, “This year, dammit, I will lose those last ten pounds.”
On the weight loss front, I’m no different from anyone else with overly snug pants, but as a teacher, the rest of my life revolves around the academic year. All travel, in particular, is considered in light of, planned around, and – frustratingly – often foiled by the school year calendar. My life is demarcated on a June to June (or less specifically, summer to summer) basis rather than the January 1 to December 31 span that most people use.
Seen through this lens, let’s go back to June of 2019. As I gazed out onto the travel horizon, I saw, for the first time in 16 years of teaching, nearly every major school year break filled with travel. Thanksgiving was the exception, but even then I would be away from home visiting family in neighboring Wisconsin.
Excited but also mildly trepidatious about this anomalous, busy year, I thought to myself, “I wonder if there’s such a thing as too much travel.”
I should point out that I’m quite the homebody. Though I love to travel, when I’m not doing so, I love to be at home. I don’t spend my weekends going from concerts to plays to sporting events. I don’t engage in the weekly ritual of heading up to the cabin as do many people around here from spring through fall. I’m at home – doing little chores, keeping up the house and yard, exercising, running errands, engaging in several hobbies, and generally relaxing. And I love it. [Note: I’m not completely devoid of culture. I do attend the occasional ballet, orchestra, and play performance. I’ll venture over to a museum exhibit from time to time. I go to the odd professional sporting event (mainly for the chili dogs). The operative word here is “occasional.”]
Anyway, here’s what I saw when I looked ahead to my year:
- June – Leadville & Beaver Creek, Colorado (1½ weeks)
- July/August – England & Wales (3 weeks)
- Annual mid-October teacher break – San Antonio (4 days)
- Thanksgiving weekend – Wisconsin
- Christmas/New Year break – Laos/Cambodia (16 days)
- Spring break – Sedona, Arizona (6 days)
I was planning to reflect on and write about the “too much travel” question in June. But now, having just cycled repeatedly through all five stages of grief before cancelling my Sedona trip (due to an abundance of COVID-caution, not actual infection), the question can be answered in part by my reaction to the cancellation. Do I feel even a little relief that I finally get a week at home to do whatever I want? After all, I haven’t gotten that on my other school breaks this year.
The short answer is no. Though I know it was the right decision for several reasons, I’m devastated to have cancelled this trip. Once the SE Asia jet leg was but a memory, I began to grow excited for my solo southwest sojourn. It’s one of the things that had been keeping me going through the cold of winter. Through two blows of bad health news on the extended family front. Through the building worry during the early stages of the coronavirus outbreak. I was (and still am) more than ready for six days of solitude and “me time” among the red rocks of the warm desert southwest.
But the longer answer is yes, maybe. After last year’s chopped up summer break (starting with the first week at home prepping for the Colorado trip, followed by a week and a half in the Rockies, followed by three weeks at home, the first of which was all about unpacking, doing laundry, and recovering, and the last of which was dedicated entirely to prepping for the UK trip, followed by three weeks in the UK, followed by three weeks at home, the first of which was all about unpacking, doing laundry, and recovering, and the last of which was filled with the annual week-before-school-starts anxiety-induced thumb-twiddling and nervous rocking back and forth) I announced: no more two-vacation summers.
Then there’s the annual mid-October teacher break. This is my favorite break of the whole school year. No holidays. No cooking or baking. No long, unscenic drives through central Wisconsin. No hosting. No decorating or gift-buying. Just four days of solid “me time” after the rotten first six weeks of the school year. (Late August to mid-October has been my least favorite period for the last decade and a half. Full of stress, it’s completely ruined me for autumn, my once favorite season.) While we loved our time in San Antonio and would do it again, I definitely felt the absence of a restful, at-home break. I can see other mid-October travel in our future, but certainly not every year. I need that extended fall break at home like a donut needs coffee.
There were no regrets over our Christmastime Dust-Farm-Pail List trip to SE Asia. It was a dream come true. (And on a side note, we are so grateful to have completed it when the coronavirus outbreak was in its infancy.) There are two caveats to this, though: First, while we are very open to traveling again whenever we have two-week Christmas breaks (these don’t happen often), we will not do so again to SE Asia, Australia, or anywhere else that’s so far away. The jet-lag was just too severe. “Europe or closer” is the new rule. We’ll save the longer trips for summer when we have work-free weeks on end to recover. Second, during years when Christmas breaks are shorter, we are much less likely to travel outside the Midwest, both because neither the husband nor I want to miss every single Christmas, but also because winter here can upend even the best laid plans. We got lucky flying to Asia this year, but if we keep pushing our luck, eventually we will get screwed by Mother Nature.
So is there such a thing as too much travel?
It looks like the answer, at least for me, is an unsatisfying, wishy-washy “Kinda-sorta; It depends; Yes with an if… no with a but.”
However, as we reluctantly adopt a “wait and see” approach with our upcoming France-Andorra-Spain trip this summer, given the uncertainty of all things coronavirus, I can answer a related question with much more certainty:
Is there such a thing as not enough travel?
That, my friends, is an unequivocal yes.