A short break I took last week (and a half) had me thinking—about breaks.
With the still-lingering pandemic restrictions on travel, and with more free time this summer, and with my absolute love of summers (especially this hot one), and with my passion to keep exploring, I took a make-it-up-as-you-go road trip into a new (for me) corner of BC.
Readers need to know that any place I’ve never been to, is automatically on my bucket list.
My plan was to head east to the Kootenays, to travel a few roads and see some communities I’ve never been to, and revisit some places I haven’t for many years, then perhaps continue as far as Banff or Calgary, before returning home.
At the last minute, I changed plans. With the fires in the interior (who wants to go to the Rocky Mountains and then not even see them because of smoke?) and the surging pandemic in the Kootenays, I decided to turn my vehicle west instead. After all, I’d never been to the Powell River area or the northern half of Vancouver Island. (Besides, I needed to be in Victoria for a funeral on the final Saturday, anyways.)
Seems everyone else made similar decisions. And, when you make it up as you go, those who have done a little more planning have reserved all the hotel rooms, campsites and activities.
The first night (which happened to be that very hot Thursday, Aug 12), I ended up sleeping outside. No problem! it was warm, there were no bugs (and no wildlife) and I sleep well on my 8” queen-sized air mattress and comfy sleeping bag. It was refreshing!
I did make up the trip as I went and, most nights, got either a hotel room or a campsite.
I spent time on beaches, on hikes, exploring museums and quaint towns (like Sointula and Alert Bay), lounging in my hammock, riding numerous ferries, and taking in the smoke-free scenery. I ventured as far as Cape Scott Park, the northwesterly-most tip of Vancouver Island.
I also re-read one of my favorite books: Ten Years a Nomad: A traveler’s Journey Home, with which I strongly identify.
And I thought about “breaks.” What a break is for me, is surely not the same as what it might be for many others. In fact, I’m likely far outside of “typical” on that one (many of you have already concluded that!)
For most who work steady 9-5 jobs, 48 – 50 weeks of the year, a break is, I think, simply a two- or four-week vacation from work. Some do not even travel. Many who do, park their tents or trailers in one spot for two weeks or reserve a hotel room, and simply enjoy nature or a selection of outdoor activities for the duration.
For them, a break is simply the ability to fully remove themselves, physically and mentally, from their job, or at least from the routine of the other 50 weeks.
For those of us with less rigid schedules, it may be different. I’ve never called a break from work, or a trip away from home, a “vacation.” I don’t take breaks to “vacation.” I take breaks to indulge my urge to explore more of this planet and to try new adventures.
In my life, I have the freedom to do so. I do release myself considerably from my work during such breaks, working to be “ahead of the game” before I go, and expecting a day or three of catch-up when I get back home. But I also bring my lap-top with me, taking the occasional “break from my break” to make sure the most urgent of responsibilities gets attended to.
So, for me, it is the opportunity to explore new places and activities that, at least partially, defines my break.
But, like others, it’s also a removal from my typical routine. It may not be a complete abandonment of the workplace for a couple of weeks, but it is breaking the pattern of responsibility for a time. My work routine involves a high degree of organization, so “making it up as I go” is much more refreshing than having all the details planned out in advance. I frequently appealed to what I had set as my guiding principle for this trip: “What do you feel like right now?”
Many nights I didn’t know where I’d be spending the next one, and I usually only knew a day ahead what I’d be doing the next—and some days it changed on that day.
If it means getting shut out of a campsite or a hotel room, I’ll put up with that. One night I did sleep in my vehicle (OK, I’ll admit, I’m fortunate to be able to sleep almost anywhere relatively comfortably.)
In those eleven days, I experienced much (not all) of what Matthew Kepnes did, mentally, in his ten years as a nomad. By the time it was done, I was ready to come back home, too.
To return to a home base and a routine, at least for a time.
But also ready to leave again when the next break opportunity arises.
To do some more exploring.