I must confess I had forgotten how much work it takes to reach a vacation—particularly when one is going out of the country!
In case I haven’t mentioned it, tomorrow I leave (first thing in the morning) for ten days in Ireland and Scotland. I will be traveling with a wonderful friend from college and my indefatigable uncle, who is meeting us in Dublin. Among other things, we will be staying in a Scottish castle outside Edinburgh. We will be in Dublin for my uncle’s birthday, and Belfast for St. Patrick’s Day.
As someone I know would say, it’s going to be epic.
Perhaps still more epic, however, is the colossal amount of front-loading I’ve had to do just to get out of here! I probably overplanned it as I do everything else, but just the same, the freedom of vacation comes at a price.
First, of course, there’s the planning of the trip itself. Luckily, my friend was good enough to take on the lion’s share of this responsibility, and I was more than willing to defer to his expertise. The flight tickets were purchased in mid-November, but the rest of the planning didn’t come together until recently. Then, thanks to his initiative, a complete spreadsheet suddenly appeared. Now, we have a full itinerary, complete with accommodation reservations in each city, a breakdown of known costs (complete with currency conversion and per-person expenses), and all relevant flight and train departure and arrival times.
Ironically (yes, really), my vacation seems to be scheduling me even more than an ordinary day at work and school!
Back on the home front, I’ve also had a major reality check. Going on vacation for ten days means that everything that was due by March 22 is now due… today! This means class readings, e-mails and personal correspondence, letters of recommendation I’ve been asked to write, a legal brief I have no choice but to write, and (of course) ten days of blog entries that I’ve forced myself to write, as well! I may not sleep between now and liftoff on Friday morning, but I’ll certainly sleep on the plane.
Then there are things that you wouldn’t even think of… until you think of them. There are certain people I have to notify regarding my absence, certain appointments I have to cancel or postpone, even certain food items I need to eat so they don’t go bad while I’m away. (Yes, I’m keeping my bread in the freezer now; thank you, readers. If you’ve been wondering, I also polished off the last of the jamón ibérico last night along with the last of the Belgian ale. I’m mixing cultures because that’s the kind of world-savvy guy I am.)
I have laundry to wash, currency to exchange, bills to pay, tickets to print, and packing to pack. By the time you read this, it will be roughly 24 hours until my departure, and somewhere in the middle of Cambridge, Massachusetts, I’ll quietly be going insane.
But then (glorious then!) I will be stepping onto a British Airways jetliner, ensuring that my seat back is in the full, upright, and locked position, and taking off into the wild unknown.
It’s not just that Ireland and Scotland are unknown to me—though they are; I’ve never had the pleasure of visiting. It’s also that this will be my first true vacation, and in that sense this is an entirely new experience for me. I’ve traveled quite a bit already, but always on a guided school-related expedition or a tour with one of my choirs. At those times, someone else was always telling me where I needed to be next, and (in the case of choir tours) the trips often involved quite a lot of rehearsal and other work.
But this—this will be different. I joked above about being overly scheduled, but really our itinerary just tells us how to get from one city to the next. In between transitions, the time is ours to fill as we please, and I simply can’t wait. This is exactly the sort of unknown I need.
So that my movements themselves will not be entirely unknown to family and friends, I’ve prepared brief updates that will roll out one day at a time while I’m away. Unlike our friend John Denver, I do know when I’ll be back again; regular posts will resume on March 23. In the meantime, stay tuned as I travel to Dublin, Belfast, Edinburgh, and Glasgow—and send any relevant suggestions my way!
And, this week and always…
May the road rise up to meet you.
May the wind be always at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face;
the rains fall soft upon your fields and until we meet again,
may God hold you in the palm of His hand.