Vacation Made Me Realize What I Want in Life, More Vacation

“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.” – Henry David Thoreau

WI sunsetLast week, I returned from a two-week vacation to my native Wisconsin and it made me realize that what I really want out of life is more vacation. I can’t even remember the last time I took a trip for the sake of taking a trip. My vacations have never lasted more than a week and so I almost felt guilty taking off two weeks. Almost.

I know when you go on vacation you’re supposed to recharge and return to your daily life feeling all invigorated with a new perspective on life and perhaps a new addition to your daily routine that you acquired like eating smoked bacon with every meal or doing awkward yoga poses on the edge of mountain at sunset, but I’d like to maintain the vacation lifestyle forever.

photo-33I’d love to live in a cabin in Northern Wisconsin and spend my days hiking through the woods and my evenings sipping cognac by the fire, staring at the constellations and trying to remember the name of that damn king constellation located next to Cassiopeia the Queen or remembering if Orion is even visible in the sky this time of year. (Note to self: I really need to brush up on my constellations. My 2nd grade science teacher would be ashamed of me.) Or marveling that the universe is enormous beyond what my brain can comprehend and we as humans are incredibly tiny and insignificant, so throw another log on the fire and let’s have another round of s’mores!

photo-34It would be nice to enjoy a $2 brat here and there and sip a $5 cocktail out of a pint glass from time-to-time at the local watering hole where the bartender knows my name and plays my favorite song without me even having to ask. I would love if the only worries I had in my day were that I forgot to apply bug spray and there’s too much sand in my tennis shoes from the impromptu dip in the lake. I hope the rain comes after I finish this round of mini golf. Hey, we’re out of cognac!

photo-35And how about all that free time to use devouring a good book? To me, no vacation is complete without spending quality time in the comfy chair in the corner of the living room by the window, or in the back yard under the patio table umbrella, or on the front porch in the rocking chair amongst the pages of a really good read. Sometimes with a beer in hand.

Can’t this be my real life? Can’t I be a professional vacationer and in return I’ll report back to you all on my travels? I promise it will be interesting!

The responsible adult in me knows that I have to return real life (at least physically), but I learned what my vacation had to teach me and I’m keeping that with me. Although I’ve returned my daily grind in the Big Apple, I’m approaching it with my enlightened vacation mind. I’m making the time for things I enjoy doing most and not feeling guilty about it.

long live passion

Wisconsin Ain’t No Flyover State

“Wisconsin. That’s in Michigan, right?”

Once, on my family’s annual family vacation to New Hampshire, a kid asked me where I was from. I of course responded with, Wisconsin. Without skipping a beat, he responded, that’s in Michigan, right? I never forgot the disgust I felt that someone my age (11) had no idea where Wisconsin was located. Didn’t they have social studies classes in New England? Aren’t you required to locate all the fifty states on a map at least once in your childhood? Have you not watched a single episode of Schoolhouse Rock?

They don't even serve this where you're from.

Fast forward 17 years and I’m sure that boy now has a clear idea of where Wisconsin is located. I doubt he’s ever visited, because after all, what coastie would be caught dead hanging out in a flyover state?

Consider this article, “Just Tossing Around the Old Bag of Corn” that appeared in the New York Times a few weeks ago. The article goes into detail about how New Yorkers are really getting into a game that we’ve been playing around these parts for decades. It’s how I imagine Columbus’s reports of the New World would have sounded to the people that he “discovered.” Dude, we’ve been saying the same thing for centuries. You didn’t discover cornhole, we did.

This is still "the beach."

My favorite is a recent post written by Wisconsin to New York transplant Megan L. Wood in The Awl called, “It’s Cute That New York is Catching Up to Wisconsin.” It expresses similar thoughts on how people in New York are now just discovering “new trends” that Wisconsinites have been setting for years.

It’s time to set the record straight. Wisconsin ain’t no flyover state, it is the real deal. You know you love us and secretly wish that you could be more like us. It’s time to put an end to that ridiculous nickname and realize that things that happen in Wisconsin are as relevant as things that happen on the coasts. Sometimes, even more so.

Since 1844!

If you still need convincing that Wisconsin ain’t all that, then I’d like to ask you a few questions. First of all, has your state been brewing Pabst Blue Ribbon since before it was an official state? Did Laura Ingalls Wilder grow up in a log cabin deep in the woods of your state which served as the inspiration for her Little House on the Prairie series which later became a hit television series starring Michael Landon? Were duck boat tours started in your state? Is America’s Largest Water Park in your neck of the woods? How many publicly owned sports teams does your state have? Can you buy alcohol on Sundays? Was America’s first kindergarten in your home state? Does your state deep fry everything and then serve it with a side of cheese? Can you host a tailgate party at all of your local sports venues? Does your state have this many breweries? When President Obama wishes us all a Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays this year from the White House, will he do so against the backdrop of the White House Christmas tree, cut from the forests of your state?

Oh and did your state do this?

Wisconsin “Budget Repair Bill” Protest from Matt Wisniewski on Vimeo.

A Vacation From the Internet

Last week, I enjoyed a fabulous, all-inclusive vacation in Mexico. I spent the week with family and friends on the Caribbean Sea, sipping drinks on the beach, enjoying 80 degree weather, and working on my tan in January–oh and visiting ancient ruins in Tulum.  I could not have asked for a better vacation.  At the end of the week, I was truly sad to leave which can be a rare feeling after a family vacation.

One of the most surprising highlights of the trip was taking a vacation from the Internet. I never thought I would be so happy to ditch my iPhone, my laptop, Twitter, Facebook, gchat, Tumblr, WordPress, etc.   It wasn’t until I started having digital separation anxiety days before the trip that I realized just how addicted I am to the charms of the interwebs. However, once in Mexico, I let my iPhone go dead and didn’t look back! No chatting, no updating statuses, no Facebook creeping.  Instead of tweeting every five minutes, I tweeted once during the week vacation (I guess you can’t quit Internet addictions cold turkey). Taking a vacation from the Internet was just what I needed to curtail my social media addiction and here is what I found:

  1. Ignorance really is bliss. I don’t need to know what everyone else is  doing, thinking, feeling at all times. In fact, I’d prefer not to.
  2. Face-to-face conversation trumps all other forms. Social media is a fabulous way to keep in touch with people, but nothing beats meeting with those people in person.
  3. Make time to stop and smell the roses. I hate being that person who is always on their darn phone looking at Twitter updates, so it was nice not to have that option. It really forces you to soak in your surroundings and live in the moment!
  4. I really do prefer Twitter over Facebook. At least this week. Twitter doesn’t bombard you with tons of useless information as Facebook tends to.  I really like 140 character limit on Twitter.

Because of the way technology has advanced and the rising popularity of social media, it’s silly to think that a person should spend their entire life offline and not on a computer. However, now that I have taken an Internet Vacation, I have found a much-needed balance between my digital life and my real life. There is a time and a place for being connected and that time is not all the time.

Not Your Average To-Do List: 6 Great Lists I’ve Made

I’ve always been a list person, but not in the traditional sense. I’m not the type of person who makes extensive daily to-do lists (although I tried to be sophomore year of college).  When I think of something I want to remember, whether it is a task to complete or an interesting idea to write about, I like to scrawl down in list form.  Over the years, I’ve written down some pretty interesting lists and since I’ve always been a journal writer, I still have some of these lists. Since I’ve been sorting through my things lately to prepare for a move, I was easily sidetracked by a stack of journals and notebooks on my bookshelf.  Here’s a look at some of the better lists I’ve made thus far:

People/Things/Traits that I Hate or Piss Me Offcompiled 03/98 as a freshman in high school. I made this list with a friend and the entire thing was 16 pages long. We made it for entertainment purposes so that we’d have something to laugh about in Biology. Here are some highlights:

  1. homework
  2. health class
  3. people who try to be matchmakers
  4. video discs
  5. the feeling that there isn’t enough time in a day
  6. dead bird guts
  7. cleaning out the swim bus after a swim meet
  8. running out of cookies
  9. backstroke, it was my best stroke
  10. scantron

Secret Locations of Important Documentscompiled 06/99 while on a class trip to France for three weeks between 10th and 11th grade.

  1. Extra francs in red binder pocket.
  2. Used film in side pocket of swim bag.
  3. Travelers checks in journal from Adriane.
  4. American dollars in p. 63 of Summer by Edith Wharton.

Crazy Antics to Do compiled in the Fall of 2002, while a sophomore in college.

  1. Toilet paper [address of student house #1] and [address of student house #2]
  2. Have a kegger in our room.

Thoughts on a Day Off compiled 6/14/07 while living in Boston.

  1. Stop the drilling.
  2. It’s the time to get sappy over bad TV.
  3. Make a British mix CD.
  4. Have a dance party to drown out the drilling.
  5. Is it too early to have a beer?

List of Things to Do Today compiled 6/30/07 when some guests were visiting Boston, some for the first time. Wanted them to experience the full culture of Boston.

  1. Eat New England Clam Chowder.
  2. Wine in a box.
  3. Eat Mike’s Pastry.
  4. Chill in the North End.
  5. See a 3 cornered hat.
  6. Tag our names.
  7. Yell in Faneuil Hall.
  8.  Go to the graveyard and find our birthday buddies.

Facts About Pigs– compiled 10/11/07 after going to the Fryeburg Fair in Maine and seeing all the livestock.

  1.  4th smartest animals.
  2. Actually really clean; roll in mud because they don’t have sweat glands.
  3. Make good pets because they don’t shed.

If you’re not a list person, I suggest you start. Instead of recording things you have to do such as: 1) laundry 2) pay rent 3) buy groceries, jot down things you wish you could do: 1)sleep in until noon 2) buy a yacht 3) drink Mickey’s on yacht. The second kind of list, while not always the most practical, is much more fun to make.

Big Brother is Watching You (Naked)

It was a bright cold day in April and the clocks were striking thirteen–oh wait, excuse me, wrong story. What I meant to say was that it was an unseasonably warm day in November when I read about the latest in airport security measures–full body scans.

Full body scans?!   Wasn’t walking barefoot through the metal detector with all legal liquids in a plastic bag and boarding pass and photo ID in tow enough? I can’t stand flying as it is, or airports for that matter, and now the TSA is requiring full body scans at all airports

So now, when I, an already anxious flyer, go to the airport, I have to pick between a TSA worker seeing me naked or a same-sex TSA worker touching my chest and other choice areas to make sure that I’m not hiding anything illegal in my body cavity.  Hmmm, a tough decision. Which method shall I pick? Be groped or be seen naked? Gosh, that high-speed rail  is sounding great right about now…(dang it, Scott Walker!).

Full body scans at security checkpoints have crossed a line.  At this rate, they might as well strip search us when we pass through security. Full body scans should be reserved for medical reasons only, not for use at airport security checkpoints.  

I don’t know what’s worse, receiving a full body scan or its alternative–getting groped.  Give me a break.  Of course, I’m sure plenty of Americans will defend this new measure, all in the name of American safety and security.  Safety at all costs!  Sure we have to sacrifice some personal freedoms in order to stay safe, but this new invasive airport security measure has gone too far.

When You’re An Adult, You Get to Do Kid Things

I still can’t believe it’s been a solid month since I left on vacation with my sister and dad to return to our beloved family camp on Lake Winnipesaukee in New Hampshire after an eight year hiatus.  Post-college, it seems like time passes a whole lot faster and so I’m still in disbelief that a month has already passed between now and then (my partially still-packed suitcase can attest to this.  Sorry, Mom).  I’m still trying to get over the fact that I moved away from Boston over a year ago and that I can’t really use “Well, I just recently returned to the area” for an excuse for anything anymore.  

One of the best parts about returning to Lake Winnipesaukee was picking up where I had left off with old friends, eight years later.  Last time we had been at camp together, we couldn’t even buy our own booze.  Gone were the days of relying on older siblings/friends to pick us up a case of Sublimes and nonchalantly shoving them into duffel bags. 

Another highlight of returning to our camp on Lake Winnipesaukee  is seeing all the familiar landmarks.  There are the actual landmarks on the grounds, such as the ice cream store, the beach, our special hidden beach, the barn, the White Mountains, and all of our secret pathways.  Then there are the landmarks along the highway.  The McDonald’s at the edge of a hill, JoJo’s Country store, and Funspot.   

Funspot touts itself as the World’s Largest Arcade.  The kind of place where kids beg, plead, and bargain with their parents to take them and parents pretend they don’t hear their children’s cries of “Please take us to Funspot! Can we go to Funspot?!” 

Even as twenty-somethings, my friends and I still possessed a deep yearning for someone to please take us to Funspot.  We wanted to experience the world’s largest arcade and we wanted the prizes to prove our adventures.  One rainy evening, towards the end of the week, it dawned on us that we had the power within us all along to take ourselves to Funspot. 

Take ourselves to Funspot we did and we experienced the depths of the world’s largest arcade.  First, we bowled with adult beverages (but not in the actual alley, thanks to New Hampshire state law).  Then, we turned our twenty-dollar bills into coins and played as much Skeeball as we possibly could manage.  Another treat was the archaic arcade games area which allowed us to play Duck Hunt and other old school Mario Brothers games, and the original Pac-Man.  Unfortunately, some of the machines hadn’t been repaired since their glory days, so coins were lost. 

One of the unlikely favorite machines of the night was the ticket dispenser.  We put our stacks and stacks of tickets into the machine which would count all the tickets and spit out a receipt with our ticket count.  The anticipation of how high that number was so exciting that we found ourselves chanting, “Machine! Machine! Machine!” in hopes that it would give us a high count of tickets. 

"Machine! Machine! Machine!"

 

After our tickets were counted, we found ourselves in Prizeland.  Talk about tough decision-making.  What on earth could we possibly get with all of our tickets? Should we get a souvenir pint glass? A stuffed animal? Candy? Googly-eyed rings? Swedish fish? Bracelets? Should we spring for a large prize or settle on handfuls of small prizes? We opted for the handfuls of small prizes that way everyone could leave with something.

When we returned to the camp with all of our prize rings, souvenir Funspot pint glasses, bracelets, and a little bounce in our step, a young child could not help but notice all of our new loot.  Her curiosity leading the way, she asked us, “Where did you get all of these things?” 

My dear friend replied, “Why, we won them at Funspot.”  Her eyes widened at the mention of the sacred arcade. 

“You went to Funspot?!  No fair!” Many people know of Funspot, few have actually set foot in there.  Especially kids without their parents. 

“Well you see,” my friend began.  “When you’re an adult, you get to do kid things.”  Dumbfounded, she bumbled off to bed as we went to enjoy our Swedish fish under the stars. 

August is the Sunday Night of Summer

It has been a great summer. I have had the good fortune to attend many concerts, baseball games, and take several trips.  For the most part, the weather has been agreeable (aside from the extreme humidity and the flash floods) and I have been able to enjoy some quality time basking in the sun and dipping in various lakes. 

As we approach the middle of August, I cannot help but get that sinking feeling that I get on Sunday evenings after a great weekend as I mentally prepare to face another work week.  Even though I am not a student and do not work in a school, I still feel like the days of summer are numbered.  The college kids are already returning to their campuses and school-aged children are dragging their parents to Target to get the school supplies off the list and perhaps a  Optimus Prime lunch box.  Sometimes I wish I, too, could partake in back-to-school shopping as I love the smell of fresh notebooks and pencils.  However, I am no longer in need of such an abundance of office supplies at one time.

Of course, when I mention to people the fact that I feel summer coming to a close, I am met with confused looks and choruses of, “You’re crazy! Stop being so negative!” It’s not that I am negative, it is just that I start to feel the passing of summer as I complete the major milestones of summer.  For me, the major milestones of summer are my early June birthday, Milwaukee’s Summerfest (which spans the last week in June and first week of July), the Fourth of July, the annual family vacation to New Hampshire in early August, and attending the final concert of the summer season at Alpine Valley Music Theater in East Troy, WI.  I guess there is still Labor Day, but its passing marks the official end summer (in my mind at least).

Summer’s end can feel so tragic because  it is more than just the end of a season; it is the end to a carefree way of living.  Everything feels more laid back  in the summer and because of that, I take life less seriously during this time of year.  In summer, I am more likely to take a weekend trip on a whim, more likely to have that extra beer in the 7th inning of a Brewers game, and more likely to go to a concert on a Tuesday night when I have to work early the next morning.   My justification for doing such things is always, “It’s summer! Who cares?!”  However, that justification is not so effective when the weather begins to cool and the first leaves begin to fall.  It seems nonsensical to stay out late on a work night in November, the way I might in June or July.  There is no eleven day music festival in January that I can use as an excuse to blow off going to the gym and getting enough sleep.

Just because the warmth of summer will eventually end, does not mean the carefree living of summer has to end.  The key is keeping the summer spirit alive in the coldest, darkest moments of December, January, and February.  I can still take risks and be laid back; I simply have to wear a few extra layers and remember to my hat and gloves.  Maybe even secure a pair of snowshoes.