“I will be out of the office starting on January 15th and will return on February 1st. During this time, please contact Reed Meyerson at firstname.lastname@example.org or 717-555-1111 if you need assistance. I wish you all a happy and productive two weeks. Best Regards, Lana Orlovsky”
I am finally taking a vacation. After three years of only taking the bare minimum of time off for family holidays and company holidays, I am going to use half of my annual vacation allowance in the first month of the year. Even when I had only two weeks of vacation, I never used it all before it expired without even a whispered farewell to my hardworking, driven self on every December 31st. My parents, especially my dad, always reminded me that life wasn’t only about working. “No one’s going to care about all the times you stayed late to finish a project when you’re six feet under.”
“Morbid, Dad. People do appreciate it now. I just got another bonus for that email investigation I wrapped up two weeks ago.”
“That’s wonderful, Lana. It really is. I’m sure that McAllister is better place because of your work.”
“It sure is.”
“Don’t forget about yourself, though.”
He was great at that reminder and almost always took his own advice, though he worked plenty hard too.
When I woke up on this first morning of my New Zealander vacation, the communal deck outside my patio door was quiet and even clean after last night’s party. I might have joined the group or been kept up by their laughter and clinking of glasses if it hadn’t been for the thirty-three hours of travel that wrapped up when I arrived in time to grab dinner at a pub in downtown Queenstown yesterday.
I was out for the count as soon as my head sunk into the pillow.
I made a little cup of tea and went out to the chair closest to my room door to enjoy the stillness of the city before the other vacationers made their appearance. It reminded me of those days when I was little and I got up early enough to sit with my mom while she had her morning coffee and I pretended to understand what she told me about the headlines. Bethany was still asleep and that meant I had Mom all to myself.
SUSQUEHANNA RIVER REACHES RECORD LOW DURING HOTTEST MONTH ON RECORD
GOVERNOR INITIATES SPECIAL INVESTIGATION INTO ELECTION DISCREPANCIES
I nodded and drank my mug of juice like I was an adult.
Today, I drank tea and felt my mind race through all the things I had finished on Friday. I knew I had checked off everything on my list, but did my list have everything I needed to do?
Stop. You are on vacation. Relax.
What do people do on vacation alone?
Until two months ago, I wouldn’t have been alone. I would have brought Chris with me and he would be the one pulling me out of my own head, knowing that I was still marinating the corporate juices of McAllister Enterprises. Until two months ago, I was still trying to fit myself into that relationship, but not anymore. Even if my job might have been part of the reason it didn’t work, there were still other reasons.
My stomach growled and I got the idea to find breakfast, so I changed into more suitable clothes and headed down to the lobby.
“Good morning. How can I help you?” The young receptionist in a navy blue polo shirt and khaki shorts set down her pen and smiled at me.
“Hi, do you have any recommendations for a healthy breakfast? I’ve been subsisting on airport food since Friday.”
“That sounds terrible. The place up here on the corner is actually quite good, lots of fresh ingredients. That’s where I’d go, unless you want to go downtown. There are loads of places down there.”
“Thanks, fresh is just what I need.” I smiled and walked across the wooden floor. As I pushed open the front doors, the cool morning air rushed in and delivered a serious blow to those work worries.
You are on vacation. Now act like it.
The aroma of fresh bread and the warm lights emanating from the open door drew me to the glass case of pansy-topped, poppy seeded buns filled with vibrant greens and thin salmon. The shelf above that held cylindrical cakes and corresponding swirls of thick, white frosting and translucent, candied orange slices. I was lost in the sight.
“Good morning,” a slender woman in a black canvas apron found me bent over admiring the baked goods. She smiled as she caught me off guard.
“Good morning, hi. Just one for breakfast please.”
“Sit wherever you like and I’ll be over to get your order in a few minutes,” she handed me a menu. “Coffee?”
“Tea, please, with honey and lemon.”
The table I chose was in front of a window on the side of the café. It faced a street that ran down the hill to Lake Wakatipu. There was a glass jar of raw sugar in the center of each table and that was it, but the wooden floors under the metal legs of the wooden chairs and tables held the warmth of a bakery that had just brought the last batch of brioche muffins out of the massive oven. I could see them sprinkled with powdered sugar and sitting on the counter next to the cash register.
I hung my jacket on the back of my chair and sat down. Everything looked delicious and only half familiar. I went back up to the counter and ordered a poached egg sandwich that came with avocado, a “greens shot” and a “chia pot.” At least the ingredients were recognizable, even if I wasn’t sure about their delivery method.
Back at the table, I pulled out my phone and almost checked my work email. Instead, I stopped my compulsion and put the phone back into my bag.
You are on vacation. Relax.
For a few minutes, I didn’t know how to pass the time without my electronic crutch. Then I saw a basket of magazines near the door and went over to choose one. A few more people came into the café while I perused the reading materials. A family with an adorable little baby who would lose his patience with the whole thing half-way through their pancakes sat down next to me. An older guy in red spandex biking shorts and a man bun took a spot toward the back of the restaurant. Six twenty-somethings in stylish adventurewear filled a table right up front with expressions and hair-dos that screamed “It’s too early for breakfast!”
I chose a magazine with what I would call an “artsy” cover that made it hard to tell what it was about, but there was an article about mindfulness that seemed to be a good starting point for me.
While I read the article and made several mental notes about how to avoid the mindlessness traps of my regular days, more people came in. By the time my food arrived, the café was full and I was feeling even more like it was the right place to be.
My breakfast looked “artsy” too. It came on a circular wooden board with each item in its own section. The poached eggs and avocado were on a slice of fresh bread in the third by my right hand. Across the way by my left hand, a double shot glass of green something piqued my curiosity and skepticism. At the top of the circle, red currant jam, chia pudding, and a smooth layer of whipped cream layered up in a glass jar I might have bought jelly in.
I started with the greens shot and it was just what I expected – half delicious and half too healthy. I guessed there were beet greens in it and knew that it was good for me. I decided to take sips throughout the meal to alternate the flavor with others I thought I’d like more. Next, I bit into the poached egg, which spilled the yolk down my hand to my wrist before I caught it with my napkin. The bread was soft and the avocado was the perfect amount of ripe. A pile of fresh ground pepper and salt in the middle of the board added just the right amount of spice. One bite of the chia pot told me that it was dessert and that I should ration it.
Throwing my original plan out the window, I chugged the rest of the greens shot and ate everything else in order of healthiness with the chia pot rounding things out.
Instead of going back to my room after breakfast and following the responsible routine of showering, tooth brushing, and packing a bag of everything I might want for the morning, I went straight to the beach and followed signs for the Queenstown Gardens hike, starting with the portion that went along the water. The gravel path crunched beneath my feet and the scent of pine filled the air. One type of tree stood out from the rest and when I found one that had a sign nailed to its bark, I wasn’t surprised at all to see “sequoia” in the name. Its reddish bark and stunning canopy looked like row after row of open arms. I stood there looking up until I knew that there was no way I’d ever be able to capture it on film. That doesn’t mean that I didn’t try, though.
I stopped at the shoreline and took some photos of everything I could fit into the frame – the waves, the mountains, and the rocky beach. The wind blew my hair into my face and I closed my eyes to feel only that natural force I couldn’t control.
I am on vacation.