According to travel websites, there are either eighteen or seven or ten or five types of travelers. With labels like “The Hunter Gatherer,” “The Collector,” “Free Spirit” and my favorite, “Chatty Cathy,” I read through every one of them and still couldn’t find me. None of them addressed the kind of traveler I am: “Giant Toddler Who Just Drank a Liter of Espresso.”
I don’t love the idea of sleeping when I’m on a vacation. I get so excited about traveling to a new place, I get a little panicky that I’m not going to fit in everything that everyone has told me that I have to do. My fear is that I’m going to get home and tell someone where I’ve been and they’re going to say, “You saw THE THING didn’t you?” And I’ll be forced to choke out a confession that I didn’t do THE THING. I did 1,350 other THINGS, but not that THING. And everyone will whisper, “She doesn’t deserve her life.”
So I turn the whole trip into an exhausting enterprise that ends with someone getting a virus and my whole family hating me until Christmas. I can’t help it. I’m just not a chill traveler.
On the other extreme is my husband. He thinks vacations are for taking a break from your hectic, unrelaxing life to go somewhere relaxing and relax. Also relax.
The fact that we ever leave the house together is a miracle.
The first time my husband and kids and I went on an international vacation, I thought it was going to result in the breakup of our family. We landed in Dublin and my husband convinced our sons that jet lag was a scary thing that should not be fooled around with, and that a nap would do them all a lot of good. Thank Patrick, Brendan, Seamus and all the other Irish saints that my daughter thought that was bullshit. She and I walked all over Dublin, got coffee, visited two parks, looked at artwork, got coffee, took a slew of pictures, had a beer, got more coffee, and ended up semi-involved in some political issue with a group of women with a petition. We went back to the hotel to wake up the nappers by screaming, “YOU GUYS, GET THE HELL UP! WE’RE IN A FOREIGN COUNTRY WHERE THE ACCENTS ARE AMAZEBALLS AND THE BEER TASTES LIKE A MILKSHAKE!”
I’ve gotten a little better since then. I let my traveling companions sleep until it’s 8 a.m. somewhere. I limit the number of major museums to three in one day, and I have even been known to get back to the hotel early enough to read a couple sentences of Rick Steves before slipping into the sleep of the dead.
But I can’t wrap my head around the concept of a vacation nap. My sister and her husband, who travel all over the world, tend to take such leisurely vacations that they do things like find a local grocery store, buy ingredients and eat in a couple of nights. My sister brings a stack of books and reads them. We’re talking 350-page books and she finishes them and leaves them in whatever house they’re staying in for other chill travelers to enjoy.
And then she told me that they sometimes take a nap.
“We always take a down day,” she told me. “We’ll just hang out and do nothing. And take naps.”
I can’t imagine that we are related at all and for that matter I am doubtful that we’re in the same phylum.
I am more in line with my mother-in-law, whose philosophy on travel can be summed up by something she said to her traveling companion in Hawaii in 1983: “Rosemary, you can sleep when you get home.” Rosemary was bone tired and run ragged and was suggesting that the two of them just take a break for Christ’s sake and stop the dawn-to-dusk walking and touring and experiencing and pamphlet reading and map following. My mother-in-law, on the other hand, did not fly six time zones away to just sit around.
It took my husband and me several more big trips before we had a meeting in the middle. Our vacations would be not as relaxing as he wanted (He would have to go back to work not rested but more like revitalized by sleep deprivation, 10 extra pounds, and new facts about 19th century history) and not as packed a schedule as I wanted. (We would not get to see every single painting in the Louvre, so stop. Just stop.)
I knew we had met at a nice middle ground when we were in Cinque Terre and one afternoon took a bottle of wine up to the rooftop and watched a guy across the street build a rock wall in his garden for three hours. It was mesmerizing. I almost forgot that there were ferries to ride, trails to hike, and bronze plaques to read.
But for the love of God, neither of us fell asleep before 10 pm and without our pajamas on.
The closest we came to incorporating a nap into a vacation was once in Rome, when we stopped back at our hotel room late one afternoon to get changed and the air conditioning was broken. The last thing I remember is sitting down on the edge of the bed for a sec. An hour and a half later I came to, sweating so badly I thought I had wet my pants. But that doesn’t count. That was asphyxiation.