I’m probably the least-qualified guy to talk about a summer vacation. I haven’t had one in years. Yes, there have been Julys and Augusts where I’ve traveled a physical distance from the office, but I can’t recall the last time I was really able to leave my office. Like many small-business owners, I’ve morphed into a quasi-mythic creature: half-man, half-desk.
So, you can imagine my dread when I’m asked, “Any vacation plans for the summer?” It always puts me in mind of Mike Tyson’s line: Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth. Yes, I have plans, but like just about every poor bastard who stepped into the ring with Iron Mike, they don’t usually survive the first round.
But that’s all about to change.
Part of the inability to unplug, no matter how inviting the beach or midday luau, is the FONBITL (pronounced fon-bit-el): the fear of not being in the loop. Now that no one’s going anywhere, and not a lot of work is getting done — certainly not at the punishing pace it once was — one’s FONBITL has diminished to the point where it’s actually possible to let one’s mind drift — possibly for hours, maybe even seven to 10 days, the length of a standard summer vacation. This is an exciting development — potentially.
You’re thinking, “Wait, where am I going to go when the farthest I’m willing to venture is the local farmer’s market to gather some produce before high-tailing it to the car to sanitize (a quick detour to the frozen dessert section is tempting, but I’m not about to risk it all for a pint of Chunky Monkey)?” So, while we now have more mental space to indulge the idea of a summer vacation, it’s ultimately just that: an idea. As such, it will require a massive suspension of disbelief, but now that we’ve become adept at using Zoom, Skype and Facetime, it will be easier to forget we’re in our office, at the kitchen table, in the basement or outdoors on the patio and wander through endless stretches of cyberspace to drop in on friends from the other coast, relatives from up north, Henrik in Stockholm, Ricardo in São Paulo, and so on. Give yourself some leg room, shuck your kicks, pour yourself an adult beverage (or three), treat yourself to a plate of cocktail shrimp or several finger sandwiches, and you’re traveling the world in first class.
If you’re so disposed, you can have the family join in to visit Nana and Papa in Miami, Aunt Esther and Uncle Albert in Portland, or cousins Mark and Jenny in Austin. One of the most fraught aspects of planning a family vacation is agreeing on the destination. Here, the only limits are your patience — and the technical proficiency of relatives over the age of 65.
Of course, there are trade-offs. You’re not going to be transported to scenic shores or mountain ranges, you won’t be sampling the local cuisine, walking in the footsteps of world-historical figures, charming the locals with your failed attempts to speak their language or making memories that will last a lifetime. I mean, you won’t be leaving your house, for Pete’s sake. But if you’re anything like me, you haven’t really been able to do any of those things for years anyway.
When the legendary comedian Henny Youngman was asked about his wife, he’d respond, “Compared to what?” The itinerary I’ve laid out becomes a lot more appealing when you compare it to all the other summer vacations that weren’t really vacations. So, don’t let this “sheltering in place” thing put a damper on your well-deserved time off. Think of it this way: When you can’t go anywhere, you can go everywhere.