Why you need to take a vacation: A Royal Caribbean Review
Ok, you guys. Let's talk vacation. Throughout this process of grief, loss, and healing there have been some vacations that have worked really well for me and some that felt like all I packed in my suitcase was sadness. I took a trip with Mario and my 1-year-old (at the time) right after Dad died. We went to Vancouver on a pre- planned trip. I remember it being beautiful, clean, amazing, so scenic and so heavy with sadness. There was a boat trip we took where I remember just holding Dominic and crying as we rocked along. I so clearly remember wanting to just jump out of the boat and float down the river. Not because I wanted to die, just in an effort to escape the pressing, heavy, exhaustion of being in the early stages of losing someone. Vacations have become even more important to me in the last few years. They represent a break from thinking about caretaking, a break from work and a break from the daily chores. I feel so lucky that we are able to afford to take a week off and have the kind of professions where that is supported and encouraged. I know a lot of people in my life who don't and I wish I could have brought them with me (sort of...).
I went on a cruise. Apologies to 27-year-old me who thought that cruises were for lazy travelers with no spirit of adventure who just wanted to eat everything. Twenty-seven year old me had no idea she would get married, lose a child, have two awesome ones I got to keep, lose her father and have a Mom that is pretty sick. Twenty-seven-year-old me didn't realize how awesome it is to linger over breakfast, read a newspaper and go for a nice swim alone. So we found a great travel agent who helped us book a trip(Thanks, Krista!), packed way too many diapers and formula (thanks dairy allergy) and flew to Florida as a family of 4.
The trip there was as fun as traveling with two little kids can be. I basically like the excuse of traveling to eat Cheetos and drink Diet Pepsi (to settle my stomach of course- not because I like them and think about them every day I don't have one). I often barf on the plane. Now, as a young child, that was an annoying habit that caused my siblings to pull their stuff away from me and yell "EWWWWWWW" and then whine about the smell. So loving and sympathetic. As an adult with two children, and a sexy husband, barfing on the plane is less than lady like. I tried my usual "turn on the air and fan myself" technique. I will leave out the details but know that I made throwing up look as classy as possible.
The boat was huge. Yes, I did feel the waves. Yes, I sure as heck did get sick on the boat. And yet- I still loved it. The ship was awesome, the food was pretty good and I was never bored. The best thing for our family was the ship's daycare. Mario and I don't often get breaks alone together. We really work hard to make sure we have time to ourselves and will share some tips on how we accomplish that soon. But for the two of us to have any extended time together as a couple is amazing. The ship had a program for children that both boys went to. Our youngest got to take naps, play with other kids and be entertained. Our five year old LOVED being in "Aquanauts" and getting to run around, go on scavenger hunts and have adventures with the other children. When we docked at Costa Maya we got off the ship together and after about 45 minutes, our oldest was begging to go back to his "kid school" because "Mexico is boring". We will worry about his lack of enthusiasm for other countries later and dropped him back off with his friends with no guilt what so ever. And then Mario and I went into town, took a long walk together, drank a beer and ate tacos. It was super touristy. And it was wonderful. It felt like we were on an episode of The Bachelor.
For all of you doing caretaking, here are a few tips for having a good vacation. First, have a good plan you feel really confident about for your loved one at home. Whether your trip is to Home Depot or Cancun, you need to feel confident that you can leave and your loved one will still be taken care of. Have a back up to that plan and tell everyone you will have no cell phone service and who they should call instead while you are away. Second, if you are able, turn off your cell phone. I don't mean put it on silent. I mean turn it off. There are VERY few things that are so urgent that you need to respond to them immediately and while you are on vacation. You are paying for each minute you are on vacation- don't spend those minutes looking at pictures on Facebook of other people on vacation! I'm yelling at myself here. Third, do not feel guilty for leaving for a little while. You need a break. Someone else can enjoy your loved one, or at least fill in for you. You are important and worthy of some time alone/with your family/at a convention.
Patti, what should I do if I can't afford a vacation/can't take time off/can't get away? Feel you. You must go outside. You must leave your cell phone at home. I don't care that you like to listen to music. Go with a friend if you have one. Go alone if you don't. Wear snow pants if you have to and your gross hiking shoes. Go to Target- DO NOT BRING YOUR PHONE. Are you sensing a theme? It's truly not the location- it's about taking that time, intentionally, for you, with no possibility of someone reaching you. If you can meditate, it has a similar effect of making you feel like you are intentionally choosing a break for yourself. I wrote about it here and I'm still going strong with it. This section is full of commands because these aren't gentle suggestions. You must be passionate about this time for yourself and fiercely defend it. Your priorities are what you DO and I like you guys too much not to demand that you take this time for yourself. When my Dad was in the ICU the only self care I could bring myself to do was to go out one door of the building and walk outside to the other door to come back in. But it was intentional and felt like a break. Today I wish for you your own moment of peace. Royal Caribbean, if you read this, I'm happy to accept free trips for all of my readers.
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