Lately, I’ve been thinking about vacations. It’s about that time of the year when I need a respite from the usual grind, when my batteries go into the amber zone and send out a plaintive signal to be recharged.
As I’ve mulled over where to go for a holiday, I’ve found myself craving something that will give me solitude. I’m not just talking about leaving behind the cacophany of the city with its blaring horns and foggy skies that blot out the stars. That’s certainly in order. No, I’m talking about solitude to the point of exile, where I find myself banished to an unfamiliar experience, without the comforts of connectivity or connections. I’m seeking a space where I am not swapping one set of distractions for another – from the tedious daily grind to an exciting set of new activities that, nevertheless, still act to seduce my senses. I think my senses need a break too.
New York recently experienced a blackout, which is highly unusual for the place. Folks, I’ve heard, thoroughly enjoyed the silencing of technology for those precious few hours. Exactly a year ago, I went on a meditation retreat that gave me the same opportunity for 10 days. Tough as it was, I find myself reminiscing fondly for the way I was isolated from everyone and everything. This included myself, or the self that I defaulted to, the one that liked to read before falling asleep, that wrote her thoughts when overwhelmed by the world, that talked at length about upsets and excitements with friends until the topic was exhausted.
At that retreat, I shed all of that and was forced to look squarely at what was in front of me, unvarnished, with no crutches. There was something deeply rejuvenating about this, to become, in a way, reacquainted with what is.
A year later, I find myself wanting this in the vacation I’m planning. I’m looking for spots that don’t have a lot to do. Instead, they’re just there, being. I can join their fold, quietly, inobtrusively. I’d like to be where the only expectation is to take a deep breath, followed by a few more, and that’s it. Where I can look around me, not seeing anything spectacular, which will force me to remain gazing at the ordinary view. Where I can sit down and write, because there is nothing else to do.
This kind of vacation has only one word to describe it, self-imposed exile. More and more, I think it is the kind of break we all need. Where, once upon a time, vacation was to break the humming doldrums of everyday existence, now, it has come to represent the relief of low-key ordinariness in lives that are increasingly overstimulated.