Vacation & Less than 100%

It’s not coincidental that the week I went on vacation was also the week that I assigned myself to be okay with less than 100% on my Balance Challenge. I knew it would be difficult to detach from work. Apparently, so did my colleagues. One came to my office at 4:30 to make sure I was leaving, and another made me prove that I wasn’t smuggling work home in my bag. Truthfully, I planned to complete one smaller project Friday night from home and another larger project this weekend, but I gave myself permission to save it for the work week. Most significantly, I feel great about it. It’s really helped me mentally disconnect from work.

Additionally, although I checked work e-mail a couple times during the vacation, it was only to delete nonessential e-mails (from listservs or vendors promoting their latest deals). I didn’t reply to a single work-related correspondence, but I did flag a few that I can/should delegate to others. It seems like the heavens agreed with this technique–today I noticed that my work e-mail account disappeared from my phone. I could reinstall it, but decided that it wasn’t worth it considering I’m only around for 2 months before my maternity leave starts, and I do NOT want to be distracted by that little flashing alert when I’m getting used to my new mom role. Checking work e-mail periodically when I’m at the computer is more than adequate.

This vacation to St. Thomas was my first real vacation in years. Yes, I’ve taken long weekends to visit friends or family–often in awesome locations like Chicago, DC and Ithaca NY–but the last true vacation (full week off, no specific schedule, not sleeping in someone’s guest room) was May 2004–I rented a beach house in Maine with a bunch of friends from work.

Holy crap that’s embarrassing to admit. I’m a professional, adult woman with a decent salary. What the hell took me so long?

Needless to say, vacation in St. Thomas was awesome. I was practically able to binge read. It’s very difficult for me to stay on task with my reading when I can’t finish a book in a sitting or within a couple days. Add to that the distraction of the computer, Facebook, e-mail, Twitter and television and my ability to really get engaged in a great book plummets. On vacation I read:

  • These Things Hidden by Heather Gudenkauf
  • Room by Emma Donoghue (You must read this now!)
  • The Accidental Mother by Rowan Coleman (I call it “The Accidental Reading” because the book was rather disappointing and predictable.)
  • Barrel Fever by David Sedaris
  • The Weird Sisters by Eleanor Brown (actually, I’m only halfway done this one, but have plans to take a night off of TV, the computer and errands this week to just indulge in the rest of the story.)

We spent Saturday traveling. We were upgraded to a beachside room on the ground floor. If we opened our back door, we were greeted by a private little patio overlooking the beach, which was just 10-20 feet from our door).

Since we suspected the Easter holiday would impair the availability of various attractions, we spent Sunday by the pool and on the beach, reading, swimming, sunning, napping and making out plan for the week as we recovered from traveling and got the lay of the land.

Monday, we got to do a free snorkeling with the sea turtles tour. Although I’m incredibly fearful of open water and sharks (blame my nerdy attachment to watching nature documentaries), I challenged myself and did it, even surviving a curious barracuda who ventured over to check out the commotion. This was only a 3 hour trip (1.5 hours of boat ride and 1.5 hours of snorkeling time) but we were wiped out afterward and took a 2 hour nap!

Tuesday, we went to Magen’s Bay (where Blue Lagoon, Weekend at Bernie’s II and apparently the next movie in the Twilight series were filmed) and hiked a challenging 1.5 mile nature trail. We saw tons of foliage, but aside from lizards, wasp mud huts and holes housing snakes and mongooses, we didn’t really see much of the animal/reptile part of nature. The beach was nice enough but crowded since it’s a major attraction for the cruise population. We didn’t stay for the beach.

On Wednesday, we took a trip to a local aquarium. I found it ironic that I survived swimming with a barracuda but was bitten on the finger by a caged lorakeet, requiring me to wash my hands well and wrap my finger until the bleeding stopped.  At the aquarium, we saw more sea turtles, sharks, tons of tropical fish and rays. We purchased Charlie a sea turtle to commemorate his swim with the creatures. Next door to the aquarium was Coki Beach–it was so beautiful! We wished we had brought our swimsuits as this was the type of beach you see in movies–soft sand, bright blue water. It was crowded but not as bad as Magen’s Bay. Later, we wandered around near the cruise port checking out the various shops. I tried on a rose gold ring with two thin crisscrossing rows of chocolate and white diamonds, but certainly didn’t buy it since it cost almost as much as the vacation. That night we returned to our hotel and watched the cruise ships cross the bay on their way to their next destination.

Thursday was our last full day on the island, so I spent it reading on the beach and staring out at the sea and blue skies. Evan snorkeled and got to see tons of beautiful tropical fish. He came back and talked about the “big fish” he followed around for awhile. When I got the pictures back (he used the last of the film on the underwater camera we bought for the sea turtle trip), I laughed. That “big fish” was a barracuda! He didn’t see the little blacktip reef sharks that were hanging out by our hotel, but I was able to watch them a couple times, safely from shore.

Friday we flew back. Our plane departed nearly 10 minutes early because we boarded so quickly and it landed 45 minutes early because we saved time thanks to the wind current.

Evan and I spent pretty much every hour of every day together. Aside from a couple hunger and pregnancy hormone related mini-meltdowns on my part, we got along fabulously. We played Boggle almost every night. We went to bed at the same time–unlike my typical granny hours (sleeping 10p-6a) and his night owl hours (sleeping 5a-1p)–and ate meals together and reminded each other to reapply sunscreen (between us we went through nearly three full cans/bottles, but we walked away with just a touch of pink). It was wonderful.We’ve decided we’re going to develop a vacation strategy. We’d like to work up to 2 vacations a year–one would be a total mindless, relaxation trip to a beachy location and the other would be a more cultural, exploration kind of trip.

We took nearly 300 photos of our journey. I won’t bore you with all of them, but here are a few of my favorites:

Our hotel pool always had a friendly iguana visitor or two.

The St. Thomas Airport took advantage of the Bluth family to load and unload planes. Sadly, we saw no banana stands.

Our beach was private--open only to those staying at the resort. As a result, the beach was often this quiet. There was never more than 2 dozen people around at any given time. Also: free use of beach chairs and water equipment (snorkeling gear, paddle boats, rafts, kayaks).

It looks like a buch of dead bodies in the ocean, but it's really just a boatload of snorkelers enthralled with the sea turtles.

The view from our patio.

The appropriately titled "Donkey Dung Sea Cucumber." He was gross and slimy but didn't really stink.

Biggest. Starfish. Ever.

Last dinner in St. Thomas.

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9 responses to “Vacation & Less than 100%

  1. I realized one day that I hadn’t had a vacation in almost 10 years, that the only string of days I had taken off was 3 – to have my oldest son. I’ve changed that in the last few years, but I haven’t created a “vacation strategy” – what a great idea!! Your post has inspired me – thank you!!
    And, based on the iguana alone – the hubs and I are going to work St. Thomas in to that strategy!!

  2. Do it! We booked the trip online and spent about $1200 pp for flight and 6 nights at a great location (Bolongo Bay Resort). Just plan extra money to rent a car or for taxis. Still, our total vacation budget totaled $3600 for the two of us (including flight, resort, food, drinks, fun, taxis, travel insurance, parking near the airport and obligatory duty free rum purchases).

  3. I’m so glad you had a great vacation. We actually stayed at Bolongo Bay many years ago and loved it. You need regular doses of sun, sand and surf and no schedule, to maintain and balance the maniacal pace you keep in your work world. Love the pictures!!

  4. This trip looks amazing! ‘we were greeted by a private padio greeted by the beach” oh my. jealous. Congrats on your first real vacation!

  5. The trip looks awesome! I love the idea of binge reading! And you and Ev are so stinkin’ cute.

  6. I am so thrilled that your trip was so great. It looks beautiful there and reminds me of my last beachy/relaxing vacation like this – in 2001 when I went to Jamaica. 10 years is too long!! Maybe next year I can do something like this again.

    You and I have very similar tastes in books, I think. I have a sample of The Weird Sisters on my Kindle and I’m planning on buying the full book soon. I’m very interested to hear more about what you thought about Room. I have been worried that it would be just too intense, but everyone loves it, so maybe I should just go there. I think I’ll wait until summertime when I am not as stressed/on edge.

    Last but definitely not least – BRAVO for leaving work at work!

  7. I am sure between your mom, grandma and I we will gladly cover a vacation for you a year and watch Charlie so you and Evan can get away!!
    You can always take one of those last minute cruises from New Jersey, they go to great tropical locations you know. We are planning one for this November that leaves from Liberty N.J. it is Southern Carribean cruise on Celebrity Cruises. All meals and entertainment included with a private balcony, 1o days $1,100.00 per person.
    It’s about time!!

  8. Aunt D: You better watch out for what you wish for….!

  9. Wow..that looks incredible. and I LOVE the reading list. I’m always scouting for new reads.

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