Why I gave up summer vacation

I quit! Belatedly, I’ve decided to join the “great resignation” and the “lie-flat” movement, dropping out, refusing to participate in petty bourgeois capitalism. No, I haven’t quit my job or quit washing my clothes. I have simply quit . . . going on vacation. 

Before COVID-19 hit in March 2020, I was a workaholic about my vacations. In 2019, I went to London, Paris, Lyon, Turin, Milan and London again.

If you told me back then that I wouldn’t get on a plane for going on three years now, I would’ve been disbelieving. Spend three sticky summers in Manhattan? Spend Christmas at the foldout kitchen-slash-living-room table? No Eurostar, no Louvre, no snacks on the balcony at Aperol Spritz world headquarters overlooking the Duomo (definitely worth doing, by the way)?

Theoretically, we could have gone somewhere this August. Other people appear to be doing it. But . . .

It’s expensive. The pandemic made me into a miser. We used to spend how much? Nah, we can stick to sitting in the kitchen-slash-living-room. It doesn’t help that everything costs more.

It’s a hassle. I don’t long to be among the people searching fruitlessly for their luggage or waiting in a nine-hour-long line at Heathrow after paying a third more for a ticket than I would’ve paid three years ago.

There’s always that moment when you wake up at 4 a.m. the day you’re starting your long trip after packing ’til 1 a.m. and briefly think, hmm, wouldn’t it be a nicer vacation to sleep in today instead? Just pretend you have to race for that plane today — and enjoy not doing it.

Heathrow airport
Flight prices have increased immensely over the last few years.

It’s hard work, even for lazy been-there-done-that sit-at-the-hotel-bar-instead-of-going-out tourists like me. Tourists are some of the hardest workers in the economy. Look at them, getting up early to stand in line to go to Top of the Rock, eating lunch at 11 a.m. because they have to squeeze the museum in before the Statue of Liberty. 

On early mornings in New York, the most industrious “commuters” I see emerging from the train stations aren’t bankers or lawyers but tourists herding their kids. These poor drones aren’t working eight hours a day but 15, rain or shine, from the early-bird hotel breakfast to the theater curtain falling.

It’s not a vacation from your devices. I have strange memories of sitting in the Luxembourg Gardens arguing with strangers on Twitter about Times Square Elmos and sitting in a London movie theater worried that I wasn’t checking buzzing texts fast enough. Why? 

People exercising
New Yorkers should take advantage of outdoor activities and exercise.

I’ve learned — admittedly semi-successfully — how to refresh my brain without going anywhere. First, exercise, preferably outdoors. Just a long, fast walk is good enough, but the city’s “Summer Streets” program of reserving Park Avenue for cyclists and walkers on three August half-Saturdays is a good change of pace, just for the different view of the buildings (from the middle of the street).

Second, read things printed on paper. I’ve taken books to Europe and brought them home unread because I was too busy. This summer, I’ve read probably a dozen novels, all randomly chosen from the library (again, miserliness), most juicily Patricia Highsmith (all five Ripley books — highly recommended).

Print magazines are also useful, not the preachy ones, but more like Tatler: There’s something to living vicariously through the unapologetically rich, famous and British upper-upper-upper class, people who have never worried a whit whether they’re too privileged.

People exercising
People should consider reducing their cellphone screen time with another hobby.

Third, leave the Twitter and all the rest aside, even for just a few hours. Whenever I feel relaxed, I realize it’s because I haven’t been near an electronic device for a while. All those “hacks” about deleting the app and turning off your mentions don’t work because you can undo them. The best way not to be online is to do something that precludes it, even for a little while, like making a pie or roller skating.

Last, if you’re miserable sometimes, don’t blame it on staying home. We all had dreams of the perfect, finally post-COVID normal summer. Instead, many of us got COVID, answered emails when we weren’t supposed to be working because we couldn’t think of anything better to do, wondered if we might get monkeypox from the Citi Bike, sat in the heat because the air conditioning cost too much, checked our Twitter when we were supposed to be reading or exercising and were bored and anxious when we were supposed to be having fun.

Who cares? You could be bored and anxious and COVID-ridden checking your emails in Europe, too. At home, it’s cheaper.

Nicole Gelinas is a contributing editor to the Manhattan Institute’s City Journal.

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