Today, I had a wonderful time planned. I would have woken up in Chicago for the first time in my life, on a solo vacation I booked and paid for nine months ago when I found out that the largest Frida Kahlo exhibit in 40 years would be in Chicago.
I found an amazing deal on a hotel and made a schedule to hit every touristy thing on my bucket list. When you travel alone, it doesn’t matter how geeky things are that you want to do. Who’s to judge you? My geekiness involved a Cubs game at Wrigley and a show at Second City.
Then the world shut down.
I canceled my flight last week. Part of me held out hope that the world would return to normal soon enough. But then the exhibit canceled. And then baseball closed to the public. I’m starting to feel like comedy clubs are something we’ll tell our grandchildren about.
I love to travel but there are two parts to me that anyone who has been on vacation with me gets to understand quickly. There is Vanessa Who Plans Vacations and then there is Vacation Vanessa.
They are two very different people.
Vanessa Who Plans Vacations will find the best deal on the best hotel, will scope out and read reviews on every restaurant, knows where and when happy hour is, creates the packing lists, and can tell you how much the cab ride from Point A to Point B should cost. She’s on top of everything.
Vacation Vanessa kicks in the moment the vacation actually begins. She will get you on a plane but then absolves herself of all responsibilities. She will legitimately hand you a file folder, tell you not to lose it, and then go about her merry way. She is in charge of one thing: not losing her shoes. No, really. It’s a thing.
The only problem with all of this is that I’m stuck in Vanessa Who Plans Vacations mode. I don’t get to kick over to the more fun version. Oddly, it’s still making me feel better about life.
Right now, I am planning a bunch of different vacations. I have no idea if I may ever be able to go on them. It only matters a little. Surprisingly, it’s doing wonders for my sanity.
It’s a weird way of satisfying my wanderlust.
The fact that I can’t actually go anywhere isn't curbing my desire to see new things and be in interesting places. It’s increasing it. I have to do something or I’ll go mad.
One of my vacations I’m planning is back to Zihuatanejo where I can sit in a chair in the sand of Playa Las Gatas waiting for the boats to come in and show me what they just brought out of the ocean to be my lunch for the day. I want to show up early and eat fruit I’ve never had before for breakfast.
I don’t get to hop on a plane when all of this planning is done but I can grab fresh fruit from the store, put on Spanish guitar music and lounge by my pool and call it close enough.
I’m planning a week in Napa Valley and Sonoma. There’s something oddly soothing about looking at websites for wineries and seeing rows upon rows of grapes or lines of glasses filled with tastes of ruby red wine.
I can’t go there either. But, I can take my list of wineries I planned to visit and head to Total Wine and grab a few bottles.
Then there’s Santorini. Paris. Tuscany. Argentina.
The moment I start to feel down, I open a browser window and a Google Document and I immediately feel better.
Reading people’s reviews of restaurants, hotels, or shops in far off places transports me there. I get to live vicariously through them for a short time. I see the world through other people’s eyes when I can’t see it for myself through mine.
It’s an activity steeped in infinite hope. One day, the world will return to normal and I’ll be ready. I like having a plan. The one thing that has wreaked havoc on my mental health is the idea that I have nothing to look forward to. This fixes that.
When we’re stuck in one place, daydreaming is a beautiful escape. It allows us to let our minds wander. We can get lost for a little while and it’s what we all need. I’m going deep with it.
And, if you need a list of wineries in Sonoma County that have the best Pinot Noir, want to know when they’re open and what their tasting fees are, I’m your girl.