Going to Thailand on a two-week vacation.
“Two weeks is more than most Americans get for vacation each year.”
I reminded myself of that in my Chiang Mai hostel, two weeks before leaving. I’d been traveling for fifteen months, eleven of those in Asia, and it was time to go home.
Two weeks, at the time, felt like nothing.
I had to keep reminding myself that two weeks was a long time, I had to keep reminding myself to embrace it. After all, two weeks was more than what most Americans get for vacation each year.
That was three years and two weeks ago.
Almost one year ago I finished my travels “for good,” and accepted my old job back in Chicago. With it came work, 9am to 5pm (or 6pm or 7pm or 8pm), Monday through Friday (and, sometimes Saturday). With it came healthcare. With it came three weeks of vacation. (I negotiated up from two because I’d previously worked there for five years and had accrued days in that time.)
But still, three weeks of vacation is hard to plan for.
Do you go to someplace you’ve been before? Do you go someplace new? Do you go to a conference you know you’ll enjoy or do you not want to do anything “work” related on a holiday? Do you space out your time or take it all at once? Would they even let you take it all at once? Where can you go for only a week or two or three and really feel satisfied?
Planning for time off is hard too. I work at an opera company so we are in season from the end of September through the end of May. Usually that leaves June through August as an ideal time to vacation. Things are more relaxed. There aren’t as many deadlines. But I had a major project to work on all summer, so there was no time then either.
Last year, right before coming home and settling into my job, I made my last stop TBEX Athens. TBEX is a travel blogging conference held in different cities throughout the world. Even though I don’t really take blogging seriously I always enjoy attending. I’ve made a lot of friends through blogging and many of them go to the conference (and I always make more friends there too). It’s always inspirational and I come out of it with new ideas for my blog and for work in general. And, quite frankly, they throw some of the best parties.
It was in Athens where the organizers announced their first Asian conference — TBEX Thailand — for a year later. I semi-jokingly put on Facebook that I was going to put in my time off request for it before I even went back to work. My boss replied, “we’ll see.”
There were so many reasons I wanted to go. Combined with those above it was also an excuse to return to a country that meant so much to me. Thailand was where I really fell in love with travel. With a life of travel. (And it was where I really fell in love, time and time again — see here and here and here and here and here.)
I bought my ticket to the conference right away but let it sit there, not sure if I would actually ever use it.
I only have three weeks of vacation. Do I really want to spend it at a conference? Do I really want to spend it in a country I’ve already been? Do I really want to spend it in one of my least favorite cities in that country?
In the end, the answer was yes. Yes, I really wanted to return to Thailand. Even if I was spending half of my time in a conference in Bangkok. Yes, I really wanted, needed, that kick in the pants I always get after leaving TBEX. And yes, I really wanted to see some of my friends again.
I’ll be spending the next two weeks in Thailand, on a much-needed break from my job. The first week I’ll be in Bangkok for TBEX, and I’m still not sure where I want to go for the second.
A big part of me wants to go back up north to Chiang Mai, where I spent the most time in Asia. But I loved it there because it was a good place to live. And as much as I want to revisit the hostel that became my home, find out if my cat is still alive, and eat all the khao soi I’m not sure that’s where I’ll end up. It was more of a place to live, to unwind when I needed a break. It wasn’t, exactly, a place to vacation.
A large part of me wants to find someplace new, somewhere I’ve never been before. A new island, a new temple, a new something. I’m just not sure where yet.
I have no plan.
But I have the next week in Bangkok to figure that out.