Don’t drink the water/ there seems to be something ailing everyone

Vacation is a more personal concept than our culture gives it credit for. Skiing, camping, beaching, none of these appeal to me. Perhaps it is because of my generally lazy nature that my idea of the perfect vacation is to tell people I’m on vacation, then close the blinds, lock the doors, and stay inside my house for three days in my pajamas.

Earlier in the week, Andy and I were “vacationing” in the Ozark Mountains with a good portion of my extended family. We stayed at this “resort” that rents out log cabins and doesn’t provide linens. Because of the expense of the Cave of Fabulous Dullness and because I am gloriously unemployed this summer, we couldn’t afford to stay in our own cabin so we stayed in a four square foot structure with my parents and my sister. Andy and I slept in a loft that was accessible via a steep ladder. It was cozy.

And then people started throwing up.

I won’t get into the whys, the whos, or the hows. I didn’t get sick, but being surrounded by sickos doesn’t make for a great vacation. Our cabin took on a stale, diseased odor, and I took to using the bathroom in a neighboring cabin to avoid the dysentery. The only positive thing I am taking away from the family reunion is that it turns out that I have an extended family of people I mostly like. There are a few cousins whose company I even prefer. These are people I would hang out with even if we weren’t related. I know this is rare and that I am lucky.

I brought a book, The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver, which I have been meaning to read for forever, and two bottles of champagne because I was determined to make this my kind of vacation despite the rustic setting. I polished off the first bottle of champagne the first night we were in Missouri but my book did not fare so well. I kept getting distracted. Who knew that it would be hard to concentrate on reading over the sound of retching? I couldn’t decide whether to read outside or inside, and I kept going back and forth between the bugs and the dysentery. I ended up just napping during the afternoons and then we spent the evenings at my uncle’s property where there was a bonfire and plenty of booze. Lazily drifting between napping and reading and then drinking around the fire isn’t a terrible way to spend a couple of days off in the mountains. I didn’t have an entirely rotten time. We were there for just three days, though, and all dysentery aside, it took me awhile to decompress (you know, from my oh-so-stressful life), to unwind, to relax and find my groove. I know it sounds like I needed more time, but I missed my cat and my bed, which I don’t have to climb a ladder to get to.

With some tweaking, this particular vacation spot could be something I don’t loathe. I could get used to bringing my own sheets and towels if we stay in the lodge rather than a silly cabin. Andy and I have agreed that we need to start traveling separately. Part of the nightmare of this vacay was the five of us crammed with all our crap into my parents’ minivan. (The back seats of those things are not made for grownup-sized people!) I think we could make this work, and as weird as it is to say, my family might just be worth it. The trick is to know what to expect but not bring so many expectations. For instance, I can bring my book as long I don’t expect to finish it. Finishing the champagne, on the other hand, is a reasonable expectation.