As you are reading this column, I am relaxing in Hawaii.
Well, actually, I’m back by now, in school. So, as you’re reading this, I am not actually in Hawaii, but as I’m writing it, I am. But where will I be if I start reading it? Maybe I should stop writing in the present tense, in case it opens up some sort of wormhole.
I passed a math class this summer, which is something I have not done since Old Navy Performance Fleece was in style (I had a gray tech vest). To celebrate never having to learn math again, my wife and I are vacationing on Kauai, Hawaii’s northernmost major island. We spent months doing online searches for the best activities and restaurants, but as soon as we got off the plane, we melted like Popsicles into our beach chairs and haven’t moved since.
Kauai is like Oahu’s younger, mellower brother who decided to drop out of law school to open up a store that specializes in organic jelly beans. Where Oahu’s tourism is fueled by big luaus and visits to the set of Lost, Kauai is basically just a hammock and a palm tree. The island has some of the lushest greenery, the best hikes, the least crowded beaches and about 7.4 billion wild chickens who want nothing more than to jump out of the roadside brush and end their lives beneath the wheels of your rented car.
Now, this vacation has been perfect for us, but it’s not for everyone. Some people can’t handle a vacation that doesn’t involve trying to decipher complex Italian bussing schedules (“for left arrival in Roma, try for finding Bus Car 7101-B789 and is to solving complex Da Vinci mystery, or for gelato!”) or parachuting into the Peruvian jungle wearing nothing but cargo pants and a 14-inch knife. After many minutes of close scientific observation, I have deduced that almost all vacations fall into one of three main categories: the “Run-and-Click,” the “Authentic Experience” and the “Hospital Visit.”
The “Run-and-Click” is tiring, but by no means is it wrong. You can see these vacationers in New York City, running up to the Statue of Liberty and taking a million blurry green photos, then hopping back on the ferry to make the 3:47 tour bus of Little Armenia, where they will take another million photos of sausages hanging in shop windows. While they only see the places they visit through a small lens, they do cover a lot of ground.
“Authentic Experiencers” can be obnoxious, but they get the most out of their trips. When you mention how much you loved the whale-watching tour in Seattle, they say, “Oh, you mean you didn’t get to do the special tour where you live with a pod of orcas for a week? Our little Megan really enjoyed it. Well, at least, until that leopard seal got her.” They really want to roll up their sleeves and get in with the locals. I mean, to the point of being named the godparents of some local’s newborn child. These are the same people who like foreign films, mineral water, C-SPAN and putting artichoke hearts on pizza.
The last group members (also known as “the group I haven’t offended yet”) are, like my wife and me, “Hospital Visitors.” Without diminishing the severity of any actual situations that require spending a long time in a hospital, these people plan their escapes on the same principles as an extended hospital stay, with the primary illness being Having-Too-Much-To-Do-In-Real-Life-And-Getting-Stressed-Out-So-You-Need-A-Break-atosis. These principles are: lie down a lot, and have people bring you drinks with the straws already in them so you don’t waste any unnecessary energy unwrapping the straw.
So, whichever group is yours, remember that a good vacation is whatever feels right for you, but I highly recommend finding some quiet country that is 70 percent beach, 28 percent hammock, 4 percent cold beverages and 0 percent math classes.