by Ron Vitale
So you're packing your bags and you're headed to vacation. What's a writer to do? Here are five tips to help you balance fun and being a writer:
Stay Connected with the World (to a Point)
When I go on vacation, I like to have the internet as I don't watch much TV and enjoy reading articles from the various websites and blogs that I follow. Some might say that it's important to disconnect while you're on vacation and I would agree with that--to a point. The balance between being always plugged in and using smoke signals to communicate with the rest of the world is up to you, but I offer these suggestions:
- Find out where the local wireless hotspot is. Maybe it's a Starbucks, Borders or some kind soul who has an open access point. A simple Google search before you leave for vacation will help. Of course, if you have internet access at the place you're renting or in the hotel, you're set. Though on the other side of the coin, be prepared with Plan B as my wife and I thought a Burger King with WiFi existed about 1 mile away from where we were staying. Turns out that the Burger King had gone out of business.
- If you have a smartphone, check your data plan to see if you can turn your phone into a hotspot. Both Verizon and AT&T have such plans (about $20 a month for 2 GB). I activated my Verizon hotspot feature for my Droid X while on vacation and it worked well--when it worked. I never had connectivity longer than 20 minutes at a time and going to the Verizon store to solve the problem didn't help. Be prepared before you go.
- And if all else fails, be sure to have a pen and paper to jot down any ideas you might have if you opt not to bring a computer.
Even if you head to the same vacation spot you always go to, there is bound to be something new and exciting to see and experience. For me, last week on vacation my family and I stayed in Brigantine, New Jersey. The good news is that I used to stay on the island as a young boy and much had changed in the 25+ years since my family and I used to visit. The bad news is that there wasn't much to do with the kids outside of going to the beach. Don't get me wrong: My family and I love the beach, but we would have enjoyed more activities on the island (miniature golf that was opening during the week would have been nice). Still, we took the opportunity to visit Ocean City, NJ and have fun on the boardwalk there.
On our last full day of vacation, we went to the Ocean City boardwalk and went to Gillian's Waterpark and had a blast on all the water slides. At one point, my son and I were climbing up the stairs headed for the Sky Pond slide and we looked out over the beach town, seeing the ferris wheel with gorgeous clouds framing the view. What a great moment to relax and just kick back and enjoy the day. As a family, we had never experienced the waterpark before and all of us had a wonderful time.
When you head to vacation, what can you do that you haven't done before? It doesn't matter if you have children or not, adding in some spice and excitement to the trip will help your unconscious mind work its magic. Remember, as writers we can't be on all the time. We're human. We need rest and relaxation too. Live a little!
Time to Read
One of my favorite parts of vacation is sitting somewhere with a book and just reading. I'll read on the sofa, in a rocking chair, on the beach, wherever. I'm just not able to read in the car as I get motion sickness. But when you head off on vacation, pack your books or Kindle (Nook, iPad, etc.) and read away. Bring more books that you can read in case you happen to have more time than you expect (rainy days or staying up late). On Brigantine where I went on vacation, there were no book stores (seriously), so I was happy to have two books with me and a magazine. My wife used our Kindle while we were away and was able to buy the second Game of Thrones book. Again, be prepared.
When I'm away on vacation, I try to dial down my TV watching and last week I saw the finale to Game of Thrones (on my Droid X using HBO Go as we didn't have HBO via our TV at the house we were staying at and the Verizon hotspot couldn't handle video streaming to the laptop). We also brought a movie from Netflix with us and that's about it for watching TV all week--unless you count the snippets of cartoons I caught that the kids were watching.
If you love your TV, think smart and bring some movies with you or, if you have internet access, using Netflix's instant watching. For me, I'd rather get caught up on reading or podcast listening while I'm away.
Those of you who have been reading this blog for the last year and a half know that I've taken up running. While on vacation, I ran a total of 21 miles. As the island of Brigantine isn't that large, I was able to see a good portion of it on my runs. On Father's Day, I took my long run and headed off into the unknown. I ran near 4 miles to the end of the street and then jumped (literally) onto the beach and then ran another 2.5 miles until I came to a spot in which cars couldn't even go.
I kept running until I came to the end of the island and then looked out across the water to the next bit of land. There were no people within a mile of me in all directions as off to the left (fenced over) was a wildlife protected zone. What made the trip so special is that I had been at the same location with my mom and brother when I was a young teen. Now, at 40 married and with a family of my own, I had come back to the same location and had some time to reflect on life, the universe and everything before turning around and running back home.
If you're unable to easily go exploring, look up the local rental place for mobility scooters and plan in advance. Be adventurous if at all possible.
Think, Reflect and Do Nothing
If your life is like most, you're working, writing, writing and working, trying to fit in time to read, maybe raise a family and a whole host of other responsibilities. When on vacation, take some time to do nothing. Maybe just sit on the beach and stare out at the ocean or if in the mountains watch the sky at night. Wherever you are, just be. That might be harder than you might think. Try not to think about your problems or your deadlines or other responsibilities. Just tune out and allow your mind to wander and imagine.
To sum it all up, I hope these five tips will help you when you're on vacation, they helped me a lot. But want to know a secret? You don't need to be on vacation to use these tips. Now if only I could remember that!