Pack your bags/We’ll leave tonight.
(Eddie Money, 1977)
On the Wednesday before our Saturday departure from Rarotonga, someone at breakfast dares to raise the subject.
“Well, back to real life in four days.”
No one says anything for several seconds.
“I won’t mind,” says one woman, looking up from reading the newspaper. “Time to get back to my regular routine.”
“I’m not thinking about leaving yet,” says a man on his way for another cup of coffee. “I’m pretending that someone has just now dropped me off for a four-day weekend on Rarotonga, and my holiday is only getting started.”
“All this talk about getting back to real life,” chimes in his wife. “Maybe the time we’ve been spending here is real life, and it’s our lives back home that aren’t.”
At exactly 9:15 p.m. on Saturday, the shuttle bus to the airport arrives. Those of us whose vacation is over straggle out of our homes away from home, wearing the jeans and runners we had stashed out of sight in our closets two weeks ago. A few people who are staying longer call goodbye from their porches as we haul our suitcases across the grass and down the road to the waiting bus. No one says much on the way to the airport.
Although we glimpse each other once in a while on the flight to Los Angeles, and again in the LA airport as we kill time before travelling to our home destinations, our little Raro travel community quietly dissipates. Sixteen hours later, my husband and I arrive home to a dark house, and minus 10 C. Two days after that, I’m waiting in my parka at 7:45 a.m., not to flag down Rarotonga’s clockwise or counterclockwise coach, but to board a regularly scheduled, on-time, Edmonton Transit bus to go to work.
I think about the woman in the breakfast room wondering which was more real – her blissful, temporary life on Rarotonga, or her responsibility-laden, permanent life in Alberta. I saw the dichotomy discussed again in a newspaper article last week, contrasting university attendance with the “real life” of the post-convocation work world. In both contexts, reality seems to be defined as the drudgery of regular job and domestic routines, kind of a sad statement on the state of adult lives.
I’m more in favor of finding ways to bring together our vacation selves with the sometimes Storm Trooper realities of our back-home lives. Even though Rarotonga’s temperatures won’t be visiting Edmonton for six more months, the Pacific Ocean is entire province away, and speakers of Cook Islands’ Maori are as scarce as palm trees, I’ve discovered a few ways to keep the rareness of Raro alive during real life back in Edmonton.
- A friend’s Facebook photos of our winter sunrises reminded me that the Cook Islands aren’t the only place where you can experience tangerine skies. Before Christmas, I’d been missing those colors because I was already checking my work e-mail on the bus ride into downtown. Now, my phone stays at the bottom of my purse so I can look out the window.
- And speaking of my phone, it sometimes goes uncharged now for days at a time. I did without it for two weeks’ on Raro; do I really need to get back in the habit now that I’m home?
- Doing without on Raro also extended to the number of clothes I packed to wear. Granted, in a tropical country you don’t need as many, but there was a simplicity to getting dressed in the morning that I’m trying to duplicate now that I’m home.
- Part of the delight of a vacation is getting up in the morning and wondering what new and interesting sights you’ll discover before the day is over. So, I’m trying to see familiar sights as a traveller would, to marvel at the feathery tracings of bird tracks on new snow or laugh at a poodle picking its way along an icy sidewalk in a red plaid coat and matching boots.
- A long ago Chinese philosopher said that to re-create something in words is like being alive twice. It may be frigid February outside my Edmonton home, but inside I’m blogging the hibiscus back to life, savoring the fish and chips, and watching the waves leap over the coral reef one more time.