embracing the unfun

One of my coworkers got her wisdom teeth out yesterday, and, having never had any kind of surgery before, she was a total wreck beforehand, espousing the risks of laughing gas and basically reading me her will.

I told her to calm down, that she wouldn’t remember any of it and everything would be fine. And then, amid her anxious all-caps emails and warnings of death, I had this weird moment of recognition. That sense of dread I saw in her, typically prompted by impending dental work or visits from your in-laws? Dude, that’s how I feel about my vacations.

I don’t like to admit it, but it’s true. I’ve spent the weeks months leading up to the last three vacations I’ve planned in a panic, secretly hoping and praying they wouldn’t come. And the aftermath wasn’t too pleasant either.

As is a running theme in my life, the whole thing makes absolutely no sense. Why would someone pay hundreds of dollars, use up weeks of PTO, spend hours pouring over Lonely Planet books all in order to do something she really, really doesn’t even want to do? Repeatedly.

And it’s not like I don’t know what I do like to do. Trust me, I’m aware. I like sipping sangria on the beach, wandering around 17th century piazzas with gelato in hand, taking in impressionist art at the Musee d’Orsay. I like things that sit squarely on the beaten path.

So how to explain my consistent attempts to venture off it? For a while, I think I was holding out hope that buried deep inside me was some sort of daring, go-with-the-flow adventurer. I thought there was a chance I was secretly more rustic than cosmopolitan, more Agra than Rome. After all, I’m related to these kids, right?

But while I wanted, desperately, to like Agra more than Rome – really, I did – it just didn’t happen that way. Agra…well, Agra was difficult for me. Rome was easy and lovely.

I can’t really change the fact that a big part of me naturally gravitates toward the pretty and the tourist-trotten. But what I can do is tell that part of me to shut the hell up, and then insist that it stop crying, suck it up and get on the plane to Ecuador, dammit. Because there’s still this other part of me – probably the part that decided that whole managing editor thing was a good idea – that thinks it’s not ok to stick with easy and lovely forever. I can’t shake the feeling that there’s something good and important about taking on the difficult. That I need to see the world and experience some discomfort and open my eyes a little. How else can I write or live or grow up?

I also think I might lose the little courage and confidence I currently cling to in order to carry out this manifesto if I wait too long, because with age comes higher standards and more funds and less of a tolerance for activities like jumping onto a packed train car while it’s still moving. Also, can you picture 65-year-old Rach in an Indian ER? Let’s hope we never have to see that play out in real life.

So this time, I’m taking a few precautions – some of which I think will be wonderful (bringing along Chels) and some of which have already flopped (turning to my Quito-resident brother for guidance) – and I’m giving this developing country thing another go. Partially because I’m not totally ready to let go of the idea that Jake and Ben and I are biologically related. And partially because I think that even if I don’t enjoy it, even if I come home more stressed, more tired and with another set of stitches in my leg, I’ll somehow be better for it.

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