I firmly believe that organizing summer vacations ought to come with a training course. Boot camp, if you will. Day after day of physical and verbal exercises combined with courses such as Basic Multi-Event Planning for Wildly Divergent Individuals 101; Manipulating Childish Whims (basic and advanced); Finding Things & Hiding Things; Lists, Lists, Lists; What to Leave Behind; and Temper Management for Unappreciated Organizers. Each night participants should crawl back to their rooms and be given a bottle of wine with a straw, along with a box of chocolate-covered coffee beans to simulate the wakefulness caused by wondering what you’ve forgotten.
To paraphrase Boromir, who never married or had kids and therefore had a limited frame of reference, one does not simply walk into a vacation of a month’s duration. Its participants are fed by more than just pasta. There are children there that do not sleep. The mosquitoes are ever watchful. It is an ephemeral minefield, riddled with flies, lists, and boxes. The very air you breathe is a seeded with forgetfulness. Not with ten thousand men* could you do this. It is folly.
*Note: one organized woman leading a household on vacation ≥ ten thousand men
We (well, some of us at various times) are going on vacation soon. I will be gone off-grid for a month, on Exploits Islands (Flickr picture albums) which is a resettled community in Notre Dame Bay, Newfoundland, (past blog posts here) with Katherine and Rowan. John and Moss will be joining us halfway through, hopefully with more wine gums. There are extra children floating around in there, as well as three households in total who will be sharing the adventure. It promises to be a phenomenally good time, once we get out the door.
A month is a long time. It’s a lot of food, plenty of suncreen, fly spray and toilet paper. It’s also a lot of time in which bills have to be paid, cats have to be fed, greenhouses have to be watered and all the other mundane things that go into keeping ordinary life on an even keel. Arranging to clue up loose ends from various other parts of my life; setting things up so that the bills will be paid in my absence; installing and testing the irrigation system; finding blankets, lifejackets, coolers and other travel gear; planning the projects that will be done on the house during our trip and making supply lists for those; testing and finding cords for the technology that will accompany us and testing the means of powering it, our new solar panel system and so forth. I also try to leave the house civilised for John (it’s only fair) and he also needs a list of the things that I do automatically that will need to be done in my absence. This requires thinking about what it is that I do without thinking and that cannot be done while thinking about anything else (wine helps).
It’s very much like planning an expedition, but an expedition with multiple cars and a longliner to transport gear across the province and onto the island. This actually adds a complication in and of itself, since it makes it possible to bring more gear and requires further discipline in eliminating the unnecessary. Packing discipline, I have learned, is not innate to the human condition. Packing for a backpacking trip is quite simple: if you bring it, you’ll have to carry it. If you can cram it into a car, it’s much easier to end up with stuff that you don’t need. The more stuff there is included, the more my head explodes.
So tomorrow I clue up any ends that need singeing, finalize my lists, buy enough stain to paint the summer house (eight gallons in “Cape Cod Grey”, in case you were wondering, along with another two gallons to paint the boathouse), and try to round up kids’ water gear, rain gear and hobby gear. The groundwork has been laid, the lists are ready and we’ve reached the “pile it all in the living room” stage of planning.
It’s the hardest part of the trip, since it’s still possible to forget any one of a number of things and getting mired down in details is utterly possible and highly likely.
I can’t wait to have it all packed and get on the road.