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Avril Brown Presents:


Who doesn’t absolutely adore going on vacation?

For me, the appeal is in every aspect of what the British call a ‘holiday.’ From getting the official approval at work to take a few days off, to the traveling itself (I LOVE to fly), to doing my best to literally slow down time as soon as I step off the plane in hopes of maximizing the enjoyment of my stay, the duration of which is always too damn short, to exploring new places and living fresh experiences, right up to the moment where I step back on the plane, depressed as all hell yet also rejuvenated in spirit if not in body (I am not a lollygagging vacationer).

There is no single thing that sucks about vacation, except for its end.

I have a ritual of sorts when it comes to going on a mini-break. I typically wait until the night before to pack, and while having a couple glasses of wine I debate over outfits, doing my best to pick out ones which are universally cute and have multiple uses. For a woman, especially one who insists on carrying-on baggage for anything less than a five day excursion AND who is traveling from a Chicago winter climate to, for example, a damp Seattle one, this is no easy task. However, I rock at packing and typically enjoy the challenge of choosing minimal garments and footwear with maximum versatility.

Next I take my trusty CTA travel route to the bestest airport on Earth, O’Hare International. By the time I reach the slightly scary security checkpoint (I always have a small panic attack, worrying I accidentally packed a Bowie knife or a block of C4) I tend to relax a bit, knowing my gate is nearby and nothing can stop me from boarding that plane. However, this time I was trying something new: I booked a stand-by ticket, which is definitely cheaper but is in no way a guaranteed means of travel. Thankfully, the gods of flying were with me that day and not only did I board my flight, I got to sit in first class for the first time. The only problem is now I completely understand Jerry Seinfeld. “I can’t go back to coach, Elaine. I can’t, I won’t.” Comfy seats, free booze, and delicious food all wrapped up in a warm towel; now that is the way to start a vacation.

From the moment I step into unfamiliar air, I wish to explore. Ditching the bulky bags as soon as possible I hit the ground running and begin absorbing everything my new surroundings have to offer. This time it was the world famous Pike Place Market, one of the most fantastic places on Earth. In addition to the insatiably cheery fish throwers who delight in seeing how many high-pitched shrieks they can get by tugging on the unseen rope attached to a freaky looking monkfish head, there are shops of every sort in this labyrinth of food, fun and frolic. I bought new pins for my messenger bag, including one which depicted a My Little Pony who was sporting the words ‘U suck’ across its pink butt, I snagged a bag filled with at least a dozen different flavored honey sticks, I got a taste of raw smoked salmon, courtesy of a very accommodating fish thrower, and I walked until my feet ached, grinning the slightly manic grin of someone who, at that moment, couldn’t be happier.

Due in part to my early travel time, my first day of vacation lasted almost twenty-four hours, and I treasured every minute of it. Though the pace slowed down a bit over the weekend, the fattening fun never ended as I drowned myself in fresh-from-the-ocean seafood. I had my very first fried fish taco, I dove into a plate of baked prawns coated in a lemon-garlic butter sauce, I eagerly moaned over a home-cooked seared tuna steak, and I just know sushi in Chicago will never taste the same after plucking Seattle rolls off an endless conveyor belt of yummy goodness.

I was blessed with a clear day in Seattle and so took a trip to the top of the Spindle-y thing (my pet name may not be as eloquent as Space Needle but I think it’s funny) and oohed and aahed at the stunning panoramic view of the city, the mountains and the harbors. I was treated to a tour of the lochs and the more architecturally old-fashioned neighborhoods Seattle has to offer. I went to local bars and tried absinthe for the first time. I soaked up the unique feel of this eclectic town. I did…other things. I had an amazing time.

And then it was over. Reality came crashing back into my life, and though it was cushioned by another first class seat on the flight home it nonetheless tore into me as my extraordinary escape came to a screeching halt. Amongst the pain radiating from this end of this deviation, I could not help but make a comparison in my mind: this is, in so many words, what it feels like to finish a truly excellent comic, or any sort of gripping fiction.

When we pick up a book, be it told in pictures and words or solely the later, we are going on vacation into a fanciful world of non-reality. Even works which tell their stories in a real world scenario are transporting us into a different domain, the likes of which we do not encounter in our day to day lives. When we go on a retreat or read a comic or crack open a novel, we are stepping outside our regularly scheduled existence and stepping into a realm outside actuality, and when the break is over, or the story comes to an end, there is a sense of loss. The trip is concluded, the plot has climaxed, and we have to say goodbye to the people and surroundings we have enjoyed so much.

Yet we continue to return to the jurisdiction of the imaginary time after time, each for our own reasons but mostly because, quite frankly, the pain is worth the pleasure. Whatever heartache is associated with the conclusion of a vacation is worth the irreplaceable memories acquired, which for me are locked inside my head as well as my journals, the keeping of which is never more vigilant than when I am on vacation. Whatever disappointment is felt upon knowing there are no more chapters in our latest book to devour is balanced by the sheer thrill of reading it for the first time and the enjoyment of re-reading an excellent story. Whatever the price is to achieve such emotional highs we pay, because in the end we know exactly what we are getting into, and we just can’t help ourselves.

After all, what fun would life be if we could?

Avril Brown 

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