Saturday, July 4, 2015

4th July, holiday, holidays, vacation... and how to do an American vacation.

Happy dogs, Santa Cruz
I've been living in the USA for many years now, but only this weekend did I work out how to fit a European vacation into an American holiday*.

I grew up in England, where my mum and dad scrimped and saved throughout the year, to be able to take our family of six on holiday* (in American, "vacation"), every year. We'd usually go to the North Norfolk coast (here's one of my old stories about that coastline). It was always for one week, and we'd stay in a caravan ("trailer") or B&B or guesthouse. By the time I had started to work, it was the norm to take at least two weeks summer vacation/holiday, and maybe a week in winter, too.

The years I spent working and living in The Netherlands, and in France. Over there, three weeks, in one go, in the summer, is the norm. Plus other times during the year. No, it's not lazy or wasteful: people return refreshed, renewed, and ready to put their all back into their work or studies.

Here in the USA, vacation days are harder to come by. Fewer vacation days allowed, less encouragement (or mandate) to take them... more peer pressure not to. I spent a few months working for one US company where employees were supposed to take as much time off as they felt they needed... as long as they felt they had covered their work... and of course, no one ever took more than a day or two at a time. (I feel strongly that that arrangement is so very wrong... everyone, and I mean everyone, is better for a few days downtime.) I'm lucky and very happy that I now work for a company with a very good vacation policy. But those of you who work multiple part-time jobs, I know it's almost impossible to take a week's vacation... let alone three, or four weeks at a time.

So... how do people here in the USA fit in a real vacation?

I have found out!

On Thursday evening, Friday being a day-off-because-of-4th-July, spur-of-the-moment, we rented a car, drove a few hours to Santa Cruz, found a cheap hotel, went to the beach, walked on the pier/wharf, ate seaside food, returned to hotel, slept, got up early, went to the dog-friendly beach north of the town center, laughed at the dogs, returned to hotel, walked to bike rental place, rented fat-tyre cruiser bikes, rode up and down the coastline for an hour and a half, walked back to hotel, walked dog, bought after-sun lotion for the unique-to-seaside sunburn, walked back to the beach, braved the Boardwalk, ate more seaside food, walked in the sand, watched the Sun Kings give a free concert on the beach, (more about that later, they are a Beatles tribute band); walked back to hotel, slept, woke up, went back to the dog beach for a while, drove up Highway 1, stopped at Pigeon Point Lighthouse, saw whales... and then drove back home to Sacramento in time for July 4th fireworks.

Phew. It does feel like a whole vacation in two days. That's the way to do it... And of course, we were listening to loads of Aftershock bands on the way there and back!

Happy 4th July!

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