VACATIONS ARE A NECESSITY, NOT A LUXURY

by Judith Fein

Some people I know, when they are really stressed out, take an afternoon, evening or full day off. The next day, they are back to work. Others kick it for a weekend, and then dive back into the daily routine on Monday morning. I’m flipping through my mental rolodex of friends, associates and family and, to my horror, I realize that I don’t know anyone who really takes vacations.

“What?” you say. “I take vacations. I went white water rafting on the Snake River in Idaho for five days. And last year I spent six in Kauai, hiking and snorkeling.”

I am sorry, amigos, but five or six days are a break, an experience, a change of scene and pace, but not a real vacation.

A real vacation is at least two weeks. And even better is a month. This is a startling idea in the U.S.A., where most people are afraid to take off more than a long weekend because they may lose their jobs. This means we are certifiably nuts in the U.S.A.  Are we born to work, stress, eat, shop, have sex and then croak? Will we actually take our cell phones and laptops with us to the grave, so we can check the headlines on After Life News or shoot off one last post-mortem tweet?

Talk to people from Europe (they will call it “holidays” and not “vacation” in Britain, but I swear it means the same thing).  Ask folks from South America. They get time off from work. Off from work. Not a few days here and there where their nervous systems hardly have a chance for a good yawn, and certainly not a real rest.

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American ambassadors in Arab lands

 by Judith Fein

Photo Slide Show by Paul Ross

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“What country you from?” two young men shouted at me from the stalls where they sold clothing.

“United States,” I answered.

“America! We love America!” they replied, grinning broadly.

The stalls were in the souk in Aleppo, and Aleppo, which has been inhabited by our species since the llth century B.C., is in northern Syria. Yes, an Arab country. Where cautious Americans are not supposed to go.

In Damascus, the capital, I was picking food from a sumptuous buffet and piling it on my china plate when the restaurant owner approached me.

“Where do you come from?” he asked.

“The United States,” I said. “And it’s my birthday today. This is my celebration.”

“Your birthday? Come with me, please.”

I followed him over to a large, standing, locked glass showcase which displayed jewelry and antiquities. He unlocked the case and withdrew a stone.

“Here, for you,” he said. “It’s a rock from the moon. May you have a wonderful day.”

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THE TRAVEL WORM HAS TURNED

by Judith Fein

Last night, I was sitting in an auditorium, waiting for the audience to file in, and an open-hearted woman I know sat down next to me. We exchanged a little chit chat, and then she asked me where I had been lately. I told her we had started out in Tunisia, headed for central and northwestern Spain and capped our travels in northern and then southern Ireland.

“You can’t take it with you,” she said, half to herself and half to me.

“What do you mean?” I asked.

“Well, last year I couldn’t imagine how I could spend what was left of my money on travel. Now I’ve had a change of heart. When you’re gone, the money is of no value to you, so you may as well spend it on things you love.”

“And?” I prompted her.

“And I love travel. So I’m willing to spend my money on it.”

To the best of my knowledge, the Recession, which looks like a lot like a pre-Depression to me, isn’t over. People are losing their jobs the way folks used to lose cell phones or keys. Empty houses are growing old and weary as they get battered by the market. I haven’t been in a crowded store since autumn leaves were falling. Expensive restaurants are offering prix fixe menus that barely cover the cost of the wait and kitchen staffs. And with all of this, folks I know are taking down their suitcases from their shelves and are ready to travel again.

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