by E.M. Panos
"It’s Not A Vacation If We Speak the Same Language.” This has been my motto for the past twenty years.
Every day I am bombarded by headlines, social media, family priorities, and work. Emails chime to let me know they need attention, the phone rings with new questions and demands, media shouts to let me know what I should be doing or what I’m doing wrong. News outlets blast one horrible breaking news story after another. By the end of the day, all I want to do is draw the curtains, crawl under the covers, and let my consciousness slide into an abyss.
In the U.S. where I live, vacations longer than a week are frowned upon. More than two, and it’s assumed you’re interviewing with the competition. When I go on holiday, it is to escape from my everyday reality. I want to get away from the television and social media. Above all, I want to go where work doesn’t exist.
On vacation, my mindset shifts into an entirely different space. I choose locations that offer a culture different from my own. I search for cozy boutique hotels or apartments with comfy chairs and beds. I escape to countries where English is not the main language. If I can read newspaper headlines, understand table conversations or shouts in the streets, I can’t relax.
My heart's desire is to sip a latte in a cafe surrounded by voices I do not understand. With a notebook in hand, I’ll disappear into my own thoughts and free my imagination to wander. I can view art in museums without bias. I can take a taxi unconcerned with the driver's navigation skills. The voices around me become lyrics to the song of my surroundings.
Understanding the language disturbs my peace of mind and wreaks havoc on my creativity. I prefer to make up my own story for the strangers I run into at pavilions, beaches, and taverns. People watching becomes an anticipated daily exercise in the art of impromptu storytelling. The lady in the white apron selling flowers at the kiosk becomes a spy for the MI6 who is surveilling the butcher in the shop across the courtyard. Or she’s hopelessly in love with him, and lives for the few minutes of interaction between them on Fridays when he buys a bouquet for his wife. A passerby on a bicycle becomes a courier for a secret society of super heroes. The barista is a violinist aspiring to join the symphony and tour the world, enabling her to search for her long-lost mother.
Over the years I’ve tried to free my mind when I vacationed in Florida, New York, and California. Inevitably, I was distracted by someone speaking loudly into a cell phone about business, gossip, or even medical issues - for goodness sake, keep your personal stuff quiet, no one wants to know about the rash on your arm that’s been spreading, no one. But I digress.
I can hear some of you now... “Meditate!” “Wear headphones!” “Go to a library.”
None of those work for me when I need a true escape where I can relax for more than a couple hours. During those vacations I fill my notebook with ideas, prompts, and outlines for short stories, essays, and novels that I bring home to work through more fully.
If you’re a writer and you’ve found yourself blocked in the generation of the next chapter, or next story, take a vacation to a place where the language is different from yours. Get lost in the silence of indifference. Take a vacation to a place where you don’t speak the same language.
About the author: @EMPanoWrites. Writer, Photographer, Reader, Traveler. Fan of fiction, supernatural, mysticism, history, cats, scarves, hats, books, coffee, teas, wine, & the Oxford comma.