The 10 best things I learned on vacation

Last month, Chad and I went on vacation. We took 10 days to drive from where we live, on the eastern tip of the San Francisco Bay area, to Anacortes, Washington, and back again. To say it was a much-needed adventure is an understatement. This past year has been surprising and wonderful, but it’s also been relentlessly frenetic and challenging. We were two human sized stress balls in need of some serious leisure time (or decidedly UN-serious leisure time, as the case may be).

Our trip was perfect, not because everything went as planned (it was a road trip, after all… and we didn’t have much of a plan) but because for 10 days we didn’t work, we didn’t set up or attend any meetings, and we didn’t check our email. Plus, we saw miles and miles of the rugged, untamed beauty that is the west coast, and that is undeniably good for the soul.

And now, as promised, here’s my illustrated list of the ten best things I learned during vacation!


Driving in a convertible kinda always feels like vacation, but it’s especially therapeutic when you’re actually on vacation.



It is possible to fall madly in love with humanity while sipping beer in a karaoke bar on a cool summer night in a tiny coastal town.

Here’s how it happened to me in Florence, Oregon on the second night of our trip. We went for a walk after dinner at the Homegrown Public House, which was wonderful. We were looking for live music, and though karaoke wasn’t what I’d had in mind, I went in without hesitation when I heard it (luckily, Chad followed). I sat down at a table, ordered a beer, and proceeded to fall in love with every single person brave enough to get up there and sing. I fell hardest for the old man who was too nervous to sing “Help Me Make It Through The Night” by himself. He asked a woman who was clearly a karaoke-night regular to join him, and with her standing between him and the audience, he lost track of the words and missed half the notes. He was big and lumbering and awkward, and crazy beautiful to me. Sometimes I just love the sweet and clumsy audacity of humans.



“Ask the locals” is an excellent vacation strategy.



When a friend from another state hears you’re on vacation near her and says, “You’re so close! I’ll meet you at the Park & Ride, right along your route, and we’ll hug,” say yes. Vacation hugs are THE BEST.


Segways are ridiculously fun!

We took a Segway tour of Portland, and I can’t recommend it enough. Segways aren’t tipsy, or hard to control, or scary in any of the ways I secretly thought they might be. They’re insanely fun. I had to keep reminding myself to look around and appreciate Portland (which is a beautiful city, with or without a self-balancing, battery-powered electric scooter I could have ridden all day).


It’s best not to order wine in an Ale House.

Maybe they’ll have some for you, but it’s not why they’re there.



I heart Seattle, despite its best efforts to discourage me.

Here’s an example of the kind of thing that happens to me whenever I’m in Seattle. We stopped by Kell’s Irish Pub in Post Alley for a beer, but since they didn’t have much on their menu for vegetarians, we decided to wander elsewhere for dinner. We walked, and walked, and walked, until finally a kind man asked if we needed help because, no doubt, he saw my expression and understood instantly that I was tired and hungry and my jeans were uncomfortable and I needed to go to the bathroom. (Maybe he didn’t divine all that, but he was very nice nonetheless). He pointed us uphill (because, magically, every place in Seattle is uphill from wherever I am, always), and he told us a great restaurant was just four or five blocks away. “Ask for rooftop seating!” he called as we headed upward. One hundred and twenty-seven blocks later by my count, we found the restaurant, which was too fancy, too expensive, and did not have rooftop seating. They did have a bathroom though, and I used it before we headed back into the Seattle wild and wound up, about 45 minutes later, at a fun restaurant with delicious, reasonably priced food, and – no kidding – rooftop seating. It was called The Pink Door, and it was about twenty-five feet away from where we’d sat at Kell’s to drink our pre-dinner beer.

Maybe I appreciate my Seattle happy endings because I always have to work so hard for them.



There is nothing quite like watching fog roll down the face of a mountain to spread itself like a blanket over the ocean as far as you can see.



The best chile relleno in the world can be had at the Cafe Brio in Arcata, California.

I admit that I can neither confirm nor deny this claim, but Chad, who has spent the past few years in search of the perfect chile relleno, declared the one he had at Cafe Brio (which was his third chile relleno on this trip alone) the best so far.  It was a pretty big deal. There was rejoicing. You might have had to be there.



Nothing is more meditative to me than walking through forests. I feel about it the way I imagine other people might feel about church.




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