We Americans are lousy at it, taking a day or two here and there. Or we do the "staycation," in which we curl up in an exhausted heap next to the piles of laundry that will provide our entertainment for the week.
For the last eleven days, I've been on vacation. By away, I mean, really, really away. Genuinely and truly "vacated." Not quite "Richard Dreyfuss at the end of Close Encounters" away, but close. Along with much of my extended family, I was on a small craft navigating in and around the Galapagos Islands.
For eleven days, I was in places that I'd never seen before. Every single day was a different place, a different environment, different faces, and different people. And as tends to happen on long and wandery trips, my mind adapts. I become used to everything changing, every single day. I become acclimatized to a great wash of newness, to encountering things that I've never before encountered.
It's probably just some peculiarity of my brain's wiring, as it makes space for new experiences and the unfamiliar. Whenever I take a long trip like this, home feels...different.
Oh, all the things are the same. The house is right where we left it. The things that were left undone in the pre-vacation life still need a-doing.
But when I've gotten used to things being different, my old patterns broken, and old familiar paths set aside, coming back into the old and familiar routines just doesn't quite feel the same. Familiar roads seem unfamiliar. The scent of my home seems different. The sprawl and stretch of the DC burbs just aren't quite as they were. I do not perceive them in quite the same way.
I reflected on this as I walked back from dropping off our car at a service station, as the flat tire we conveniently got the night before we left was being fixed. Here I was, still in this mind state where I didn't feel particularly connected to any place or any location. Even walking down my familiar street felt like I was encountering it for the first time.
"Dislocated," I thought to myself. That word hung in my mind. "I'm dislocated." Not in the bones-out-of-joint sense. But in the self-out-of-place sense.
In these few days before I readapt, I have a brief respite from a sense of belonging anywhere. Or of anywhere in particular belonging to me. After a few days, it'll go back to being as it was, and I'll move easily through the re-established patterns of the familiar.
I wondered, too, if perhaps it might help if we felt that way more often. Less like things were ours, or that places were ours.
So much of the mess we've made of things seems to come from being unable to see that.